A cozy mattress and the perfect pillow are vital to a good night’s sleep but don’t overlook the importance of comfortable sheets. Sleeping on the wrong ones can have you tossing and turning. Here’s what you need to know about buying sheets.
What are you looking for?
Before buying sheets, decide what you are looking for. Do you like a crisp feel or a more satiny one? Do you sleep warm or cold? How much do durability and cost matter to you?
Three factors determine how sheets feel, their durability, and their price: the fiber used, how it is woven, and the sheet’s thread count. Consider all of these when buying sheets.
Manufacturers make sheets from cotton, linen, microfiber, bamboo, polyester, and other materials.
- Cotton is the most popular fiber for sheets. Cotton sheets are easy to care for and get softer with every wash. They are breathable and thus sleep cooler. Long-staple cotton makes for smoother and more durable sheets. The longer the cotton fiber, the softer the sheet. Egyptian cotton sheets have the longest fibers and are exceptionally soft. Pima cotton sheets are also made with long fibers and are comfortable and durable. Supima cotton sheets are also soft and exceptionally durable and are made from cotton grown in America. Short-staple cotton is less expensive than long-staple cotton but will not be as soft or last as long. If cotton sheets are marketed as organic, it means the cotton in them was grown from non-genetically modified seeds and without pesticides. Cotton-blend sheets must contain at least 50 percent cotton fibers.
- Linen sheets are made from flax and are more expensive than other sheets. They are breathable and wick moisture, making them a good choice for hot sleepers. Linen sheets are rougher than those of other materials but soften with repeated washings. They also wrinkle easily.
- Microfiber sheets are soft and warm and do not wrinkle. If tightly woven, microfiber sheets can be more durable than cotton. Microfiber sheets do not breathe as well as natural fibers, so they are best for colder climates or for people who sleep cold. They are also prone to pilling.
- Bamboo sheets are silky soft, breathable, and durable. Obtaining the sheet fibers from bamboo often involves harsh chemicals.
- Polyester fibers are found in most no-iron sheets. These less expensive sheets do not breathe well and sleep hotter. The presence of cotton in the fiber blend helps alleviate these factors.
Sheets can be woven as percale, sateen, flannel, or jersey.
- Percale sheets have a light, crisp feel and will help you feel cooler in bed.
- Sateen sheets are more tightly woven than percale and have a smoother, satiny feel. Sateen sheets feel more luxurious than percale but will make for a warmer bed.
- Flannel sheets are the warmest and have a cozy feel. Flannel sheets are usually made of cotton.
- Jersey sheets are knit and less durable than traditional woven sheets. They have a soft, comfortable feel and won’t wrinkle much like woven sheets.
A sheet’s thread count is the number of vertical and horizontal fibers in a square inch of its fabric. Generally speaking, the higher the thread count, the softer the sheet and the higher its price. But thread counts higher than 600 generally add little value.
Beware of sheets with super-high thread counts. Manufacturers sometimes lie or make the thread count higher by using manufacturing techniques that result in rougher sheets. While thread count is one factor in a sheet’s quality, other factors matter too: the fiber and weave used and the manufacturing technique. A high thread count won’t outweigh inferior materials.
Here are the recommended thread counts for various fibers:
- Cotton — 200-400.
- Egyptian cotton — 300-400.
- Bamboo — 300-500.
- Linen — 80-140, although linen sheets usually don’t specify a thread count.
- Microfiber — These sheets are measured by weight; look for 90-120 grams per square meter.