There’s an old myth that sleeping on a firm mattress is good for you, regardless of your build and weight. Most experts now say that that’s nonsense and that what you need is a ‘supportive’ mattress, which matches your build.
Those interested in the science of sleep and research might like to look at a study in 2004 by Hadler and Evans. It was titled ‘Medium-firm mattresses reduced pain-related disability more than firm mattresses in chronic, nonspecific low-back pain’. Another interesting study carried out in Canada ‘compared a waterbed mattress, a foam mattress, and a firm mattress for the treatment of chronic Lower Back Pain’. It concluded that ‘the hard mattress resulted in worse outcomes but that the differences were small’.
However, if you’re on the larger side, then a firm mattress might be right for you. If you use a soft mattress then your spine won’t be straight when you lie down as you’ll sink into it too much. Unfortunately, there’s no consistent guidance from mattress makers on who a ‘firm’ mattress is best for. However, John Lewis & Partners suggests that their firm mattresses are best for anyone weighing more than 16 stone.
How do you sleep?
The other factor to consider is the position that you sleep in. People who sleep on their back or front tend to need firmer mattresses than people who sleep on their side.
You can have a good guess as to the right mattress firmness for you by combining your weight with your sleeping position.
We’ve pick out five of the best firm mattresses on the market in 2020 and 2021. We looked at industry awards, specifications, customer reviews and value for money.
Prices are for double mattresses and are correct at time of writing. There may be discounts and offers from time to time.
1. Silentnight 1400 Eco Comfort – £339
Silentnight is a mid-range brand, which is probably the biggest name in the UK market. The same company also own Rest Assured and other big names. You can pick up a good deal on their Silentnight range if you shop around or wait for a sale.
We’ve included it because of strong reviews from customers on Amazon (4.6/5 from about 500 reviews), Mattressman (just under 5/5) and on Argos (4.7/5). It’s also nice and deep (28cm) and it has an adequate number of springs to offer a decent level of support (1400 springs on the king size version).
We’ve also included it in this guide to the best firm mattresses because of the reasonable price. Not everyone spends a thousand pounds on a mattress…despite what the salesperson might want you to believe.
Pocket spring mattresses are what most of us are used to. Some argue that foam mattresses offer more consistent all over support. Others say they are better for allergies but that question is up for debate. A Norwegian study suggested ‘a simple replacement of foam mattresses with spring mattresses may reduce the exposure to house‐dust‐mite allergens’ (Schei, Hessen et al, 2002).
Perhaps more importantly, most of us still go for what we’re used to, which is pocket sprung mattresses. See our comparison of pocket springs v memory foam for more of the pros and cons.
The main downside with this one is that you can’t turn it over. You’ll need to rotate it regularly to reduce the risk of it developing dips over time.
You may also like to know that the Silentnight Eco Comfort range of mattresses was given a prize at the Furniture Awards 2019.
For and against – our expert opinion of the Silentnight 1400 Eco Comfort
“The price is certainly a positive with the Silentnight 1400 Eco Comfort which is less than half the price of the Hypnos Orthos Elite In fact, it is about a quarter of the price of the John Lewis & Partners Natural Collection Fleece Wool 8400 or the Vispring Realm Pocket Sprung Mattress.”
“It’s a less prestigious name than Vispring or Hypnos but Silentnight are a big name and you are getting a lot for your money. The huge number of positive reviews is another plus point.”
“There are some negatives though. It’s a single sided mattress, unlike the John Lewis & Partners Natural Collection Fleece Wool 8400. You also don’t get the reassuring trial period offered with the Brook + Wilde Lux Mattress. There’s not much you can do if you buy it online and don’t find it comfortable”
2. Brook + Wilde Lux Mattress (firm or extra firm version) – £899
The modern way to buy a mattress is to get one which has been rolled up or compressed into a box. Most offer a two or three month period when you can return it or swap it for one with a different firmness.
The theory is that you can try a mattress out properly rather than lying down for two minutes in a showroom.
If you want to go down that route, Brook + Wilde’s Lux Mattress is worth considering as it’s received positive reports from expert testers such as Good Housekeeping.
It’s a hybrid mattress which uses pocket springs and foam rather than just using springs which is the more traditional way of making a mattress.
