What is a mattress trial and does it get you a free mattress?

A couple go mattress shopping for a new bed offered on a risk free mattress trial
(Image credit: Getty)

A mattress trial is a specific period of time (set by the manufacturer) within which you can test your new mattress at home. Some of them are described as risk-free, which means there are no shipping or returns costs to you, while others aren’t. So those mattress trials will incur a returns or processing fee if you change your mind during the trial. 

100 day mattress trials are the most common, and most of this year’s best mattresses for all budgets come with at least a 100-day trial. A few brands offer 365-night trial periods, and these are the best in terms of longevity. Again, some of these will be risk-free and some won’t. 

A few brands also attach certain conditions to their trial process, such as using a mattress protector on your new bed throughout the trial period otherwise you'll void the terms of the trial. Here’s what you’ll learn from this article:

  • What is a mattress trial
  • How do mattress trials work
  • Are mattress trials free
  • What are the best mattress trials by brand
  • Why 100 day mattress trials are the most popular
  • Which companies sell mattresses with 365 day trials
  • Can you get a free mattress trial with no payment upfront

What is a mattress trial?

Mattress trials are very common among online brands because they want you to feel confident about buying a new bed without seeing it in person first. But the main purpose is so that you can make sure the firmness and comfort levels of the mattress are right for your body type and sleep position. This is particularly important if you are switching from one type of mattress to another - for example, if you’re upgrading from an innerspring to one of the best memory foam mattresses

If you share a bed with a co-sleeper, then you will also experience how the bed fares with motion transfer. A mattress trial is also more reliable than the quick test you’d give a bed in a shop. However, one downside is that in a showroom you can get a feel for as many mattresses as you like.

The Nectar Memory Foam Mattress with a white top, grey base and white nectar logo

Nectar Sleep offers a 365 night mattress trial in the UK and US (Image credit: Future)

Each manufacturer sets its own terms. The majority of mattress trials in the US and UK enable you to sleep on your new bed for 30 to 365 nights. A lot of trials are described as risk-free, meaning you won’t have to pay for shipping or returns if you decide that the mattress isn’t right for you.

When a trial isn’t risk-free you may have to pay a returns fee or a processing fee. The amount varies by brand, with some explaining that they charge a fee to cover the cost of processing a returned mattress.

So if you want to trial a new bed at home without incurring hidden costs, always look for the words ‘risk-free mattress trial’. At the very least, pick a brand that offers free shipping and free returns – but check the T&Cs to make sure they don’t attach any caveats. For example, ‘you’ll get a refund if you can prove the mattress has been donated to charity.’

How do mattress trials work?

100 day mattress trials are the industry standard, but there’s lots of variation. Trials can last anywhere from 30 nights (the bare minimum experts recommend you try a new bed for) to 365 nights. The best brands for 365 night mattress trials are Nectar Sleep, DreamCloud, Eve Sleep, Avocado Green, WinkBeds, Awara and Saatva. 

Most companies state that the trial begins the day the mattress is delivered to your home, so we recommend doing the following as soon as the bed arrives:

Check the packaging for signs of damage and contact the brand immediately if you notice damage to the box, as this could affect the mattress inside. This is rare as boxed mattresses are very well protected, but be cautious, especially with water damage.

Check the exterior labels to make sure you have been sent the right mattress in the right size. 

Unbox the mattress the same day if you can so it has ample time to expand (up to 48 hours) before you start sleeping on it. This will also reduce the chance of pungent off-gassing (learn more about what is mattress off-gassing).

Sleep on the mattress as soon as you can and for a minimum of 30 days. This is the average time it takes most people to get used to a new bed, but you may need more time.

Finally, if you decide after at least 30 days that you want to return the mattress or exchange it for a different firmness, contact the manufacturer or retailer to start that process - don’t procrastinate.

Are there any free mattress trials?

Not all mattress trials are free, and even then we need to be clear on what ‘free’ means in this context: you won’t get a completely free mattress to try without any strings attached.

The DreamCloud Mattress pictured next to the box it arrives in during shipping

DreamCloud runs a risk-free mattress trial, so you won't have to pay a returns fee (Image credit: DreamCloud)

If you find a company that offers risk-free trials, that means you still have to pay for the mattress in advance. But you will receive 100% of your money back if you decide to return the mattress within the trial period and as long as you have met the terms of the trial. For example, you return the mattress in its original condition, without any signs of wear and tear or damage. Each brand has different criteria, so read this before buying.

