Bedding Buying Guide
While the mattress is the cornerstone of your sleep system, what you put on top of it can have a huge impact on the overall feel of your bed. When it comes to sheets, there are infinitely more options on the market—from ultra-cheap to true high-end luxury. By understanding all the different fabrics, features and factors to look for, you can more easily navigate the wide variety of sheeting products you have to pick from.
Sheets are only one part of the top-of-bed mix, though. Things like mattress protectors and weighted blankets are often considered after-thoughts—but these bedding products can actually play a big role in helping you create the best possible sleep environment.
The thread count refers to the number of threads within each square inch of fabric. Traditional wisdom once believed that the higher the thread count, the better quality sheet—though we now know that that is not always the case. While a higher thread count does contribute to the perceived quality of a fabric, there are plenty of other factors that play a role in the overall feel of a sheet set—including the type of yarn fiber, weave and finishing.
The type of yarn used to make the fabric is a major factor when considering the quality of the sheet. The strongest and softest cotton sheets are those made from long-fiber cottons. Longer fibers feel softer longer, and won’t pill after washing.
- 100% Egyptian Cotton: the top-of-the-line option. Thanks to its long fibers, these sheets are sumptuous and thin, strong and durable.
- 100% Pima Cotton: the second best option. Softer and less likely to pill. Often labeled by the trademarked “Supima” name in stores.
- 100% Cotton: When the product does not specify which type of cotton it is, it is most likely American upland cotton. It has a shorter fiber, which makes it coarser and weaker than Egyptian or Pima.
- Linen: Another natural option. It is lighter weight and offers greater breathability, making it a great summer sheet. Though it does wrinkle easily.
- Poly-Cotton Blend: A more affordable option. It is less likely to wrinkle and withstands frequent washings well. Look for a blend that doesn’t include too much synthetic material. A 90/10 blend will be crisp, soft and durable. Anything above 30% poly materials will feel heavy and uncomfortable.
- Tencel: Made from eucalyptus plants, this fabric combines the softness of cotton with the smooth feel of silk and is less likely to wrinkle. It is naturally cooling and moisture-wicking, which helps minimize allergens like dust mites.
- Bamboo: Made from the fibers of a bamboo plant, this fabric delivers an even silkier feel than cotton or tencel. It is a durable material that maintains a soft stretchy feel over time, and offers added breathability to help you regulate your body temperature throughout the night.
All fabric is made up of thin fibers that have been woven together. The “weave” of a sheet refers to the specific process used to weave these fibers together—which affects its look, softness, durability and price.
- Percale: A lighter-weight, matte weave. It creates a crisp feel that stays cooler throughout the night—making it good for people who overheat during the night.
- Sateen: A heavier-weight weave. It has a soft, smooth almost satin-like feel to it.
Many sheet sets are treated with a chemical finish to help minimize wrinkling and maintain shape. Organic sheets tout a chemical-free “pure finish.” While chemical finishes don’t really change the feel of the sheets, some people opt to avoid them for personal health reasons. In particular, anti-wrinkle finishes are often made from a resin that releases formaldehyde—which can be aggravating for people who has skin allergies or chemical sensitivities.
- Antimicrobial Treatments: Some brands treat their sheet fabrics by infusing the fibers with a natural silver. This helps to prevent any build-up of bacteria and other allergens. Not only does this give you peace of mind for the cleanliness of your bed, it can also be a huge help for anyone who suffers from nighttime congestion.
Be sure to always measure the depth of your mattress when you’re shopping for new sheets, in addition to looking for the standard sizing. If you have an extra tall mattress or a substantive topper, you may want to look for “extra deep” sheets.
Remember: Always wash your new sheets before putting them on your bed. This is especially true if you are worried about chemical sensitivities—but it also helps break in any type of yarn to create a softer feel.
Mattresses can be a major financial investment—and that means you want to make sure you’re safeguarding them from any potential wear and tear. Protectors provide a physical barrier against stains, spills and allergens like dust mites, mold and mildew.
The most common designs are the five-sided protector, which fits neatly on the bed like a fitted sheet, and the full encasement design, which envelopes the entire mattress in protection from all sides. In addition to ensuring reliable protection, the best protectors are made with whisper-quiet moisture barriers and breathable fabrics that will not inhibit any of the mattresses comfort features.
Many of today’s protection products also include additional benefits—like cooling technologies—that further enhance the sleeping environment.
But do I really need a mattress protector?
Not technically. But you might not realize how much you actually want one. Throughout the night, our bodies are perspiring, drooling and shedding dead skin cells—all of which can seep right through your sheets and into the mattress itself if there isn’t a protector there. While mattresses themselves are hard to wash, most protectors can be easily removed and laundered to ensure you are sleeping clean.
Another key reason to spring for a mattress protector: bed bugs. While even the best protector cannot prevent bed bugs from showing up in your home—many can keep them from getting into your mattress.
Inspired by a decades-old therapy practice called “deep pressure touch,” weighted blankets have long been used to help increase relaxation and relieve anxiety. Simple in design and backed by scientific research, these heavy blankets are a great non-pharmacological way to help alleviate insomnia.
The science behind the weighted blanket is not new. In fact, the practice has long been used as a therapeutic aid for children with developmental disorders and more recently for adults with acute mental-health issues. Research has shown that having 7 to 12 percent of your body weight resting on top of you reduces the secretion of cortisol and triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin in the brain—a combination that works to reduce stress and enhance relaxation. In addition to relieving anxiety, the production of serotonin can also be converted into melatonin, which helps induce sleep.
According to a 2015 study from the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology at the University of Gothenburg, the use of a weighted blanket not only increased sleep time and decreased sleep movements, but participants reported that it was easier to settle down and felt more refreshed in the morning. Another study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that weighted blankets help improve sleep satisfaction and reduce both pain and stress.