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Buying new bedsheets may seem like a mundane decision, but the quality of your sheets influences the quality of your sleep more than you may think.
After a long day of work or an exhausting adventure, nothing feels better than sliding between fresh bedsheets. The soft touch of high-quality bedding has the power to soothe your skin, promote relaxation, and ultimately help you drift off to restorative sleep.
However, sleeping with the wrong bedsheets can have an equal and opposite effect. Low-quality or worn-out sheets can irritate your skin, make you sweat, and leave you feeling hot and sticky in the morning instead of refreshed and ready to take on the day.
If you need new bedsheets, don’t just grab the first set you see on Amazon or a department store shelf. It’s worth it to research your options and take the time to find sheets that will support your unique sleep needs and provide the ultimate comfort at the end of the day.
While comforters, duvet covers, blankets, and other bedding also contribute to a welcoming bed, your skin makes contact with your bedsheets the most. For that reason, this guide will only explore sheet sets, which typically include a fitted sheet, flat sheet, and two pillowcases.
When buying a new sheet set, you, of course, have to consider costs, sizing, and your desired color or pattern. But aside from logistics and aesthetics, you can also compare your options based on the following qualities.
Many people can't fall asleep without a blanket or bedsheet, even during the hottest nights of the year. It's hard to explain why, but the touch and weight of sheets on your skin just feel good and helps you relax.
Depending on your personal preferences and the climate you live in, you likely seek out sheets that either feel soft and smooth like silk or fuzzy and cozy like fleece. Either way, you'll want to stay away from any material with a rough texture and stiff feel. Even if you plan to order your new sheets online, you may want to head to a store that sells bedding to get a feel for the most common bedsheet materials.
You'll also want to consider the friction you'll feel as you move around in your sleep or while lounging in bed. Too much friction can irritate sensitive skin, and when it comes to pillowcases, it can cause frizzy hair. The smoother the material, the less friction your movements will create.
How the fabric is made contributes to a bedsheet's feel, weight, temperature regulating capabilities, and durability—all critical factors covered in this list.
Unless you do specialized work with textiles on a regular basis, you don't need to know too much about how manufacturers turn raw materials into familiar fabrics. However, understanding these three key characteristics of different fabrics may help you choose the bedsheets that are right for you:
To make fabrics, manufacturers first spin the raw materials into threads. Fabrics can feature one-ply threads, two-ply threads, or multi-ply threads, "ply" referring to the number of fibers or yarns twisted together to create a single thread.
The length and diameter of the threads used to construct the fabric contribute to how soft the final product feels and how long it lasts. Generally speaking, woven fabrics with longer threads tend to last longer and have a smoother texture.
Thread count refers to the number of threads present in one square inch of a fabric. This metric alone doesn't determine how a fabric feels, but a higher thread count typically yields a softer bedsheet.
Knitting and weaving are two ways to construct a fabric from threads. While knits interloop a continuous thread to create a fabric, woven fabrics interlace multiple horizontal and vertical threads. You often see knit sweaters and blankets, but bedsheets (with the exception of jersey sheets) typically use woven fabrics. We'll discuss the different types of weaves and their properties in the next section.
Many people prefer heavier, cozier bedding in the winter and lightweight bedding during the warmer months. If you live in a cold climate but don't like thick sheets, you can always opt for standard bedsheets paired with a heftier comforter. If you often feel frozen at night and need maximum warmth, you can double down with thick sheets made with a heavy material like flannel or fleece.
On the subject of hot and cold climates, you should also consider how well your bedsheets will keep you comfortable, independent of your environment. It's not just the weather outside and the air surrounding you in your room that makes you feel hot or cold at night—your own body heat and perspiration also play a critical role.
It may sound backward, but the body's natural drop in temperature during sleep can make you overheat at night. With the wrong type of bedding, the heat leaving your body has nowhere to go and remains trapped with you under the covers. The body then sweats to try and cool itself down, and the moisture gets trapped as well, creating an uncomfortable pocket of humid air.
Temperature-regulating sheets—also known as cooling sheets—work with the body's natural temperature regulation mechanisms to maintain the optimal sleeping environment. Two key characteristics make bedsheets temperature regulating: breathability and the ability to wick away moisture.
