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Everyone knows what it feels like to wake up drenched in sweat with your bedsheets sticking to your skin. Instead of leaving your bed feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day, you crawl out from under the covers feeling like you just ran a marathon. If you wake up warm and damp more often than not, it’s time to make a change to your sleep setup.
Maybe frequent bad dreams send your heart pounding, you have a medical condition that causes night sweats, or you simply live in a humid climate; a long list of factors can make you a hot sleeper. Whatever it is that makes you overheat, you need a cooling solution that lets you sleep comfortably through the night.
Sure, you could crank the AC, but that’ll run up your electric bill and you’ll likely wake up freezing. While an open window or fan may bring some relief, it won't make a big difference if your bedsheets still trap heat. For a more comfortable sleep, you need sheets and blankets that naturally regulate your body temperature and prevent outside air from making you too hot or too cold.
Before we jump into the finer details and compare materials, let's define what we mean by "cooling sheets."
Cooling bedsheets have a specific combination of qualities that work in tandem to regulate your body temperature, keeping it comfortable and consistent throughout the entire night. When shopping for sheets that keep you cool, you should consider all of the following factors:
Texture and Feel
Cooling sheets can’t irritate or cling to your skin. While you may love the coziness of flannel and fleece in the wintertime, you don’t want bedsheets that feel fuzzy if you hope to stay cool.
Most materials that make the list of best temperature-regulating sheets have a smooth, satiny feel and minimize friction. The texture of silky bedsheets may not cool you down directly, but it won’t counteract the fabric’s other cooling properties or make you feel confined under the covers.
It may sound counterintuitive, but the body's natural drop in temperature during sleep can cause overheating. If you sleep under non-breathable bedding, the excess heat leaving your body has nowhere to go and remains trapped beneath the covers.
To let the hot air out, you need sheets with a relatively open weave that allows ventilation. Lightweight, breathable fabrics with enough room between threads lets heat escape. This prevents the space between you and your bedding from becoming a bubble of humidity.
The best cooling sheets are moisture-wicking rather than moisture-absorbing. What's the difference?
Moisture-absorbing fabrics soak up liquids like spills and sweat, effectively keeping your skin dry. While moisture-absorbing materials draw sweat away from the body, they don't dispel it quickly. The liquid remains within the weave, adding weight and uncomfortable wetness to your sheets.
On the other hand, moisture-wicking sheets enable fast evaporation. The fibers pull sweat away from your skin and force it to the surface of the fabric, where it quickly evaporates and has a cooling effect. Moisture-wicking materials mimic the human body's built-in temperature-regulating system that uses sweat and natural evaporation to its advantage.
Bedding made with a soft, breathable, moisture-wicking material will keep you comfortably cool, but you'll also want to consider convenience and durability.
When shopping for new sheets, blankets, comforters, and duvet covers, be sure to check the labels for care instructions. While owning a comforter that requires dry cleaning may not be too much of a hassle, you definitely want sheets you can machine wash at home. Air drying bedding is easy enough, but you should opt for dryer-safe bedsheets and blankets if you mind the wait or don't have to hang all your bedding.
You should also consider longevity before buying new bedding, especially if you decide to splurge on high-end materials. Look for durable fabrics with quality construction, and if you want highly saturated colored sheets, research how well the material holds dye.
Now that you know what to look for in cooling sheets, understanding the characteristics of common bedding materials can help you decide which best suits your needs. Let's look at the cooling properties and other advantages and disadvantages of the most popular bedsheets.
Bamboo bedding has all the recommended cooling qualities described above: a silky-smooth touch, breathability, and moisture-wicking capabilities.
While bamboo sheets have a glossy look and luxurious feel, they typically cost less than other premium materials like Egyptian cotton and silk. Bamboo-based fabric is also incredibly durable, making a set of bamboo sheets an excellent value option for cooling bedding.
