Plush queen mattress vs firm queen mattress: Which is best for your budget and sleep?

The Saatva Classic mattress photographed in a stylish white pool room with an indoor river
(Image credit: Saatva)

In our plush queen mattress vs firm queen mattress comparison piece, we're exploring the benefits and drawbacks of the two polar-opposite firmness levels. The firmness level you pick when mattress shopping can transform your sleep for better or worse, so it's important to choose the right one for you.

Queen-size mattresses are popular and available everywhere, but extra-firm or extra-plush mattresses are harder to find. The good news is that a lot of 2024's best mattresses come with both plush and firm options, so you can tailor the mattress to fit your sleep position and body type. 

Here, we'll break down the key differences between a plush queen mattress vs firm queen mattress, and weigh the pros and cons of both. We'll also look at which is best for your budget and the best plush and firm queen mattresses to buy ahead of the Memorial Day mattress sales.

Plush queen mattress vs firm queen mattress: Key differences

A plush mattress refers to any mattress with a softer feel and a low firmness rating (usually under 5 out of 10 on the firmness scale, with 10 being the firmest). The most popular plush rating is medium-soft (4/10), with anything under four being marshmallow-soft. Some also consider medium mattresses (between 4.5 and 6) to be plush. 

A firm mattress is any mattress with a harder feel and a high firmness rating (usually 8 or over). While the majority of the best firm mattresses don't go over 8/10, you can get some with a firmness rating of 9 or even 10/10.

A key difference between a firm and a plush mattress is the amount of comfort layers and padding used. Plush mattresses usually have a quilted pillow top for cloudlike sleep surface, lots of comfort layers, and soft, cushioning materials such as memory foam. Meanwhile, firm mattresses tend to have more support layers and use sturdy materials such as steel coils, Dunlop latex and high-density foam.

Plush queen mattress vs firm queen mattress: Brands and Prices

Medium-firm mattresses are the most popular and accessible mattresses on the market, but you can find lots of plush and firm options, too. Firm mattresses are easier to find, but plush mattresses tend to be harder to look for as most beds (even the best memory foam mattresses) won't go under 6 out of 10 on the firmness scale.

However, plenty of beds offer customizable firmness options (usually plush, medium, and firm). Brands that make beds with these plush and firm options include WinkBed, Brooklyn Bedding, and Saatva. Even some of the best cheap mattress brands offer adjustable firmness, such as Lucid Mattress.

The best firm mattress for most people, The Plank

(Image credit: Brooklyn Bedding)

Be aware that some brands that offer adjustable firmness are premium, such as WinkBed and Saatva, so their mattresses carry a higher price tag. Also, while some brands enable you to adjust the firmness at no extra cost, some raise the price if you choose a plusher or firmer option. For example, the standard mattress firmness is medium for brands such as Lucid Mattress and Stearns & Foster, and you'll have to pay extra if you want to make it plusher or firmer.

On the other hand, eco-luxury brand Avocado Green's signature mattress has a firm rating, and you have to pay extra to make it plush. There's also Brooklyn Bedding's Plank Mattress range, which specialises in extra-firm mattresses to provide more support to sleepers. You can now get 25% off the Plank Firm at Plank Mattress, with a queen-size now $999.

Plush queen mattress vs firm queen mattress: Comfort and support

Plush mattresses tend to prioritize delivering comfort, while firm mattresses are more focused on offering support. For example, sturdy spring or coil tiers and high-density foams make firm beds the best mattresses for heavy people as their strong, dense materials can support more weight. 

Firm mattresses can also prevent lower back pain in heavyweight, back, and side sleepers, as the hard surface stops hips from dipping and keeps them healthily aligned with the spine. Overall, firm mattresses offer bouncy resistance and the sensation of lying on top of the mattress rather than sinking into it, making them the best mattresses for stomach sleepers and back sleepers. Lighter bodies and side sleepers, however, will find firm mattresses uncomfortable as they won't provide enough cushioning along the shoulders, hips, and knees. 

In contrast, plush mattresses are the best mattresses for side sleepers as they cushion and soothe the key pressure points when side sleeping. Lighter bodies will also find that they won't have to adjust or try to "break in" a plush mattress, as it's already soft enough for a lightweight body to have an impact on it. However, they won't provide enough support to back and stomach sleepers (causing hips to dip into the mattress, leading to spinal misalignment and lower back pain) while heavyweight sleepers may notice that their bodies sink too far into the mattress. 

Plush queen mattress vs firm queen mattress: Pros and cons

While both plush queen mattresses and firm queen mattresses have their own advantages, they also have some drawbacks. Here are some of the main pros and cons of each kind of mattress firmness:

The pros of a plush queen mattress 

They provide a dreamy, cloudlike feel. Plush mattress are often compared to sleeping on a cloud or cotton candy, and provide a sink-in soft, luxe-hotel bed feel. 

