Modern consumers have a plethora of options when it comes to shopping for new bedsheets. The material used to make the bed sheet, as well as the weave, will both play a pivotal role in the overall comfort and the quality of sleep you’ll receive. In this article, we’ll discuss popular sheet materials, weaves, and common questions to help you make an informed decision when it’s time to select new sheets for your bed.
As one of the most popular and widely available selections in the marketplace, cotton sheets are known for their soothing comfort and affordable price point. As a bedding material, cotton offers exceptional breathability and it tends to age well, often becoming softer with age rather than rougher like polyester. Overall, cotton sheets are also safe for sleepers with allergies and sensitive skin, and they are easier to clean and dry compared to other materials.
Cotton sheets make a great all-around option for sleepers who don’t have a lot of personal preferences, but they do tend to wrinkle and stain easily, and they require regular washing to ensure a neat and attractive aesthetic in the bedroom. Fortunately, there are many different types of bed sheets made possible by cotton and all of its blended varieties, so let’s take a closer look at the specific types of cotton used in bedsheets.
Long Staple Cotton
Long-staple cotton is widely recognized as a soft and durable material, and it’s classified as at least 1-¼ inch long. It’s more common to find bedding products that utilize long-staple cotton than it is to find those that utilize short-staple or extra-long staple, and it’s the most balanced of the three when you compare them side by side for their price, softness, and durability.
Egyptian cotton is an extremely high-quality cotton variety that is usually made with extra-long staple cotton. The resulting blend provides enhanced softness and outstanding strength and durability, making Egyptian cotton sheets are one of the best choices for long-lasting sheets. Considering all of these benefits, it’s not surprising that Egyptian cotton is one of the most expensive options in the marketplace.
American Pima Cotton
American Pima cotton has longer staple fibers than American Upland cotton, and it delivers all of the strength and durability that sleepers expect with cotton without much compromise in softness. Supima is the trademark name for American Pima cotton, and you may see these terms used interchangeably as you shop for sheets or bedding accessories.
American Upland Cotton
American Upland cotton is generally 100% cotton, and the finished product typically doesn’t include any other blended varieties. This material utilizes shorter staple cotton, which lacks the supreme softness of long-staple and doesn’t last quite as long, but still provides a solid value compared to more expensive sheets. Choose American Upload cotton if you’re looking for affordable, budget-friendly sheets.
Flannel is a fairly durable bed sheet material that is actually not measured or rated in thread count. Rather, flannel is measured in ounces per square yard. Flannel is a warmer material that traps body heat within the sleeping environment, so while it may be ideal for use in winter, flannel will likely be too hot during the summer.
Compared to other bedding materials, flannel is fairly resistant to shrinkage. This attribute, coupled with the enhanced durability, makes flannel sheets a bit easier to clean and care for compared to other fabrics and materials in the marketplace.
Tencel® fabric is a very soft material made of wood pulp and cellulose fiber from the eucalyptus tree. Sheets and other bedding accessories made from Tencel tend to be anti-microbial and non-irritating to the skin, making them an ideal option for sleepers concerned with germs in the bed or those with sensitive skin conditions.
As an added bonus, these high-quality sheets are fairly quiet compared to other bedding materials, so sleepers won’t be bothered by the noise of rustling sheets if they share a bed with a restless partner. For even more benefit, look for Tencel sheets that utilize a smartsheet system to reduce wrinkling and bunching – this makes your sheets easier to care for and helps to maintain a welcoming, well-made bed space.
The biggest drawback to Tencel sheets is their tendency to trap body heat within the bed. While this may be a desired attribute during colder months, Tencel sheets may be too hot for you and your partner during the summer, so you may need to swap these sheets out for bedding made with a cooler material during the warmer months.
As a top choice for sleepers who want a cloud-like and comfortable sleeping environment, silk provides a luxurious softness that is truly one of a kind. Silk is very pleasing to the touch and fully hypoallergenic, and it promotes a very breathable and cool sleeping environment that many sleepers adore. Silk is harvested from the extremely lustrous thread of silkworms before it’s processed into bedsheets, comforters, and a wide range of other bedding accessories.
However, this material does come with its own set of drawbacks. First and foremost, silk is usually more expensive than cotton or linen sheets due to the involved production process.
Silk sheets also tend to be a bit less durable and vulnerable to damage, so they may not last as long as bed sheets made from other materials. Lastly, the commercial silk production process typically kills the silkworm before they can grow into a silk moth. If animal rights are important to you but you still want to experience all the benefits that silk has to offer, look for Ahimsa silk, which utilizes a non-violent production process that does not kill or harm the silkworms.
Polyester is a synthetic material that’s generally affordable and very durable. This fabric is also easy to clean and wrinkle-resistant, making polyester a top choice for sheets that require minimal maintenance.
Perhaps the most noticeable disadvantage of polyester is its poor breathability. Like flannel, microfiber, and other materials, polyester traps body heat within the bed and may cause sleepers to become overheated or too sweaty for a comfortable night of sleep. Polyester is also very prone to static, making it a poor choice for people who want to avoid “bed head hair.” Despite polyester’s enhanced durability, the fabric is known to become a bit rougher with age, so it’s not the best choice for sleepers with sensitive skin.
Compared to polyester, microfiber is a tighter weave that offers a softer feel and enhanced strength and durability. Microfiber also possesses stain-resistant properties, making it a great bedding option for young children.
On the downside, microfiber is not very breathable and it promotes a hotter sleep environment, trapping body heat within the bed and causing sleepers to sweat during the night. Consequently, your microfiber sheets may need to be swapped out for different materials during the summertime.