Breathable fabrics have enough space between threads for air to flow in and out freely. If bedsheets are woven too tight, the fabric will prevent circulation, which keeps the air under the covers fresh, cool, and dry. A breathable sheet allows the excess heat—created by your body's natural temperature drop—to escape, meaning you won't continue to sweat throughout the night.
The best cooling bedsheets accommodate perspiration. They don't absorb liquid, but wick it away to the surface for easy evaporation. This prevents humidity from building, which not only makes you hot but also invites bacteria to your bed.
While some bedsheet materials naturally resist wrinkles, others require chemical treatment to prevent creasing and crinkling. You can also opt for sheets that don't naturally or synthetically resist wrinkles—you just have to wash them more often or accept a less polished appearance.
As previously mentioned, bacteria thrive off moisture trapped in your sheets. Mold, mildew, dust mites, and more can all crawl into bed with you, emitting odors and setting off allergies.
Fortunately, many bedsheets can resist microbes. While some materials are naturally hypoallergenic, antibacterial, and anti-fungal, others are chemically treated to possess this property.
Fitted bedsheets have pocketed corners that wrap around the edges of the mattress and keep your sheets in place. Pocket depth determines what mattress thickness the fitted sheet can accommodate.
There is no uniform sizing across brands, but in general, standard fitted sheets work for mattresses up to 12 inches thick. Deep-pocked fitted sheets can fit mattresses up to 14 inches thick, and extra deep-pocketed fitted sheets work with beds up to 25 inches thick.
Bedsheets go through the typical wear and tear of nightly use and frequent washing. Unless you want to replace your sheets with new ones every year, you should opt for sheets made with durable materials and quality construction.
Those who prefer to shop eco-friendly or organic should look out for synthetic materials, chemical additives, and harmful farming or manufacturing practices. Fortunately, there are many natural and sustainable bedsheets on the market made with materials such as bamboo, hemp, and silk.
To ensure a textile contains natural, safe materials and that the manufacturers follow responsible, eco-friendly production practices, look for certifications from third-party organizations you trust. A few product standards with strict requirements include:
Tempting as it may be to skip laundry day, you need to keep your sleep environment clean to protect your skin and immune system. However, some luxury sheets are hand wash or dry clean only, so they may not fit a busy lifestyle.
Ten factors may seem like a lot to consider when shopping for new bedsheets, but it's worth it. Doing a little bit of online research before making a purchase will help you choose the perfect product for better sleep, and in turn, better days.
But before you start comparison shopping, you may want to review the following misconceptions that shoppers often have when looking for new sheets.
Many guests at fancy hotels and online shoppers alike hear the term "high thread count" and automatically associate it with top-tier luxury. While bedsheets with a relatively high thread count often do feel softer and last longer, the number of threads used in a weave doesn't always correlate with quality.
The ideal thread count for a fabric varies between materials and weave styles. Plus, bedsheets can be poorly constructed regardless of the number of threads. If a bedsheet uses cheap materials or shows shoddy craftsmanship, a higher thread count won't save its quality. Moreover, too high of a thread count can limit breathability.
You should absolutely consider thread count when sheet shopping, but don't look at it as the sole or even most important indicator of good quality. Instead, look at the bedsheets' material and construction more holistically.
Brands often label or name their sheet sets based on the primary (or most impressive) material used to make the product. However, some product names refer to the knit or weave used to construct the fabric, not the fabric ingredients. For example, you may see:
As previously mentioned, bedsheet sets often have product names or labels highlighting the predominant or "best" material used to craft the fabric. However, if you read the tag or product description further, you may find that the sheets contain a blend of materials. For example, a product labeled as "bamboo sheets" may also contain cotton or microfiber, not just viscose from bamboo.
Whether you buy your sheets in-store or online, always look for a full list of ingredients. Blended fabrics aren't necessarily bad, but you do want to know exactly what you're buying to ensure your new sheets suit your needs.
Now that you know what to look for in a set of sheets, you'll want to consider the different materials commonly used to make bedding so you can narrow down your selection. Head over to our Bedsheet Material Guide to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of common bedsheet types like cotton, microfiber, bamboo, and more.