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You bought a new mattress. Now what?

Enjoy your new bed! But first, get a mattress protector.

a mattress on a bed frame with a boxed mattress next to it Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

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Your new mattress in a box finally arrived at your doorstep. It's exciting, whether you’re replacing a mattress that’s well past its expiration date, or trying out something new in hopes that it'll be more comfortable. Before you settle in for your first night on the new bed, we have a few tips to make the transition a little easier.

Unbox your new mattress and let it expand

the dreamcloud mattress on the floor airing out
Credit: Reviewed / Lindsey Vickers

Mattresses in a box need a bit of time to expand after you cut through the plastic encasement.

First things first, you have to get the thing from a compressed jelly roll into the shape of an actual mattress. As the senior staff writer covering sleep, I’ve unboxed more than my share of mattresses—and have a couple tips to make it as painless as possible. The most important thing is to give yourself enough time, and to be careful with the scissors or box cutter you’re using—a hand slipping as you slash through a dozen layers of plastic isn’t unheard of.

Most mattresses in a box expand almost immediately. In fact, once you puncture the innermost layer of plastic, the mattress will start to grow. (It’s not dissimilar to those tiny, water-soluble capsules that spring into mini animal-shaped sponges you may have gotten as a kid.) The mattress might look ready almost immediately, but most benefit from a bit more time to fully form.

Let your new mattress breathe and firm up

a bed on a frame
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

Plan on giving your mattress a few days to air out and reach its full firmness.

The vast majority of mattresses in a box contain at least one layer of foam. The material makes for a great sleep surface, as it’s cushy and forgiving. However, it also needs more time to air out and breathe than other materials, like metal coils.

During manufacture, boxed mattresses are more or less immediately compressed and wrapped for shipping. While this makes for speedy deliveries, chemical smells that are byproducts of manufacturing don’t have time to dissipate. This process is called “off-gassing,” and while it might sound (and definitely smell) bad, it’s not harmful for almost everyone. (Those with asthma and other serious underlying conditions may need to be more careful.)

Mattress companies have different guidelines when it comes to letting a mattress firm up. Nectar, for example, says its mattress takes 24 to 72 hours to expand, though it notes the bed is safe to sleep on right away. Similarly, Leesa says that you can sleep on its beds in short order, but you’ll have to wait 24 hours to get a full sense of how it feels.

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Don’t change everything at once

a man sleeps on the coop home goods pillow
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

Avoid changing your pillow and mattress at the same time.

Some companies, including Puffy and Nectar, throw in bed pillows with mattress purchases. It might be tempting to revamp your entire setup all at once, but it may not be the best idea. For nearly two years, I’ve been sleeping on a new mattress about every 30 days. In that time, I’ve concluded that changing too many variables at once can be more of a headache than it’s worth.

To begin with, it can take your body a bit of time to adjust to a new mattress. Changing your pillow at the same time is another major readjustment for your body. Waiting it out will help you understand if the new mattress isn’t vibing with your sleep style or preferences, instead of wondering if it’s the bed or the brand-new pillows.

In the same breath, your pillow is probably due for an upgrade. If you’ve had it for more than two years, try to get a new one soon—just maybe not until you’ve adjusted to your new mattress.

Give yourself a few weeks to adjust to your new mattress

a person lies asleep in a dim room
Credit: Getty Images / Adene Sanchez

Your first night might not be everything you'd dreamed—and that's okay.

Return policies run the gamut. But many mattress companies require buyers to own their new purchases for at least a few weeks before they’re eligible for return. Purple customers must try their mattresses for at least 21 nights. Dreamcloud has a similar policy—its return window doesn’t open until customers have had the mattress for at least 30 nights.

There doesn’t seem to be specific science underpinning these guidelines, but I can say from experience that it can take a couple weeks to get used to a new bed. That’s especially true if you’re significantly changing the texture and sensation of your sleep surface, such as going from a fairly firm mattress to something that’s quite a bit softer.

Take care of your new bed

a person puts on a mattress protector
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

Get a mattress protector to keep your mattress safe from spills and dust.

You have a fresh start with a brand-new mattress, but it won’t be that way forever. It’s a good idea to take care of your mattress to keep it spick-and-span for years to come. Typically, the materials should hold up for a decade with proper care.

We suggest buying a mattress protector because it wards off dust and liquid spills (drinks and urine). You can’t go wrong with a waterproof protector, which will keep the mattress safe in case of any spills or accidents. We love the Slumbercloud Core mattress protector as it’s easy to take on and off mattresses, sleeps cool, and is waterproof.

Enjoy your new mattress

a person sits on the edge of a bed on their phone
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

Enjoy your new mattress!

Of course, the best part of upgrading your mattress is enjoying the new one! Be patient with yourself if it takes a few days for your body to adjust to the new bed—that’s almost inevitable, and it’s understandable that your body won’t immediately acclimate to a new bed, especially if you had your old one for a number of years.

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