Due to their hypoallergenic properties, bamboo sheets are a great choice for sleepers with allergies, asthma, or sensitive skin. Bamboo is also surprisingly breathable, helping to promote a cool and well-circulated sleeping environment that keeps people comfortable throughout the night. Bamboo sheets are a great choice for year-round use, and the material is every bit as soft as cotton or linen.
As a drawback, bamboo sheets are fairly delicate and require gentle cleaning to protect the longevity of the product. Unfortunately, bamboo sheets also wrinkle easily, prompting owners to wash them a bit more frequently. People with limited time on their hands or those who dislike doing the laundry may find bamboo sheets a bit too high maintenance for their needs.
Rayon bed sheets are made from chemically-processed bamboo pulp, also known as bamboo viscose. These materials are naturally hypoallergenic and thermoregulating, and these benefits generally extend to the finished product. As an added bonus, rayon bedding also contains moisture-wicking properties and is generally resistant to bacterial growth and smelly odors.
Rayon sheets offer sleepers quite a few benefits, but they also come with a significant drawback. It’s well-known within the textile industry that rayon production is not very environmentally friendly. The fabrication process uses a variety of manmade chemicals that have a negative impact on both the workers as well as the communities that manufacture this complex textile.
Compared to other bed sheet materials like polyester, microfiber, flannel, and Tencel®, linen is fairly breathable and doesn’t restrict airflow during sleep. Linen ensures a cool sleeping environment and prevents sleepers from getting too sweaty during the night. Linen is made from flax, and some sheet varieties are blended with cotton for even better airflow and cooling potential.
Linen is a durable material that’s fairly resistant to everyday wear and tear, so it’s perfectly fine to use throughout the year. As a downside, linen sheets are often more expensive than most cotton sheets due to the labor-intensive production and manufacturing process.
Types of Bed Sheet Weaves
The type of weave used to make your bed sheets also plays a greater role in your overall comfort and sleep quality. Both percale and sateen offer a smooth, lightweight texture that’s beloved by sleepers all over the world. Jersey knit is another popular option that enhances the versatility of your sheets. Let’s take a closer look at three of the more common techniques used to construct your bed sheets below.
Percale weave is typically used in bedsheets made from cotton, silk, rayon, and other synthetic bedding. This type of weave utilizes filament rather than the spun yarn found in sateen products. Percale is typically a tighter weave than sateen, and consequently, it’s a bit more durable and able to withstand daily wear and tear a bit better than sateen as well.
Unlike percale and sateen sheets which are woven, jersey sheets are knit to provide a stretchy feel and adaptable elasticity that fits most standard mattress sizes without the need for deep pockets.
Bedsheets utilizing a Jersey knit are not measured or rated by the number of threads. Instead, these products are measured in ounces per square yard. This process results in bedsheets that are not very breathable, so you can expect Jersey knit bed sheets to trap your body heat within the bed and provide a toasty sleeping environment.
Sateen weave is the top choice for bed sheets that promote a breathable sleeping space and a cooler bed temperature. Sateen is a looser weave than percale, and it’s made using spun yarn instead of filament. Sateen sheets offer a distinct softness and sheen that many compare to silk, and this type of weave also resists wrinkles a bit better than percale.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does thread count impact bed sheets?
While some people might assume that a high thread count impacts every attribute of the sheet, that’s not necessarily true. The only attributes that are really determined by thread count are durability and longevity.
In general, a higher thread count ensures greater resistance to everyday wear and tear and a longer lifespan. If these bedsheet characteristics are important to you, it’s not recommended to select sheets with a thread count lower than 250, as these may be too delicate and short-lived for your liking.
Which sheets are best for summer?
During hot and humid months, look for sheets with good breathability and moisture-wicking properties to prevent you and your partner from overheating and sweating under the covers. Cotton, silk, bamboo, and rayon make great materials for your summer sheets. Also, look for sheets utilizing a sateen weave for better air circulation and a cooler temperature overall.
Which sheets are best for winter?
During the colder months, it’s okay to keep body heat trapped within the bed, to an extent. Some people prefer to sleep a bit warmer than others, but in general, you should look for flannel, microfiber, or polyester sheets to promote a toastier sleeping environment.
Which sheets are the most affordable?
Sheet set pricing varies by manufacturer, but bedsheets made of cotton, microfiber, and flannel tend to be a bit more affordable than the other varieties. Keep in mind that sheet size always impacts the pricing, too. Sheets for a California king size mattress require more material and will always be more expensive than the sheets for a twin xl mattress.
Which sheets are best for a memory foam mattress?
Because memory foam mattresses tend to trap body heat within the sleeping environment, it’s recommended to select bedsheets with exceptional breathability and air circulation. Cotton, linen, bamboo, and silk all make great sheets as far as the material is concerned. Also, be sure to look for sheets utilizing a percale or sateen weave to keep your bed cool and comfortable.
If you have a memory foam mattress, avoid sheets made of polyester, flannel, or microfiber, and keep away from sheets utilizing a Jersey knit, which tends to trap body heat within the bed.
Before you buy a new set of bed sheets, consider the material used to create the sheets in question, as well as the weave utilized by the sheets. Different attributes appeal to specific sleeping preferences, so be sure to invest in the sheets that best fit your needs for a content and comfortable night of rest.
Chris was a psychiatrist and neurologist with board certification in sleep medicine Clinical Associate Professor at the University of California. For over 10 years, he served and helped patients at Stanford Health Care-Stanford Hospital with their sleeping disorders.
After suffered from sleep disorders for years, Chris has been passionate about sleep health ever since. He wants to help others sleep better and wanted to make the world of sleep easy to understand for everyday people.