It’s available in ‘soft’ ‘medium’ ‘firm’ or ‘extra firm’ versions, whereas most of these ‘bed in a box’ mattresses only come in one firmness.
Customer reviews for the Brook + Wilde brand are glowing red hot at 4.7/5 on TrustPilot at the time of writing (2022).
The Brook + Wilde Lux Mattress has a generous 100 day trial period which offers you a refund if you don’t like it. You also get a 10 year guarantee.
For and against – our expert opinion of the Brook + Wilde Lux Mattress
“This mattress from Brook + Wilde is quite different to the others in our top five, as it uses memory foam alongside springs. Most models featured are just springs. That means that it might feel a bit different if you’re used to a sprung mattress”
“One clear advantage with the Brook + Wilde Lux Mattress is that it has a firm and an extra firm version. You can swap it if you don’t like the one you’ve ordered. Cheaper mattresses such as the Silentnight 1400 Eco Comfort or the slightly more expensive Hypnos Orthos Elite Pocket Spring Mattress won’t let you return it unless there’s something wrong with it.”
“However, it is relatively expensive for a brand which isn’t as long-established as Hypnos or Vispring. Plus, you can’t turn it over which is a feature offered by the John Lewis & Partners Natural Collection Fleece Wool 8400″
Hypnos is at the posh end of the mattress market. So posh in fact that it has a royal seal, meaning you can tell your friends that you sleep in the Queen’s bed.
The company regularly wins awards, most notably from the National Bed Federation. It named it best manufacturer in 2014 and 2017 and runner up in 2018.
It’s a long established company and takes a traditional approach to mattress making. Models such as the Hypnos Orthos Elite use pocket springs rather than memory foam or similar new-fangled materials.
This model is far from being their most expensive (some models cost £2000), but it’s got a good specification for the money.
There are 1200 springs on the king size version. That is not as high as some but is perfectly adequate support unless you are large enough to take up two seats on an aeroplane.
Other signs of quality are the ‘hand side stitching’ (a dull technical thing which means it will hold its shape), a decent depth of 25cm and a tufted finish. Cheap mattresses are usually quilted, which means they are flat on top rather than being held together with what look like buttons.
This is a mattress which can be turned over, which is a feature usually reserved for some of the more expensive ones in the range. A double sided mattress is usually seen as a good thing for making a mattress last longer. Watch the video about Hypnos here.
For and against – our expert opinion of the Hypnos Orthos Elite Wool Pocket Spring Mattress
“The obvious plus point with this mattress is the brand’s reputation. Hypnos is a more prestigious name in the bed industry than Silentnight or Brook + Wilde”
“The question is whether you are happy to pay for a reputation for quality or whether you’d rather just focus on specs and stats”
“I’m certainly impressed by features such as hand side stitching but the number of springs is less than the Silentnight 1400 Eco Comfort. A real plus point is that you can turn it over, much like the John Lewis & Partners Natural Collection Fleece Wool 8400. You don’t get the Brook + Wilde trial period which is appealing if you prefer to shop online”
“On the plus side, the Hypnos Orthos Elite offers twice the warranty that you get with the Silentnight 1400 Eco Comfort“
You know you’re getting quality with the John Lewis & Partners name. They are made by a UK company called Harrison Spinks which has won awards from the National Bed Federation. For example, they won Bed Manufacturer of the Year 2018 which is pretty much like winning ‘Best Director’ at the Oscars. Except without the global TV audience and celebrity status, of course.
You may be interested to know that Harrison Spinks featured on a BBC TV series called Inside The Factory. Equally, you may not be at all interested in this fact.
You need to dig a little deeper to figure out the difference between the 18 different firm mattresses in the John Lewis & Partners Natural Collection.
Indications of quality
The British Wool 8750 model is available in Single, Small Double/Queen Size, Double, King Size, Super King and Super King Zip Link. It makes our list because it can be turned over, which should in theory make it last longer and not sag so quickly.
The cheaper mattresses in the John Lewis and Partners Natural Collection can’t be turned over, although that’s not to say they won’t be well made.
This mattress is certainly substantial enough. The king size version is 44kg so you’ll want to find a local rugby team to help you turn it over.
