Capsule Considers: Would You Be Better Off Sleeping on a Firmer Mattress??

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Welcome to Capsule Considers, where we try out and review the latest products on the market and offer our honest, unbiased opinions, free from any obligation or expectation because if you’re parting with your hard-earned money based on any of our recommendations, we’re gonna make sure it’s damn well worth it. After Alice’s wonderful soft mattress fell apart, she was on the search for something new – but is a firm mattress the way to go? Should we all be sleeping on firmer beds??

A few weeks back, as I was about to collapse into bed, I stumbled across it to plug my phone in the charger and suddenly felt the odd sensation of my knee literally falling right through the bed.

In an instant ‘buy new mattress’ went from being on the ‘nice to have’ list to ‘need it now’.

As luck would have it, that very same week the folks at Emma Sleep – who I have to admit I’d never heard of – emailed to see if we wanted to try one of their mattresses out. Because of the kismet of the situation, I immediately said YES PLEASE, and also because Emma is the name of one of my favourite people (yes, that Emma!) so surely that must assure some sort of quality to their product.

A quick Google revealed that while it’s new to the NZ market, Emma is actually one of the world’s most well-known sleep brands. Founded in Germany, they have customers all over the world, racking up more than 40 awards in 30 countries, including Australia where the Emma Comfort mattress was the top scoring mattress in 2021 and 2022.

Also, they said the mattress could be there early the following week (it was Thursday evening), which seemed to be far faster than what else I could find (in NZ they promise free delivery in 3 – 10 working days), so I was sold.

Now, I was given a little word of warning that this mattress – the Emma Comfort – is considered a “firmer feel”, rating about a 6-7 out of 10 on the firmness scale.

So, I was kind of surprised when a man knocked on the door carrying just a box, with Emma branding along the side of it. A big, firm queen-sized mattress was in… there?

But indeed, in a move like something out of Harry Potter, when taken out of the box, the mattress somehow puffed up and grew and grew until it was larger than the old mattress we’d had to manhandle to get downstairs into the room.

Impressed at how bouncy and amazing it looked, once the bed was made and I jumped in and immediately thought – “Ah, crap. This mattress is MUCH too firm for me”. Which was also the very last thought I had, because the next memory I have was being woken up by the baby crying.

I’d always thought I needed a bed to be soft and cloud-like to be able to get a good night’s sleep. Whenever I thought of a hard mattress, I immediately would think of the futon I slept on in a ryokan in Japan – where I essentially didn’t sleep for a week – but… had I been wrong all this time?!? Is a firm mattress really what we all need?

According to the sleep experts, yes, I have definitely been getting it wrong. See, apparently when we’re on a firmer surface the bones absorb the lion’s share of the pressure – which means we have less stress on our muscles, veins and arteries. With our muscles less strained we A) get a better sleep and B) our circulation is improved.

If you’re a back sleeper, a firm mattress will also keep your lower back from collapsing, which can allow for more oxygen intake while you’re getting your zzzz’s.

The other thing about a firmer mattress is the lack of motion transfer – particularly if you go for a foam mattress, as opposed to one with springs. Do you ever find yourself tossing and turning to find the most comfortable position? Do you ever find yourself not sleeping because YOUR PARTNER IS DOING THIS? Ahem. It can be pretty darn disruptive. But, the firmer your mattress is, the less disturbance you feel, meaning your partner can toss and turn, or even get up and down during the night and you won’t move a muscle in the process.

But in saying all of that, a firm mattress isn’t for everybody. A firm bed is considered best if you’re a back or stomach sleeper – whereas you may need a little more softness if you’re a side sleeper (or if you have an existing issue with your back, like arthritis or scoliosis). Plus, some people just want to feel like they’re sleeping on a cloud, and that’s ok.

I used to be a mostly stomach sleeper – until I had a frozen shoulder – and now spend most of my time on my side, although weirdly, after having a baby I also often wake up on my back. On those nights I spend more time on my side though, I do notice that I don’t sleep quite as well on this mattress. In saying that though, my partner is also a side sleeper but he LOVES the firmness of this bed.

We’ve reached a happy compromise though and have an interim bamboo mattress topper on the bed – I’m buying an official Emma Mattress Topper next pay day. It’s actually reversable, made of two different types of foam, so you can turn it over depending on your preference. One side is a firmer, supportive kind, while the other has a softer, feather-like feel – so it’s like the best of both worlds: a firm mattress, but with a little cloud on top!

The bottom line:

PROS: Okay, there really is something to this business about sleeping on a firmer mattress and I’m convinced I should be sleeping on something harder than what I’ve become so used to.

The Emma Comfort mattress is a dream in that you feel absolutely zero movement from your partner – plus, with three layers of foam it’s actually pretty comfy. There’s a layer of supportive HRX Foam with special zoning technology for proper hip, shoulder and spinal alignment, plus and Ultra Comfy Airgocell Foam (that’s the stuff that stops you feeling other movement and is also moisture wicking to keep you nice and dry).

Plus, if you’re on the fence, Emma Sleep has a 120 night return policy – so you can try the mattress risk-free and return it for a full refund (they even cover the return delivery fee) if you find it’s not for you. There’s also a 10 year guarantee, for added peace of mind.

Lastly, the delivery makes it super easy – particularly with the box being so compact, you can easily get a mattress into areas of your home that are a bit of a nightmare to navigate a full mattress into.

CONS: If you’re a fan of a soft, cloud-like mattress, this is probably not going to suit you – and it may not be completely ideal if you’re a side sleeper. There’s always the Mattress Topper to add a layer of softness in there to get that result, but with toppers starting at $449 for a single bed, or $549 for a queen, it’s not a particularly cheap option! In saying that, if you’re wanting the ease of a mattress that comes in a box (and quickly), we have an Ecosa mattress in the house and I find that one to be even firmer than the Emma – so Emma wins out on the comfort scale!

Emma Comfort mattress start at $1299 (single), $1,699 (queen).

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