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Why Your New Mattress Feels Firmer Than In Store

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You have finally decided to reward yourself with a brand-new mattress hoping for a restful night. During your first night with your mattress, however, you are surprised that your new mattress is too firm compared to when you sat or laid down on it at the store. You can’t help but ask: “Why is my new mattress firmer than in the store?” “Did I purchase the wrong mattress?”

Thankfully, your mattress can be as soft as the store’s display. In this article, we will talk about why a brand-new mattress feels firmer than usual and how you can soften it up for a good night’s sleep.

Key Takeaways

  • If your mattress feels different from the store, it needs to break in and will become softer over time, depending on the material.
  • Even the highest quality mattress will feel firm and odd to the body during the first few weeks of sleeping. Give your body some time to unlearn its sleep support from your old mattress.

Store Display vs. Your New Mattress

Different environmental factors that affect mattress softness are controlled by showrooms, and display mattresses are pre-treated. This makes your new out-of-the-box mattress feel different than when you tested it. Here is why your new mattress feels firmer than in-store:

Foam Cells

The main culprit that differentiates the softness of a store display and a newly-bought mattress is the behavior of the mattress’ foam cells. There are two types of foam cells used for mattresses, open cells, and closed-cell foams. Many factors affect the performance of the same two mattresses due to differences in their foam cells, such as age, the temperature of the environment, and the degrees of usage.

Break-In Period

Despite open-cell and closed-cell foams offering different comfort levels, preparing them through a break-in period is the key to making your mattress soften over time. In the store, mattresses have been sat down, laid upon, and jumped around on by customers for as long as they have been on display. 

Store attendants also make sure to break in their mattresses before putting them on display by crawling on them. 

More importantly, foam cells need time to expand after being compressed in storage, and letting it rest with proper ventilation will make your mattress soften over time as air fills in the pockets.

Mattress Age 

Mattresses feel softer with more age as foam cells start going beyond their break-in period, and the wear-and-tear starts to kick in. Those displayed in the store will have been used longer, compressing the foam cells and breaking their supportive structure down. 

Some mattresses displayed in the store, though, will have been repeatedly used, stacked, and therefore compressed, leading to the loss of the intended mattress firmness. Although softer mattresses appear to feel better, going beyond the intended firmness of the bed manufacturer might compromise sleep quality, even though you feel that your mattress’ softness is good for you (1). If you are in Australia, check out the best firm mattresses in Australia to provide your body with its needed support.

Bed Frame and Slats  

Choosing the right bed frame is equally important in making the most out of your mattress. The mattresses you’ve tried in the store use the appropriate bed frame, making it feel softer. There are three major types of frames: Bunkie Boards, Box Springs, and Slats. Here is what you should know about it:

  • Bunkie Boards: As the name suggests, bunkie boards are flat sheets used as mattress support for bunk beds. Commonly, bunkie boards are made of plywood. They are meant to provide solid support in place of Box Springs when height becomes an issue, such as in the top bunk. Aside from being the firmest of the bed frames, this type of mattress support is typically used for Polyfoam, Memory Foam, Latex Foam, and Hybrid Mattresses. 
  • Box Springs: A wooden frame with a fabric covering that elevates the height of the mattress. It can either have coils inside it or maybe hollow instead. Box springs make for fim mattresses and are usually used for traditional innerspring mattresses with thick lining. 
  • Slats: Usually made of wood or metal, slats have gaps in them that offer softer support, as mattresses can push and slightly mold in the gaps. There are two types of slats: Firm slats made from wood or metal and sprung slats made from more flexible wood such as beech, birch, or poplar. Of the bed frames listed, slats create the softest mattresses and are often used for polyfoam, memory foam, latex foam, innerspring, and hybrid mattresses.

If your mattress feels different or too firm than in the store, you might want to check the compatibility of your mattress to your bed frame.

Temperature

Stores have optimized their showrooms with the proper operating temperatures for their mattresses. If you test out memory foam in a warm room, it will feel much softer than when you bring it to a room that is much colder. 

