5 benefits of an extra firm mattress, plus our top 3 recommended hard beds

The best firm mattress for most people, The Plank
(Image credit: Brooklyn Bedding)

Extra firm mattresses provide superior support and outstanding lower back pain relief, but will they suit your sleep needs? A solid bed won't be the best mattress choice for everyone, so we'll walk you through who these hard beds are best for.

An extra firm mattress is a step up in sturdiness from a firm mattress, offering the ultimate in support and rigidity. This makes them primarily suited to back and stomach sleepers, who benefit most from the healthy spine alignment an extra firm mattress provides. However, extra firm mattresses are not suited for side sleepers due to the lack of cushioning across pressure points like their shoulders and hips. 

If you're looking to buy an extra firm mattress, regular mattress sales will mean getting a decent discount. But if you're not in a huge rush for your new bed, holding out for the Memorial Day mattress sales in May will mean maximum savings. But first, let's find out if an extra firm mattress is right for you.  

What is an extra firm mattress? 

An extra firm mattress is a step up in sturdiness from a firm mattress, offering the least amount of compression and the most support. We’d rate extra firm mattresses at either 9 or 10 out of 10 on the firmness scale, with the structure of the mattress being designed to be stable and with hardly any sinkage. 

This strong support means that extra firm mattresses follow the natural curve of your spine, keeping the back evenly supported at all times. They’re also made from higher density foams, giving these extra firm options excellent durability. You’ll find that extra firm mattresses share a lot in common with those in our best firm mattress selection, but are just that little bit firmer overall (in fact, several of the mattresses in our guide also come in an extra firm option). 

5 benefits of an extra firm mattress

1. Helps with lower back or neck pain

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to the best mattresses for back pain. There is a misconception that the only solution to back pain is a firm mattress, but when we previously spoke to chiropractors on the issue, they explained that some sleepers will benefit more from a medium firm mattress. However, if you have lower back or neck pain an extra firm mattress could be the answer.

An extra firm mattress will support the lumbar region, meaning that pressure won’t get shifted to the hips and shoulders. And, in addition, it can minimise strain on the neck as it will prevent the chest from sinking into the mattress.  

2. Provides superior support 

Dedicated stomach sleepers need a firmer support system from their beds. The best mattresses for stomach sleepers help to keep the spine aligned and the hips lifted, to prevent any aches and pains. Of course, sleeping on your stomach is regarded as the worst position to sleep in as there is little support for your spine and your head will be twisted either left or right for long periods of time.

However, if you always end up sleeping on your stomach, the best thing you can do for your spine health is invest in an extra firm mattress. This will ensure that your back and hips stay at the same height as your shoulders, preventing any unnatural curvature in your spine. Some back sleepers may also enjoy an extra firm mattress, as spinal alignment will follow the natural lines of your spine.

3. Supports heavier bodies 

Best mattress for heavy people: Helix PLUS mattress

(Image credit: Helix)

If you’re of a heavier build, you will need a firmer mattress to help provide you with adequate support. On a softer mattress you run the risk of sinking too far through the supportive layers and could end up sleeping on coils or a harder base layer. The best mattresses for heavy people are often extra firm, as they are designed to provide support for sleepers weighing in the region of up to 500lbs per person. 

Again, an extra firm mattress will help keep the spine aligned if you’re of a heavier build and will provide plenty of lumbar support. Because these mattresses are so firm, heavier bodies won’t sink too far into them and will still be supported by the supportive layers at the top of the mattress. 

4. Offers outstanding motion isolation

When we think of mattresses that offer excellent motion isolation, most people will immediately think of memory foam. The best memory foam mattresses offer a distinctive ‘hug’ and the slow-moving material helps to isolate a partner’s movements.

However, extra firm mattresses also, somewhat conversely, offer superior motion isolation. Because they are so firm, they don’t tend to move at all when sleepers shift around on them, providing an ultra-stable platform that’s ideal for those sharing their bed with a restless partner.

 5. Enhanced durability 

All mattresses have a lifespan and how long a mattress lasts is down to a number of factors, mainly revolving around the type of mattress and the materials used.

Why is an extra firm mattress lightly to last longer? Well these mattresses are less likely to sag in areas where body pressure is applied and will stay in shape for longer because they’re not prone to dipping or sinking when a body lies on them. The foams used in extra firm mattresses are also usually of a higher density, which means they should last longer and deteriorate more slowly.

Top 3 extra firm mattresses

Plank Firm:$924

Plank Firm: From $924 $646.80 at Plank Mattress
The all-foam Plank Firm by Brooklyn Bedding is a flippable mattress, offering a firm side (8/10) and an extra firm option (10/10). Modelled on the minimalist beds found across Asia, the mattress is endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association who recommend it for superior lumbar support and alleviating back pain. Unlike many other extra firm options, the Plank Firm is all-foam and doesn’t have any springs for support in it. Nevertheless, it managed to provide an extremely supportive feel that will even keep stomach sleepers well supported. You’ll also get a 120-night trial, 10-year warranty and free shipping.

Stearns & Foster Estate: From $2,299 at Stearns & Foster

Stearns & Foster Estate: From $2,299 at Stearns & Foster  
With a firmness rating of 9/10 (there’s also a soft 3/10 option), the Stearns & Foster Estate is a luxury mattress that offers superb comfort levels, making it a solid choice for those looking for a luxe mattress that still offers that extra firm finish. As well as outstanding lumbar support, the Estate also offers excellent temperature regulation, which could make this an excellent choice for hot sleepers. The 90-night trial is a bit meagre for a mattress of this calibre, but you do get free white glove delivery. 

Otty Firm Hybrid mattress: £549.99

Otty Firm Hybrid mattress: From £549.99 £474.99 at Otty
If you’re in the UK and looking for an extra firm mattress, the Otty Firm Hybrid mattress is a great choice. Again, this is a flippable mattress offering a firm (8/10) and extra firm (9/10). The Otty does an outstanding job when it comes to easing lower back pain, while temperature regulation is excellent, thanks to its bamboo and charcoal layers that work to wick away heat.You’ll also get a 100-night trial, 10-year warranty and free premium delivery. 

Jo Plumridge
Mattress tester and sleep writer

Jo Plumridge is an experienced mattress reviewer with several years' experience covering all things mattresses and sleep, and who tests memory foam, hybrid and organic mattresses. What Jo doesn't know about a boxed mattress isn't worth knowing, so naturally we tasked her with producing a series of features for Tom's Guide looking at all aspects of mattresses, from how to pick between latex and memory foam (it's a tricky one), to the seven mistakes people make when buying a mattress for the first time. When testing the DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid for Tom's Guide, Jo said: "I loved the back support and pressure relief it offered. Plus, it looks far more expensive than it is." When she isn’t writing about sleep, Jo also writes extensively on interior design, home products and photography.