How do mattress trials work and are they free?

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A mattress trial is a set period of time within which you have to test your new mattress at home to make sure it’s the right choice for you. If you change your mind during the trial, you should be able to return the mattress and get a refund on your money. 

All of the best mattresses come with a trial period, and these range from 90 to 365 nights depending on the brand. However, there’s more to mattress trials than this. Some are risk-free, for example, which means you’ll get all of your money back should you change your mind. Others aren’t risk-free, and this means you might be charged a returns fee (also known as a processing fee).

There are other conditions nestled in the small print of some mattress trial periods too, and we’ll talk you through those below. As a quick overview, this article explains:

  • What is a mattress trial
  • How do they work?
  • Are mattress trial periods free?
  • Minimum trial periods
  • Which brands have the longest trials

Read on for everything you need to know about mattress trials and how they work.

What is the purpose of a mattress trial period?

  • Trial periods enable you to properly test a new mattress at home

We’re constantly reviewing mattresses at Tom’s Guide so we know from experience that it can take at least a few weeks for your body to get used to a new mattress. This is especially true if you’ve upgraded from an older, sagging mattress to one with plenty of support, or if you’re switching from an innerspring model to one of the best memory foam mattresses.

Third party mattress trials

When buying a mattress from a third party retailer, such as Amazon, don’t assume that you’ll be entitled to the same trial period as you would be when buying directly from the brand. So you may get a shorter or no trial period when buying from a third party.

Your body needs to get acquainted to the different materials, the softer or firmer feel and the new level of support, so a proper mattress trial that spans at least 90 nights gives you ample time to help your body adjust.

For this reason, leading mattress manufacturers offer a trial period. These are more reliable than a five-minute lie down in a showroom. However the downside is that – unless you have acres of storage space and a lot of budget – you can only trial one mattress at a time.

Third-party retailers such as Amazon have different returns policies, so keep that in mind if you aren't buying direct from a manufacturer. For more on Amazon's policy, read our feature on how to return a mattress to Amazon and what to look out for.

How do mattress trial periods work?

  • You have an agreed period of time to trial the mattress

A man in a blue shirt goes mattress shopping

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Mattress trials are fairly similar across the board, though some sleep brands throw in a few caveats, which we’ll explain shortly. They may refer to these trial periods by different names too, such as ‘sleep trial’ or ‘at-home trial’.

A trial period gives you a specific number of nights to try out the mattress. This period of time is decided by the manufacturer and is not negotiable. Most mattress trials last for 100 nights, though some brands, including WinkBeds, Eve Sleep, Nectar and DreamCloud, offer 365-night trials. 

Trials on final sale beds

Sleep specialists such as Casper and Avocado Green often run Final Sales, within which you’ll find some great mattresses reduced by several hundred dollars. While the savings are immense, the drawbacks include zero mattress trial and how all sales are final. In this instance, you can’t test your new bed at home first so you’ll need to do your research using mattress reviews and user reviews.

If you decide that the mattress isn’t right for you during the trial, you can contact the brand you bought the mattress from and get a refund. Don’t be surprised if the brand offers you an alternative to try instead – for example, if you bought a memory foam model but are returning it because it’s too soft, you may be offered a firmer hybrid model instead. Or if you bought a specific level of firmness, such as medium-firm, but find it too hard, the brand may offer you the same bed in a softer firmness (if available).

Some UK sleep brands, such as Emma Sleep, will also offer you a ‘free comfort upgrade’ to make your new mattress softer or firmer to suit your preferences. This free comfort layer is basically a mattress topper, and it could be worth trying if you like the mattress overall but wish you could tweak the feel of it slightly.

You’ll come across trial periods on all types of mattress, from organic mattresses and hybrids, through to cooling mattresses and kids beds.

Can I end a mattress trial at any time?

  • Some brands set a minimum trial period before refunds are issued

This depends on the brand. Remember those caveats we mentioned above? Some mattress manufacturers offer trial periods but stipulate a minimum length of time before you can ask for a refund. This minimum period, also known as a ‘break in period’, is usually 30 days.

