We spend at least a third of our lives in bed, and to have a good night’s rest, a comfortable bed is crucial. But just as important is having the right type of bedding that works with the climate you live in and your particular body temperature. Do you sleep hot or cold? Are you sensitive to texture? All these can affect how rested you feel in the morning. Here’s a primer on how to pick the right sheets that’ll send you right off to dreamland.
Sheets come in a variety of materials, and it might just be trial and error to see which one works best for you.
The most common sheet material is cotton, and for many good reasons: It’s generally affordable and widely available, it’s easy to care for and is moisture-wicking, a necessity for those hot summer nights. For cool winter nights, cotton flannel is an excellent option, as it provides bulk and warmth.
Polyester or microfiber sheets have one great advantage: They’re extremely soft and cool to the touch. They’re not as breathable (or as moisture-wicking) as cotton, however, and because they’re synthetic, their environmental impact is greater. Jersey sheets, which mimic the feel of a lovingly worn T-shirt, are a good option for synthetic fabrics blended with cotton.
If sustainability is important to you, sheets made of bamboo are an option, but do your research carefully. While bamboo grows plentifully, the way they’re processed can have a huge impact on the environment. Bamboo sheets feel silky and luxurious to the touch, but they’re also more expensive than cotton.
Linen sheets are made of a natural fiber from the stalks of a flax plant. They’re on the higher end of the bedding price spectrum, but linen’s breathability is unmatched, keeping you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Linen’s texture is more pronounced than other fibers, so keep that in mind if you have sensitivity issues. But if you appreciate that effortlessly rumpled look, go for this airy and classic staple.
ALL ABOUT WEAVE
When shopping for sheets, you’ll come across the terms “percale” and “sateen.” This refers to the weave of the thread to create the fabric. Percale is the more traditional of the two, featuring a matte finish and a crisp, cool feel. The one-yarn-over and one-yarn-under weave makes it durable and won’t pill over time, even after many washings. It’s light and breathable, which makes it ideal for summer or hot sleepers.
Sateen is named so because it’s the closest texture you can get to satin, without the price. It’s woven one yarn under and three yarns over, which gives the fabric its characteristic silky feel and luxurious sheen. More tightly woven than percale, sateen is also heavier, which makes it ideal for cooler months and for cool sleepers.
DON’T COUNT ON THREAD COUNT
Some years back, Oprah Winfrey extolled the virtues of her super high thread count sheets, which ran over 1,000. But thread count—the number of horizontal and vertical threads in one square inch—while a great marketing ploy for some companies, is not a great indicator of how comfortable or durable your sheets will be. (Also, there’s no regulation on thread count; any company can claim whatever number it wants.)
In our warm climate, anything above a thread count of 400 will be too hot to sleep in, as a higher the thread count will also trap more body heat. Despite what Oprah says, the sweet spot is between 200-400.
Instead of thread count, pay attention to fiber length. Longer fibers produce softer fabric, regardless of the thread count. Look for sheets made of Egyptian cotton or Pima. Ply is another term to look out for—it indicates how many yarns are twisted together to make one thread. Single-ply threads are longer and softer, while multi-ply threads, made from shorter and weaker fibers, produce heavier yarn.
You’ve invested all this money on sheets. Now, make sure to take care of them properly so they’ll serve you well for years to come. The first thing to do when you unpack a new set is to get them in the wash and remove any factory chemical coating. Moving forward, wash every week (or every other week if you’re feeling lazy) in cold water to extend the life of the fabric. Avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets, which can compromise your sheets’ natural breathability, and tumble dry on low. Even better? Dry outside in the sun for a natural disinfectant.
WHERE TO BUY
Looking to take your bedding game to the next level? Here are some places to check out.
Costco.com. The warehouse retailer offers several selections in-store and online to fit any budget.
Overstock.com. The sheer number of options is overwhelming, but if you know what you’re looking for, it’s a great place to score a deal.
Pottery Barn. It’s hard not to fall in love with the perfectly arranged bedding here. Even if it’s not in your budget, you can find great ideas for sprucing up your sleeping space.
Brooklinen. This cult-favorite internet retailer has tens of thousands of enthusiastic reviews for a reason. It offers some of the best cotton and linen sheets upon which you’ll ever rest your head. And while the cost up-front might seem like a splurge, you’ll thank yourself every morning when you wake up refreshed. (Pro tip: Get a bedding bundle and save some bucks.)
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