Sheets made with 100 percent bamboo may also have natural antibacterial properties, perfect for anyone with allergies or asthma. You can machine wash and dry most bamboo bedding, but always check the label for care instructions.
When it comes to quality, cotton bedsheets fall on a broad spectrum. For the sake of comparison, we’ll focus on a popular high-end option: Egyptian cotton sheets with a high thread count.
Premium Egyptian cotton sheets have an incredibly soft feel, resist pilling, and last a lot longer than your average cotton bedsheets. In terms of comfort, Egyptian cotton has few rivals.
When it comes to cooling qualities, Egyptian cotton bedsheets have the desired breathability, allowing for excellent airflow. However, cotton is moisture-absorbing, not moisture-wicking, and sweat can get trapped in the fabric.
Egyptian cotton sheets will keep you cooler than most other fabrics, but they don't have all the temperature-regulating properties available to hot sleepers in other options.
When shopping for cooling bedsheets, don't let the labels confuse you. Products marketed as "Tencel sheets" and "eucalyptus sheets" use the same material—Tencel lyocell—a rayon derived from eucalyptus pulp.
The term "Tencel" can refer to TENCEL, the Australian brand that pioneered the fabric. It can also refer to the material itself, serving as shorthand for "Tencel lyocell."
Tencel or eucalyptus bedsheets have a lot in common with their bamboo counterparts. Eucalyptus sheets have a silky texture, breathable construction, and moisture-wicking abilities—all the hallmarks of high-quality cooling sheets.
Eucalyptus sheets are also eco-friendly, antibacterial, durable, and wrinkle-resistant. However, they tend to cost significantly more than both bamboo and Egyptian cotton.
Jersey sheets made with cotton or a cotton-synthetic blend have the reputation of "budget bedsheets." The knit fabric is affordable, soft, wrinkle-resistant, and low maintenance, making jersey bedding a staple for college students.
However, we don't recommend jersey sheets for those who sleep hot or sweat a lot. They trap heat and can feel a bit too thick and cozy for the summer months.
Soft, lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking, linen bedsheets check all the boxes for cooling bedsheets. These flax-derived sheets are also eco-friendly, biodegradable, and durable.
Linen bedsheets will certainly keep you cool and comfortable—if you decide to splurge. With linen, the luxurious feel comes at a premium price. Check out this article from Apartment Therapy to learn why linen sheets are so expensive.
Microfiber bedsheets get their name from the fine, soft threads of polyester used to weave the fabric. Also considered a budget option, microfiber sheets don't pill and require little maintenance. But for hot sleepers, the benefits end there.
Microfiber sheets are tightly woven, meaning they allow minimal airflow. They tend to trap heat, create static, and can cause skin irritation due to their synthetic nature. Many sleepers also describe microfiber sheets as too thin or even flimsy.
Sleek, smooth, and irresistibly soft, silk sheets are a top-of-the-line luxury with many comfort and cooling benefits. Silk bedsheets wick moisture and regulate temperature, keeping you cool on hot nights but warm in the winter. They're also soothing, durable, breathable, hypoallergenic, and natural.
Unfortunately, silk sheets have two notable drawbacks: the premium price and required care. You cannot machine wash or dry most silk sheets and will have to hand wash your bedding whenever they need refreshing.
What type of cooling sheets will work the best for you? The answer depends on your budget, personal preferences, and how hot and humid it gets in your region. But remember, the best cooling bedsheets offer a smooth feel, superior breathability, and moisture-wicking fibers.
If you want all the essential characteristics of cooling sheets at an affordable price, we recommend bamboo bedsheets. They'll keep you cool and dry all night, and their natural softness will soothe your skin as you sleep. Plus, unlike premium silk bedding, bamboo bedsheets are machine washable for easy care.
Interested in cooler, more comfortable sleep? Check out our Nolah Bamboo Sheet Set and other bamboo products for a complete collection of cooling bedding. You may also want to consider a cooling mattress or mattress topper.