Post-Workout Rest: a Soft or a Firm Mattress? Which One Is Better for Muscle Recovery?

Sleep is one of the most important recovery factorsAnd if you want to make the most out of it, you might start wondering whether your mattress is actually suited for faster, more effective recovery, so the question is Soft or a Firm Mattress.

People often hesitate and can’t choose between a soft and a firmer bed, so we are going to take a closer look at the dilemma and find out which option would work better for post-workout recovery.

Soft or a Firm Mattress 1024x683 - Post-Workout Rest: a Soft or a Firm Mattress? Which One Is Better for Muscle Recovery?
Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash

So, Soft or Firm? That Is the Question

It isn’t a secret that sleep plays a major role in muscle recovery. In fact, poor sleep quality can even slow down the recovery (and muscle growth) process.

Therefore, choosing a proper mattress should be taken seriously.

Now, when it comes to the soft and firm options, it seems like different mattress types would have a different effect depending on the sleeper. For instance, if you are a heavier individual, you require extra support and a reliable mattress. If you weigh more than 230 pounds, a softer model simply won’t work because it won’t keep your body supported properly. In this case, an extra-firm mattress would be a much better option. There are plenty to choose from, but check out the recommendations on how to pick the best extra firm mattress on this page.

And if we are talking about the average or even petite sleepers, it’s safe to assume that softer mattresses can create a more favorable environment for muscle recovery. Here’s why:

  • Softer mattresses offer better pressure relief. When lying down on a plush mattress, your body sinks into the comfort layers. Pressure points are gently hugged by the mattress materials instead of crushing them into the bed surface. There is less strain and tension in your body, as it doesn’t experience much resistance from the mattress. Therefore, it’s easier for you to ease down faster, you experience minimal or zero pressure points, and your muscles get a chance to relax and restore.
  • Softer beds can act as a warm compress for your sore muscles. Research suggests that warmth is good for muscle recovery. And since a softer mattress can kind of envelop your body, it might make you (and your muscles) feel warmer, aiding faster relaxation, increasing the blood flow, and contributing to the recovery process.
  • Softer mattresses put less pressure on your tender muscles and joints. When sleeping on a firm mattress, your body is pressed against it rather than sinks through the comfort layers. This makes your joints and muscles crash into the surface, which can cause more tension and slower recovery. With a softer mattress, your body will experience less stress and might relax faster.
Soft or Firm Mattress - Post-Workout Rest: a Soft or a Firm Mattress? Which One Is Better for Muscle Recovery?
Source: https://www.carolinebakker.com/the-importance-of-sleep-for-muscle-recovery/

But let me warn you right away: you need to be careful with soft mattresses.

If you pick an overly plush model, it might not be able to support your body properly, leading to poor sleeping posture that can cause muscle strain. You see, if your bed allows for too much sinkage, your spine cannot remain in a neutral position and develops unhealthy curves during the night. And, as we know, the condition of one’s spine can greatly affect the rest of the body.

That’s why it’s important to consider your weight when choosing mattress firmness. As I’ve said before, petite and average athletes are usually safe using softer models. Heavier individuals (over 230 pounds) should give their preference to firmer beds. In this case, a stiffer mattress would work to redistribute the weight evenly, aiding relaxation, and pressure relief.

What Mattress Type Is the Best for Muscle Recovery?

It doesn’t end with firmness.

If you are serious about your sleep quality and post-workout muscle recovery, you need to account for the mattress type you are going to use. Why? Because each of them has its specific qualities and characteristics that may (or may not) work to your advantage. Here are the main common types you can find on the market:

  • Foam. Whether it’s polyurethane or memory foam, such mattresses are favored for their pressure-relieving properties. The foam adapts to the sleeper’s body and its shape, lets the heavier parts sink in, and fills in the curves. As a result, such mattresses can successfully minimize pressure points. The foam also tends to sleep warm (sometimes hot, depending on the sinkage level). While this may act as a warm compress for your sore muscles, some users don’t like sleeping hot. If you are one of them, you can check open-cell or gel-infused foam mattresses that have a cooling effect. 
  • Latex. Latex mattresses have a unique feel. They are resilient and respond to applied pressure fast, bouncing back to their shape after being compressed under the weight. With a latex mattress, don’t expect to sink in too deeply or to be enveloped by the comfort layers. However, despite being bouncy, latex beds also offer good pressure relief. They can mold to the sleeper’s body (but not as closely as foam), contributing to fast relaxation and reducing tension.
  • Innerspring. This is probably the most affordable mattress type that would be suited for budget shoppers. Keep in mind that spring beds are bouncy and don’t offer that much pressure relief. If you want more targeted support, you can try a mattress that has individually wrapped coils. But don’t expect it to do wonders to your pressure points. Innerspring mattresses are better suited for those looking for sturdy support and a uniform sleeping surface. 
  • Hybrid. These mattresses usually combine pocketed coils (for support) with either foam or latex (for increased comfort). Hybrid beds typically have a very balanced feel and a nice combo of cradling and support. For better pressure relief, you might want to choose models that have thick comfort layers.

Wrapping Up | Soft or a Firm Mattress

When trying to pick between a soft and a firm mattress for improved muscle recovery, remember to take your body type into consideration. While softer models might be better for pressure relief and muscle relaxation, you shouldn’t forget about proper support. So, if you are a larger person, you may want to steer clear of overly plush beds and choose something firmer and more reliable. However, if you are sure that a softer bed could keep your spine properly supported, go ahead and enjoy the plushy hug your mattress offers.