Mattresses purchased via finance are the only exception to the 100% refund rule on risk-free trials. You may find that you aren’t refunded fees and interest charged during the trial period. Again, check the terms of the finance plan before committing.

What are 365 night mattress trials?

As the description suggests, a 365-night trial means you get a whole year to test your new mattress at home. That means you can sleep on it through every season to make sure it’s cooling and breathable in spring and summer (or year-round if you overheat at night), cozy in the autumn and winter, and able to support and comfort your body night after night.

A 365 night mattress trial is a big advantage over 100 night trials because you’ll get a much stronger idea of how durable your new mattress is. You’ll be able to see if it’s prone to premature sagging and get those issues rectified with the brand if needs be. That said, most mattress warranties will warrant your mattress against premature sagging.

You'll find 365 night trials on luxury mattresses and the odd mid-range bed-in-a-box (such as the Nectar Mattress). At the other end of the price spectrum, the best cheap mattresses normally come with a 100-night trial period.

The best mattress trials by brand and length

In order to get a good feel for a mattress, choosing a bed with at least 100 nights’ trial is a good way to see if it’s for you in terms of comfort, firmness and that all-important cooling, especially as the weather gets warmer.

Here is a list of some of the best trials available in the US and UK right now:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Mattress trials by brand and length
Brand:Trial length:Row 0 - Cell 2
Avocado Green100-365 nightsRow 1 - Cell 2
Awara365 nightsRow 2 - Cell 2
DreamCloud365 nightsRow 3 - Cell 2
Eve Sleep365 nightsRow 4 - Cell 2
Nectar Sleep365 nightsRow 5 - Cell 2
Saatva365 nightsRow 6 - Cell 2
Emma Sleep200 nightsRow 7 - Cell 2
Simba Sleep200 nightsRow 8 - Cell 2
WinkBeds120 nightsRow 9 - Cell 2
Bear Mattress120 nightsRow 10 - Cell 2
Big Fig120 nightsRow 11 - Cell 2
Layla120 nightsRow 12 - Cell 2
Nolah120 nightsRow 13 - Cell 2
Serta120 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
Purple100 nightsRow 19 - Cell 2

When can I end my mattress trial?

Some brands bake a minimum period of 30 days into the overall trial before you can return the mattress and get a refund. Not all brands specify a minimum testing period though, and if the mattress is faulty you can return it for a refund or exchange straight away.

Mattress trials: summary

Mattress trials are a great way to help you make an informed decision when choosing a mattress. This is especially useful if you’re thinking about switching to a different type of mattress, such as from a memory foam mattress to an innerspring, or you’re looking to get a firmer bed.

Look for risk-free mattress trials, as this means you won’t have to pay to return or exchange your mattress. However, it’s always a good idea to read the small print before you commit to buying any mattress, just in case there’s any reason it can’t be returned. 

Many brands advise that you sleep on the mattress for a set period first – usually 30 days – so your body can get used to it. This prevents you starting the returns process prematurely, when in fact you could be sleeping on your dream bed if only you gave it a couple more weeks. 

Some brands also say you must use a mattress protector during the trial, to ensure the mattress is in the best possible condition should you wish to return it. Overall, mattress trials are an excellent way to see if a bed is the right choice for you, especially if you’re thinking about splashing out on a more expensive brand.

If you aren't ready for a new bed but need more sleep comfort, take a look at our guide to this year's best mattress toppers for adding more support, firmness, softness or cooling as needed. To rest your head in a better spot, we've also rounded up the best pillows for all budgets.

Claire Davies
Sleep Editor, Certified Sleep Science Coach

Claire is a Sleep Editor and Certified Sleep Science Coach who covers all things related to slumber, and is the go-to person for getting great product recommendations for better sleep. As an expert mattress reviewer, Claire has tested memory foam and hybrid mattresses from a range of top-rated brands, and has extensive experience of testing bedding too. Claire regularly speaks to certified sleep specialists, such as chartered psychologists and doctors of sleep medicine, to stay on top of the research and techniques that can help you enjoy better quality sleep, and she speaks with industry specialists about the latest mattress trends and new releases. Before delving into the world of sleep, Claire was Health & Wellness Editor at Top Ten Reviews, and before that a Senior Content Editor at T3. Having suffered with insomnia for years, Claire knows how much of a difference a good night's sleep can make and is passionate about helping others to sleep better too.

With contributions from