One often overlooked piece of the sleep environment is your sheet set. People often buy sheets based solely on the color. Some of the more “sophisticated” customers also look at thread count. Is that enough? Here, we look at some other things to consider when buying a set of sheets with a focus on getting a better night’s sleep.Factors to consider when buying a set of sheetsThere are a lot of factors to sort through when comparing sheet sets. The biggest thing most people look for is thread count. The higher the thread count, in general, the smoother the sheet will feel and the more durable it tends to be. This is not always true, however. You can have a set of sheets with an enormous 1500 thread count be much weaker than a sheet set with only a 400 thread count. A lot of people look for specific colors in their sheets, which I cannot comment on since I am not an interior designer.In addition to thread count and color, you need to consider the material, the weave, the depth, and any extra features the sheets have.MaterialThere are a lot of materials that sheets can be made of. Among the choices are:
• Cotton – Cotton is the most common material to use in sheets. The nicest type of cotton sheets are Egyptian cotton. Egyptian cotton plants (so-called “long-staple” cotton) has longer strands which produce a higher quality thread. These tend to be some of the most expensive sheets. There is also Pima cotton, which is nearly as luxurious as Egyptian. If you see something that says 100% cotton, but doesn’t specify if it’s Egyptian or Pima, then it’s probably a low quality cotton.
• Tencel/Rayon/Lyocell – Tencel is a brand name of Lyocell fiber, which is a type of rayon. It’s made of cellulose, usually from renewable resources. Because of this, Tencel is the more eco-friendly choice. It has a soft feel, has anti-microbial properties, and wicks away moisture. The downside: it’s rather expensive. For more about Tencel, this wisegeek post has more.
• Microfiber – Microfiber is a synthetic fiber made of polyester or sometimes nylon fibers. This tends to be quite durable for the price, but not as comfortable as cotton or Tencel. The main benefit of microfiber sheets is the cost. Microfiber sheets are some of the least expensive sheets you can find.
• Flannel – Flannel is made from wool, cotton, or a blend with synthetics. Technically, flannel is a type of weave, not a material. Flannel sheets are popular for use during the winter since they are good at keeping you warm, though they also work well in the summer instead of a blanket, particularly if you keep your bedroom cold. Unlike other materials, flannel sheets often don’t give a thread count, but rather a weight per area (usually ounces per square yard, but sometimes grams per square meter).
• Silk – Silk sheets have a very smooth feel and, if cared for properly, will last a long time. However, caring for silk sheets properly can be a lot more work than caring for other types of sheets. Silk sheets should be hand-washed the first few times to “break them in.” Then, when using a washing machine in subsequent cleanings, it should be set to the delicates cycle with cold water and a gentle detergent. In addition to this extra work, silk sheets are expensive. For this reason, most people don’t get silk sheets. If you decide on silk, look for a high “momme weight” (~15+) and be prepared to put in the extra work to care for them.
WeaveIn addition to the material, the type of weave the sheets use determine how the sheets feel and how durable they are. Here a few of the more popular ones.
• Percale – The percale weave is kind of the “standard” weave, where the vertical and horizontal threads (called warp and weft threads, respectively) cross over one another one at a time. Percale is durable and crisp feeling.
• Sateen – This weave gives the sheet a smoother, silkier feel, but at the expense of a little durability. In this weave, the threads cross over 4, then under 1 (or a similar ratio, it can vary a little). This weave is only called sateen if it’s cotton or a similar material. Otherwise, it’s called:
• Satin – The same weave as sateen, but with a fabric like nylon, polyester, or silk.
• Jersey – This is a knit fabric rather than woven. It’s knit in the same way as t-shirts are. These are soft and comfortable, but can shrink (just like your t-shirt).
Another thing to consider is the depth of the mattress. If you have a very deep mattress (like most pillowtops), you might need to measure the sheets and see if they are designed to fit a mattress of your depth. You may hear the term “deep pocket” sheets. There isn’t a standard definition for exactly how deep it has to be to be considered “deep pocket,” so just make sure the product description or packaging tells you what depth of mattress it fits. It’s best to not pick a set of sheets exactly at the high end of the range. For example, if your mattress is 14″ thick, and the sheets say they fit mattresses up to 14″, the fitted sheet will likely pop off the edges, especially if you sleep near the edge of the mattress. The added weight of a person lying down on the mattress will pull the sheet right off if it’s barely holding on to begin with. Conversely, don’t get a sheet set designed to fit mattresses much bigger than yours. The sheets will bunch off due to a lack of tension holding it in place, which can lead to a lumpy sleep surface, which can disturb your sleep.
Some sheet sets will have extra features to make them more appealing. For example, some sheets have bands diagonally across the bottom corners, to keep the sheet from popping off. This is especially useful if you have a motorized base under the mattress. Others report to be wrinkle-resistant and anti-microbial (mostly features of the material, covered earlier). Keep your eyes open for any little features like this to help you make your decision.
In conclusion, don’t rely solely on thread count and color to make your decision. A lower thread count sheet Egyptian cotton with a sateen weave might feel better and be more durable than a 1500 thread count microfiber sheet. Also, if you’re buying online, please be sure to read carefully. “Egyptian quality” microfiber sheets are not the same as “Egyptian cotton” sheets, for example.
VIA Mattress Nerd