Plus it has hand side stitching, which is a sign of quality and means the sides won’t collapse like a custard slice when you sit on the edge of the bed.
It’s got 8750 springs, but don’t get too excited about that. You’d expect to see 1300+ springs on a good quality firm mattress, but you can only squeeze a couple of thousand full size springs onto a king size mattress. The rest are mini springs which have a ‘subtler’ impact than the main springs.
Regarding customer reviews, at the time of writing Harrison Spinks was averaging 3.7/5 on Trustpilot (see our beginners’ guide for the full list of TrustPilot reviews that we could find). Watch the video about the Natural Collection.
For and against – our expert opinion of the John Lewis & Partners
Natural Collection Fleece Wool 8750
“Yes, it’s expensive but there are a lot of plus points which make this mattress stand out. I would put Harrison Spinks – which makes the mattress – up there with the likes of Hypnos in terms of reputation and awards. Plus, you get the John Lewis & Partners reputation for customer service.”
“I also like the fact that you can turn it over, which isn’t an option with any of the other mattresses in our top five – including the more expensive Vispring Realm Pocket Sprung Mattress“
“So, what are the downsides apart from the price? Well, the warranty could be better – Vispring offer a whole 13 years extra. Also, the Brook + Wilde Lux Mattress has a longer trial period and offers a refund rather than an exchange if you aren’t happy”
5. Vispring Realm Pocket Sprung Mattress – £1449
Kudos to Vispring, who are one of the only mattress companies which actually steers you towards a particular firmness of mattress based on your weight.
According to a couple of guides, you should be considering a Vispring firm mattress if you weigh 16-20 stone. You will need an extra firm Vispring mattress if you weigh more than 20 stone.
Unfortunately, you can’t apply that rule to every mattress company as no one has ever quite agreed on what ‘firm’ or ‘soft’ actually means. However, it’s nice to have some clear guidance from Vispring at least. This Vispring Realm model is available as a firm mattress.
Vispring are also one of the leading names in luxury mattresses. They won mattress brand of the year for three years in a row and they invented the pocket spring, albeit quite a long time ago.
Is Vispring worth the money?
The catch, of course, is that they are a rather expensive option but as my mother would say…”you get what you pay for”. Their double mattresses range from about £1000 up to more than £3000.
The Vispring Realm model has about 1300 springs and uses wool, bamboo and cotton. The higher priced ones have a higher spring count which will offer a little bit of extra support to heavier people.
It comes with a rather impressive 20 year structural guarantee. You may not keep it for that long but it’s a sign that Vispring have confidence in the quality of their products.
An academic study from 1999 explored the question of whether a more expensive mattress really is better than a cheap one. It’s worth mentioning – although I’m not wishing to push you into spending more than you can afford.
Three German researchers call Enck, Walten and Traue replaced a hotel’s aging mattresses with three different models. They were of ‘three different qualities and prices’. Guests were then questioned on how well they had slept. Researchers found that ‘the three qualities of the mattresses correlated significantly and positively with the perceived quality of sleep’.
They also found that it was a more significant difference amongst people who had pre-existing ‘back pain and sleep problems’ than it was for people who usually slept well.
Watch the video about Vispring here.
Side by side comparison: which firm mattress is right for you?
If you decide that a firm mattress is right for you, then you’ve got a good choice. All of our choices have lots of plus points, but none of them are the winners in every category. The Vispring Realm Pocket Sprung Mattress has the longest warranty whilst the Brook + Wilde Lux Mattress has the longest trial period. The John Lewis & Partners Natural Collection Fleece Wool 8400 can be flipped over to help it last longer whereas the Silentnight 1400 Eco Comfort is considerably cheaper.
|How much |
|Can you |
turn it over?
|Silentnight 1400 Eco Comfort||£339||5 years,|
no trial period
|Brook + Wilde Lux Mattress||£899||10 years, |
100 night trial
|Hypnos Orthos Elite Pocket Spring Mattress||£759||10 years,|
no trial period
|No||25cm||Small Single, Single, |
Small Double, Double,
Zip and Link
|John Lewis & Partners Natural Collection Fleece Wool 8400||£1299||7 years, |
60 night trial
|Vispring Realm Pocket Sprung Mattress||£1449||20 years,|