Sleeping is not all meant to be just rest and relaxation. The human body undergoes several aspects of recovery and development during sleep. So if we know that sleep is good for us (and who doesn’t?) then it only makes sense to invest in what makes our sleeping experience the best. Some would say a good mattress choice would definitely close the deal. Yet here we are talking about bed sheets. Do bed sheets matter? How much impact does it have on your sleep?
Bed Sheets And Feelings
Do you remember at least one time lying down on a surface that is generally soft and comfortable and yet you conclude that it just does not feel right? Sometimes the softness of the bed or cushion you are lying on, is not the problem. Your skin may be telling you it is not for you. Different materials make up different bed sheets that cover your mattress. Often overlooked, they can make a large difference especially if you prefer to go under the covers with mostly just your skin. So when deciding which bed sheet makes the best choice, we will start with the fabric material.
Cotton Is Most Common
Perhaps with all clothes and cloth-items, common reigns supreme as the most frequently used material. Not only is it affordable, it generally is quite comfortable as a bed sheet but can improve in quality depending on the thread count. We will talk about thread count later because it is not as simple as having the highest possible thread count. Some homeowners might even go as far as to say do not buy if it is not one hundred percent cotton!
There is a good reason to consider cotton because it is one of the most durable of the materials and can withstand several washes before it shows any wear and tear. Generally also cool and does not feel suffocating, cotton is also the choice of fabric in countries with warmer climates. So if you are in a state where it is mostly warm throughout the year, you cannot go wrong with this choice.
But it is not all perfect and there is a reason why there are other materials also considered in the market. If you end up with cotton sheets that are not properly made, it might come off as rigid and scratchy. The cheaper bed sheets can really show this and you will distinctly feel that uncomfortable rub on your skin. So do be careful when checking for sheets with “100% cotton” labels on them. It is not just all about the material.
A luxury category of cotton is also present in the market. They are known as long-staple fiber cotton which means they have extra-long fibers that make them softer than your usual cotton. There are two currently known long-staple fiber cottons: Egyptian cotton and pima cotton.
Differences between the two are simply their origins. Egyptian cotton is from Egypt. Pima cotton is made in America. Though there is a word of caution to be made for Egyptian cotton. You see, upland cotton, which is the more common type, is found all over the world including Egypt. So some brands might claim the “Egyptian cotton” material but not have the actual premium cotton you are looking for. How can you avoid this possible misnomer? Watch out for the label that says “100% cotton” along with “Egyptian cotton”. Premium sheets do not usually have these two labels go together. Finally, you can simply do a touch test. Long-staple fiber cottons are recognizably different in a good way.
However, if Egyptian or Pima cotton is really good, why not just choose this type of fiber? Well, it goes back to the price. They come out more expensive than your common upland version.
Plant Pulp To Fiber
Environmentalists may argue that cotton is not sustainable because it requires several quantities of water just to produce. Thankfully if you are also concerned about the water-consumption, there are now more alternatives that have been proven to be more sustainable. One of these fibers is the brand: Tencel which is actually a kind of lyocell. This fiber is made from the dissolving of the pulp of eucalyptus plants and then woven into a fiber.
Aside from sustainability, Tencel fiber is also known to be quite durable. But the best feature of Tencel is its smooth-to-the-touch surface which makes it an overall beautiful soft fiber. The smoothness can be attributed to its high absorbency. This means it is a good material to consider for those who tend to sweat a lot. The hydrophilic nature (meaning water-attracting) of this lyocell prevents odor-forming tendencies in your sheets.
Now there is a higher price to such a good fiber. Compared to common cotton, Tencel will be significantly more expensive. Other than price, cotton can be a choice for the buyer when it comes to aesthetic preferences. Tencel will not give you that matte look that cotton usually has. But if you are into a more smoother visual then Tencel might be the better option.
Lowering Your Carbon Footprint
Another option hailed by environmentalists as the future of cloth, is bamboo fiber. Derived from the bamboo grass (not wood), bamboo fiber is one of the strongest materials out there and quite interestingly also one of the softest. This is why bamboo is quickly growing to become an option of a lot of consumers when it comes to cloth. You may have seen bamboo towels, t-shirts and now entire bed sheets!
Bamboo grass grows rather quickly and is the most carbon-sequestering plant in the world. This means it captures more carbon than large trees and makes our air cleaner. Some scientists even say that bamboo is the future of fixing the climate-change problem of our world today. Promoters of bamboo will also tell you of the anti-microbial agents of the fiber as well as how it is more absorbent and breathable than cotton. Though if you get to read this, you might want to take it with a grain of salt because it does not hold as an absolute fact that bamboo is indeed softer than cotton at all times. Some cottons can still be softer than bamboo.
When it comes to price, this is where bamboo might be better than the other alternative: tencel. Tencel is known to be very expensive in such a way that it is clearly far from cotton in pricing. Bamboo, when matched with your higher quality cottons, will almost have a similar pricing with them. For now bamboo still would be considered pricier but bamboo production is really fast compared to Tencel so maybe if the demand will increase even further, bamboo supply can come cheaper and pricing could go down.
Just one more thing you might want to know about bamboo which can be a big factor especially for a lot of Americans. Bamboo is organic. Unlike cotton, which may require pesticides for a good yield, bamboo does not have to deal with pests. It is a sturdy grass that resists these pests. Not only is bamboo safe for you, but also for your pets.
We have made mention of several natural sources of fiber but we have not covered on man-made materials. Polyester is one of those materials you might have encountered with t-shirts, jackets, and other heat-trapping products. It is a synthetic fabric and is considerably heavier and denser than your natural cotton. Because it does not require a general process of growing something and extracting from it, polyester is generally cheaper.