They're great for side sleepers. Side sleepers' shoulders and hips need extra padding and cushioning, so a plush mattress offers ideal pressure relief.

They suit lighter bodies. Mattresses will naturally feel firmer to lighter, petite bodies, as a light body won't sink into a mattress as much as a heavy body. 

Woman sleeping on her side

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The pros of a firm queen mattress

They support heavy bodies: Firm mattresses use sturdy materials to keep heavier people well supported. 

They're great for back and front sleepers: If you sleep on your back or stomach, you'll need firm support to keep your hips supported and spine healthily aligned - preventing lower back pain.

They have a bouncy feel: Many firm mattresses are innerspring, hybrid or made from Dunlop latex foam so they tend to have that classic springy feel.

The cons of a plush queen mattress

They can cause lower back pain. Heavyweight, back, and front sleepers will find their hips sinking into the mattress. This can cause the spine to become misaligned, leading to lower back pain.

Harder to find: Plush mattresses aren't that accessible, as most brands only make mattresses medium and up. 

Tend to sleep hot: Plush mattresses tend to use a lot of body-contouring materials, such as memory foam, which tend to trap heat. 

A woman with long dark hair wakes up after an uncomfortable night's sleep on a hybrid mattress as she's really better off sleeping on a memory foam bed

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The cons of a firm queen mattress

Don't provide much pressure relief: Firm mattresses don't deliver a lot of comfort layers or cushioning, so pressure points when side sleeping won't get much relief from pressure build-up.

Can be uncomfortable: If you love sink-in softness, you may find sleeping on a firm mattress is like sleeping on the ground or a rock.

They have weaker motion isolation: The bouncier, more responsive feel of firm mattresses can mean they lack the slow-moving, motion-absorbing materials of a plusher mattress.

Plush queen mattress vs firm queen mattress: which should you buy?

Buy a plush queen mattress if…

 You want cushioning pressure relief: If you want to soothe your joints and pressure points, a plush mattress will provide the cushioning you need

✅ You're a lightweight or side sleeper: Lightweight and side sleepers need something plush that feels soft against their hips, shoulders, and knees.

✅ You share a bed: Plush beds usually use slow-moving memory foam to absorb movements of a restless partner.

Buy a firm queen mattress if…

✅ You sleep on your stomach: Firm mattresses keep stomach sleepers' pressure points (i.e. the hips) upright and well-aligned with the spine, preventing lower back pain.

✅ You weigh over 250lbs: A firm, sturdy bed is perfect for providing sturdy support to heavier bodies.

✅ You prefer a bouncy feel: A firm mattress can provide the familiar springy feel of a classic innerspring bed.

Top 3 queen mattresses with firm and plush options

1. Queen Brooklyn Bedding Signature Hybrid: $1,332at Brooklyn Bedding

1. Queen Brooklyn Bedding Signature Hybrid: $1,332 $999 at Brooklyn Bedding
Our Brooklyn Bedding Signature Hybrid mattress review praised the soft, medium, and firm options. You can currently get 25% off the Signature Hybrid, which may not be as big as their Presidents' Day 30% off sale, but it's still a pretty good deal if you don't want to wait to see what Brooklyn Bedding's Memorial Day sales will bring. 

2. Queen Saatva Classic mattress: $2,095at Saatva

2. Queen Saatva Classic mattress: $2,095 $1,795 at Saatva
Our testers for our Saatva Classic mattress review were impressed by how all sleeping positions are covered with the Saatva Classic thanks to its three customizable firmness levels, including Plush and Firm. There's currently no Saatva mattress sale, but we're predicting the brand will offer some Memorial Day discounts later this month. 

3. Queen Lucid 10-inch Memory Foam Mattress (in plush or firm)$332.99Lucid Mattress

3. Queen Lucid 10-inch Memory Foam Mattress (in plush or firm): $332.99 $282.62 at Lucid Mattress
There's currently a Lucid Mattress sale that knocks 15% off the Lucid Memory Foam, and it comes in Plush, Medium, and Firm. The Plush and Firm options cost more than the medium, but it's no more than $10 in difference. Extras include a 100-night sleep trial, free shipping, and 10-year warranty. 

Frances Daniels
Sleep Staff Writer

Frances Daniels is a Sleep Staff Writer at Tom's Guide and her role includes covering all mattress and sleep news, in addition to mattress reviews and buyer's guides, plus sleep accessories such as pillows and mattress toppers. Frances is a PPA-accredited journalist and is hugely interested in the relationship between good sleep and overall health. When not writing about mattresses and sleep for Tom's Guide, Frances enjoys writing about women's issues, health and wellbeing, the environment, and her native Wales.