It is important to choose the right mattress, depending on your home temperature. Latex mattresses offer more versatility but less softness compared to memory foam, which will require a more specific temperature for its peak softness. 

It might be worth exploring differences between in-store and home temperature if your mattress feels different. There are also specific best mattresses for hot sleepers if cooling your surroundings for your mattress and your body isn’t an available option.

Testing Period

Even if your new mattress is too firm and is giving you sleeping body pain, and posture issues, manufacturers recommend sticking with it for at least a month in order to give your mattress time to adjust to your body and for your body to adjust to the support that the mattress is giving. There are specific mattresses that offer the most comfort for specific sleeping styles. For Australian sleepers, here are the best mattresses for side sleepers in Australia. 

Side sleeping on the Koala Mattress
Side sleeping on the Koala Mattress

Additionally, lying down and sleeping on a mattress is a much deeper experience than simply spending 10-15 minutes in a store, shyly sitting and quickly lying down on it. 

I make it a point to tell my friends to remove their shoes and be as comfortable as they can be when testing mattresses in the store and giving them a few weeks at home in order to avoid this problem. These friends report back saying that their mattresses do soften over time. 

Pro Tip: Tossing and turning is a well-documented indicator of poor sleep quality, and you may experience less deep sleep on a new mattress (2).

Make Your Mattress Feel Even Softer Than The Store Display

If your new mattress feels firmer than in store, there are numerous ways to soften it up. While this process may take a few uncomfortable weeks of sleeping, this is needed so you can feel what the original manufacturer intended. Here are a few steps to soften your sleep:

Breaking it in

All mattresses, no matter what brand, quality, and price point, will have a break-in period. While repeatedly sleeping on it makes your mattress soften over time, here are a few showroom secrets that manufacturers do in order to prepare it for display:

Jumping 

Foam cells are designed to adapt to the pressure that is being placed on it. Taking your socks off and repeatedly jumping around the bed is more than enough to make it feel soft. While jumping sounds simple, it is easy to overdo it, creating surface sinks and unevenness across. 

As somebody who had to break-in a memory foam mattress, I only walked on it gently given that my bodyweight was heavy enough to make me feel the support layer once I stepped on my mattress. If you feel the firm layers of your mattress, you may be breaking it in too harshly!

Crawling  

A safer way to break in your mattress without jumping risk is to get on all fours and crawl around the mattress. This is the preferred method in mattress showrooms, as it distributes your body weight more evenly and carefully. Crawling is recommended for delicate innerspring as it is risk-free even for delicate pocketed coils. Get on your hands and knees and crawl for about 5 to 10 minutes per night to make your mattress feel softer.

You may want to read more on how to make your mattress softer through methods like putting toppers.

How Long To Break In? 

Your mattress will soften over time as you go through the break-in process. How long the process takes, however, primarily depends on your mattress material. Different types of foam cells have various reactions to pressure, and differences in body weight and sleeping position will affect the break-in duration.

Memory Foam

Although Memory foam is the softest mattress, it can take quite some time to break it in. As it has viscoelastic materials that contour around the body, crawling and sleeping in memory foam is usually enough. You can expect memory foam to start being more comfortable in a month or so. 

In my experience, my memory foam mattress took about a month and a half to break in. I did not actually crawl on it a lot since I was around 200 pounds and I could feel the bottom layer of my memory foam when I attempted to stand on it.

Although it is slow to break-in, memory foam responds really well to the break in period. My 3” 4lb felt like a brick wall when it first came. Just side-sleeping and crawling on it, however, made it hug my body easier over time. 

A memory foam mattress on a bed frame
A memory foam mattress on a bed frame
  • Expected break-in time: 1 month - 3 months. Thicker memory foam may take longer.

Latex

Compared to memory foam, the latex’s break-in period offers a gradual ‘lifting’ feel. As your latex foam is used, its resistance to your body feels lighter, yet it does not offer a sinking feeling compared to memory foam. 