A woman sits on a mattress holding a hand to her lower back

(Image credit: Getty)

These minimum trials serve two purposes: first, to ensure you give your body time to adjust to the new mattress. After all, you may experience temporary back pain during the first couple of weeks due to the enhanced support and spinal alignment, but in the third week that could clear up and you’ll feel far more comfortable head-to-toe.

Secondly, the break in period stops customers from requesting a refund after just a few nights. This isn’t enough time to see whether the mattress is right for you or not, so many brands now ask you to trial it for at least 30 nights.

Are mattresses free during the trial period?

  • A trial does not mean you get a mattress for free

Another phrase you’re likely to come across is ‘risk-free mattress trial’. This doesn’t mean you get a free mattress up front. What it means is that if you change your mind during the trial period, you’ll get all of your money refunded. 

On the flipside, trials that aren’t considered risk-free might charge you a returns fee, also known as a processing fee. While free returns are becoming more common in the crowded online mattress space, some brands continue to charge a returns fee. Saatva, for example, charges $99 to process a returned mattress.

All mattresses need to be paid for, either fully or via instalments, before you can trial them. So while you don't have to pay an extra cost to be able to trial your new mattress at home, a trial period doesn’t mean you get a free mattress.

Which mattress brands have the longest trials?

Idle Sleep used to have the longest mattress trial at 18 months, but the company is now out of business. That means the longest sleep trial period you can currently get is 365 nights, and there are a few brands offering this in the US and UK. 

Here’s a breakdown of the longest sleep trials by brand (we’ve discounted anything under 100 nights, though any trial over 60 nights long will help you figure out whether your new bed is a good fit):

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Brand:Trial length:Row 0 - Cell 2
Avocado Green365 nightsRow 1 - Cell 2
Awara 365 nightsRow 2 - Cell 2
DreamCloud365 nightsRow 3 - Cell 2
Eve Slee365 nightsRow 4 - Cell 2
Nectar Sleep365 nightsRow 5 - Cell 2
WinkBeds365 nightsRow 6 - Cell 2
Emma Sleep UK200 nightsRow 7 - Cell 2
Simba Sleep200 nightsRow 8 - Cell 2
Saatva180 nightsRow 9 - Cell 2
Bear Mattress 120 nightsRow 10 - Cell 2
Big Fig120 nightsRow 11 - Cell 2
Layla120 nightsRow 12 - Cell 2
Nolah120 nightsRow 13 - Cell 2
Serta100 nightsRow 14 - Cell 2
Casper100 nightsRow 15 - Cell 2
Brook + Wilde100 nightsRow 16 - Cell 2
Cocoon by Sealy Chill 100 nightsRow 17 - Cell 2
Helix Sleep100 nightsRow 18 - Cell 2
Purple 100 nightsRow 19 - Cell 2

Mattress trial periods: Summary

Mattress trial periods are helpful because they give you enough time to test your new mattress and to not feel as though you’re having to make a big decision in a short space of time. They’re even better when they’re risk free, meaning you’ll get a full refund if you change your mind and won’t have to pay a fee to get the mattress removed and refunded.

We recommend reading the conditions of a brand's mattress trial fully before buying to make sure you understand what criteria you need to meet if you change your mind during the trial period. For example, some brands stipulate that you must sleep on the mattress for at least three weeks and that it must be protected by a waterproof fabric covering. For help there, read our best mattress protectors guide.

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Claire Davies
Senior Sleep Editor, Certified Sleep Science Coach

Claire Davies is Tom's Guide's mattress expert and main sleep product tester with over 15 years' product review experience, and she is responsible for all mattress and sleep coverage on the site. A qualified journalist, Sleep Editor and Certified Sleep Science Coach, Claire writes about all things related to sleep, from mattress reviews to the latest sleep techniques and research. Claire has interviewed a wealth of experts, from mattress designers and innovators to neuroscientists and doctors of sleep medicine. Before taking on the role of Sleep Editor, Claire worked as Health & Wellness Editor at Top Ten Reviews, and before that was a Senior Content Editor at T3. Claire is super-passionate about how consistent, good quality sleep can boost our physical and mental wellbeing, and would love to hear from PRs and brands regarding sleep products, services and research that can help our readers sleep better than ever.