With how it is built, polyester can also last longer than cotton although through time you might notice some pilling which is like fiber fluffing out from the surface. Another good point of this fabric is that it has less tendency to fade compared to its natural counterparts. Cotton we know, wrinkles a lot, while polyester has an advantage in that it naturally stays smooth and is generally more wrinkle resistant than cotton. Lastly, because it does not wick away the moisture from your body, it can trap heat better and would make a good choice during cold weather.
There are environmental concerns with polyester that might give it a bad image in the consumer market. Because it is synthetic, it does not biodegrade the same way cotton does. Its durability is seen even after you have dumped it in the landfill as it will take several years before it can be broken down.
Micro Means Smaller
With all the polyester sheets available in the market you may come across microfleece and microfiber. Both of them follow a general idea of having very fine threads that make up the sheet and thus have a softer feel than your normal polyester. Microfiber differs from the microfleece in its material composition. It is made of a conjunction of polyester and polyamide, or plastics in our common language.
Microfleece, technically, is a kind of polyester but is designed in a way to replicate a similar structure of the flannel fabric. Just like your polyester, it can trap heat effectively, and as durable as it is, will also pill. Both the microfiber and microfleece dry very quickly and require very little maintenance compared to cotton. You will see that its tag will not require very special ways of treating it with care when washing.
Going Back To Cotton
Flannel was mentioned a while back, as also having a structure similar to microfleece. Essentially, it is cotton but finely brushed so that it has pulled tiny loose fibers. Sheets made from this can also be called brushed cotton sheets. Because of those tiny fibers, you will have the nice fuzzy texture that makes flannel unique. Some find this very comfortable and rather desirable.
However if you are in a warmer place in the country, unless you have an air-conditioned room, flannel is not the practical choice for sheets as it may feel hot. They are also not very easy to clean because of the way the material stands out.
Liking Your Linens
Another natural fabric is linen. Used in ancient times, this was derived from the flax plant and is popular for being very durable, possibly 30% stronger than cotton, and is also more absorbent. This means they are a choice for households where warmer climates are regular. If you want to sleep warm, then breathable linen is also a choice.
In terms of aesthetics, linen retains texture more than cotton so it has this rather inviting look compared to a matte appearance. They are also heavier than cotton.
Do note that with linen, you will need to follow special washing instructions such as washing in cold water and only using a gentle cycle.
The Luxury of Choice
Dating back centuries in history, silk has always been a prized treasure because it is difficult to produce and once upon a time, it was only made in one country in the world: China. Their silk monopoly made this natural fabric, a rare and highly sought after material.
Silk is made of threads woven from the cocoons of silk moths. It is a proteinous fiber which has a structure that allows light to refract from it in a way that gives the fabric a shimmering glow. This interaction with light makes silk, visually, a beautiful fabric.
Even today, with silk production now available in other parts of the world, true silk is not very easy to come by because working with the material also requires some level of skill and technique. The silk fiber is dual in its advantage because it can both keep you cool by absorbing moisture but at the same time keeps you warm because it is a natural thermal.
Knowing that is a luxury product, silk sheets may have price as the main turn off for some. However it also comes with its delicate natural fibers that it has to be handled with special care because it does not have the same durability which the other fabrics are known for. Thankfully it also goes that silk sheets do not absorb dirt or stains too well so it releases dirty quickly and will not require heavy washing.
For those with sensitive skin that develop rashes easily, silk is a good choice. However, some people like the rigid feeling on their skin and may not appreciate the silky feel which might seem like a slippery surface if you are not used to it.
Weighing In Your Considerations
Much has been covered about the materials that make up bed sheets but we need to talk about weight because each sheet might be heavier than the other and if you are frequently changing sheets this is a big deal.
As mentioned polyester is heavier than cotton, silk is the lightest of them all. And you may have cotton sheets that can be heavier than other cotton sheets depending on the thread count and how it was built. Product descriptions will tell you how heavy the overall bed sheet is.
Counting The Threads
Thread count was mentioned earlier on and as promised it will be covered. It has been placed all the way here for the reason that there is not too much to concern yourself with about the thread count.
You will find some brands pushing their thread counts all the way to a thousand, but a good count would around 500 or more. Cheaper cottons will be around 200. But even then you cannot simply take it as it is. They may market these thread counts but if the overall quality shows that the build is not good, then it defeats the purpose of having those high numbers.
When in doubt, touch and feel. When you have had the opportunity to compare among different fabrics, you will know from a simple brush on your skin, what good cotton is.
Flat vs Fitted
If you are new to the bed sheet industry, then a little basics on the different sheet categories will help you in choosing. Flat sheets are basically what the implies, sheets that are laid flat on the bed and covers it. This is what you choose if you are not sure of the exact dimensions of the bed. The downside would be it will not come off as easy when you make your bed. However it simply wraps over the bed and will not be affected by the slight size variations in your bed.
Fitted sheets on the other hand, will require a specific dimension or else it will look awkward when it sticks out or some part of the mattress is not covered up. Double check, not just with the length and width of your bed, but also the depth because some mattresses have greater depth than others and your fitted sheet may not fit right.
You do not want to be confused with the number of sheet types and material out there, it would be practical to simply go for what you need based on your lifestyle, climate, and visual preference. This way, you can narrow down your choices based on those. Also, remember, it helps if there is a return policy from where you are buying so you can consider an exchange if you feel that the sheet is not for you.