If your new latex mattress is too firm, it might be caused by the stiff case that is wrapped around the different layers of foam. This casing fabric needs to stretch out as well and will provide less stiffness as it’s pulled. 

If you sleep on a latex mattress, comparing where you sleep to the edges where you don’t sleep on is a good indicator of break-in mileage. Usually, there is a 30% softness increase in latex mattresses that have been broken in. 

  • Expected break-in time: 1 month - 2 months.

Innerspring

Innersprings are the fastest to break in and will feel softer in only a month due to their weight-bearing design. Special care should be taken while breaking it in since coil designs like pocket coils are sensitive to sudden movements. I have personally found not much difference after a month, owing it instead to my body getting used to the softness level of my new innerspring mattress. 

  • Expected break-in time: 1 month.

Other types (Poly-foam, Hybrid, Airbed, Waterbed) 

Specific layer combinations of latex and memory foam may need different break-in times, depending on the layering. Unique designs such as the airbed and waterbed do not need break-in periods. 

You don’t always need to have a large budget to consider upgrading your mattress depending on your sleeping needs. There are winners in every price point, and the best cheap mattresses are widely accessible.

Replacing Your Bed Frame And Slats - (Types, Advantages and Disadvantages) 

If your new mattress is too firm, check that it is compatible with your bed frame. If your bed frame shows weakness on specific parts, the false softness will show on those parts, causing uneven support for your hips and spine. This can lead to a sore body in the morning. Check out our table for the best mattress and frame compatibility:

Mattress TypeBox SpringSlats
Memory FoamYesYes
LatexNoYes
InnerspringYesNo
HybridYesYes

While you can place latex mattresses on box springs and innerspring on slats, these will not yield the best softness for your comfort.

Temperature

Foam cells, especially memory foam, are greatly affected by the surrounding temperature. It will feel firmer in colder temperatures and softer in warmer temperatures. Tempur-Pedic, for example, recommends 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit as the optimal temperature for their memory foams.

If All Else Fails 

If your new mattress feels firmer than in-store, most manufacturers recommend finishing the break-in process. Some manufacturers offer a sleep trial, where customers may use a mattress for around a month or two and then decide if they want to keep it. 

Most have return policies only after 30, 45, 60, or more days. Thankfully, these warranties are even more common for the best mattresses in a box, so you don’t have to leave for a showroom to upgrade and undergo a testing period. 

My Personal Experience With New Mattresses

I’ve bought a latex mattress for my guest room and a memory foam mattress for the master bedroom. Guests who slept on the latex mattress during the initial six months that it was bought commented that it was too firm when I asked about it. 

The guest room rarely gets used which is why my latex mattress never got a chance to break in. 

My memory foam mattress, however, immediately started giving me that familiar sinking and cushioning feeling as early as two weeks in.

FAQ

How Do I Know If My Mattress Has Broken In? 

Not all parts of a mattress will break-in evenly if you only sleep on the middle or on one side of the bed. A good point of comparison for break-in performance is to check the edges or the opposite side where the bed is not slept on. This will help you understand whether you have achieved the 10-30% breaking-in softness after a month or so.

Why Does My Memory Foam Mattress Feel Firm? 

Memory foam is the most responsive during the break-in period. It is a must to crawl and sleep on it during your first week as the foam needs to compress and expand after spending all its life in storage.

Conclusion

If your mattress feels firmer than the store, it could result from multiple factors; such as the mattress's age, bed frame, temperature, and material. These considerations affect how long a new mattress takes before it gets broken in. Knowing how to break in a new mattress ensures quality sleep.

References

  1. Gaby Bader (August 3, 2000).  The Influence Of Bed Firmness On Sleep Quality. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11059462/
  2. Hyunja Lee (September 6, 2006) Quantitative Effects Of Mattress Types (Comfortable Vs. Uncomfortable) On Sleep Quality Through Polysomnography And Skin Temperature. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0169814106001508

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