This article will provide all the information you need to make an informed decision on buying the best bed sheets for your situation and finally getting an amazing sleep.
I don’t know about you but I love sleep. Actually, I do know you and you also love sleep. You haven’t been getting enough recently though and it’s down to your bed sheets.
This is probably a strange experience, me being in your brain and all. It’s best to just let it happen.
If you’re a man, like myself, you’ll have gone through a lot of your life without contemplating bed linen. Now you’ve got your own apartment and apparently you’re meant to be an expert.
I’ve been through the pain and was put on this Earth is to help you avoid it.
I didn’t give my bed sheets enough credit. It’s not that I didn’t care, they just never crossed my mind.
Over the years, most of my them were bought from the local store. It’s not like they were bin liners but they definitely weren’t high-quality.
You instantly know when you’ve purchased a low thread count set, you can feel each and every stitch running over your fragile skin like pummice stone.
It may be apparent from my writing that my mind is as active as my skin is sensitive. This often led to many nights lying in bed as still as possible, staring into the darkness. You learn a lot about yourself in those moments.
I learnt that I was very angry and extremely tired.
If I was lucky enough to drift off, there were many occasions where I’d wake up gasping for air and sweating like a madman. I wasn’t asking for a supercomputer to manage the climate control, all I was asking for was some breathability.
You know how people in the army drag themselves by the arms and leave their legs limp? I knew it was time for a change when I found myself hauling my legs to the kitchen for some water to re-hyrate after an intense overheating episode.
The human body can put up with a lot of things, but it should never have to deal with that.
When I bought my first set of premium bed sheets it was the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had. No more anger and no more tiredness.
I want to show you how you can achieve this apparent miracle.
The bed sheet holy trinity
- Thickness of fiber
- Material type
The multi-ply lie
These sneaky marketers are at it again. What are they like?
Single ply means that the fabric is made of single long threads. These are then oriented and you’ve got yourself a thread count.
Multi-ply yarn is made up of two, three, four or more strands which have been wound together to create one master thread.
Even though it’s the master thread that’s woven to create the fabic, companies are still allowed to account for each strand in the master thread. Therefore, they can claim that the thread count is much higher than it is.
If you want the best quality fabrics, make sure it’s single ply with a high thread count. These are always better.
What is thread count?
Thread count is a term that comes up in discussion more than it has a right to, but most people discussing it don’t actually know what it means.
You’ve nodded your head in agreement during the conversations. A hand on chin here, a tilted head there.
Yeah. Sure. Uh huh.
The self-assured expression means they never knew your helplessness.
I’m going to save you from your internal trauma – right now.
Thread count is the number of threads woven in a square inch.
It’s recorded as one number in the hundreds. It doesn’t even have any units.
You can stop sweating now.
How important is thread count?
Within the range of standard thread count limits, it’s important.
Below 180, you’ll see the holes between the threads. Not ideal and usually means low quality which will wear down quickly. Nothing says haven’t yet sorted my life out like holes in the duvet.
Thread counts of 1000 or more begin to lose the qualities that high thread counts are known for. The sheets start to get very heavy and need many washes to soften the fabric to the levels of their lower count cousins. They will last a very long time though.
You need to calibrate your lasers in the 300-600 spectrum for maximum softness-to-durable benefits.
Types of fabric
- Egyptian Cotton
There’s more material for creating your bed sheets than you can wave a stick at but I’m going to show you the most important ones.
Cotton is the soft part of the plant that surrounds the seed of the Gossypium genus. It’s made pretty much entirely from cellulose and is spun into yarn or thread.
We all know cotton and its versatility. It’s because of this versatility that cotton bed sheets can be at the highest and lowest end of the quality scale.
It’s the celebrity of the fabric world. Everyone wants to be it. Cotton has grown to become the most popular material for making bed sheets and for good reason.
- Very durable (can be used as a tug-of-war rope if needed)
- Can be regularly washed at home (you don’t have to worry about forgetting to go to the dry cleaners)
- Great for dying (perfect for drawing pentagrams on to summon the dead)
- Keeps your body temperature stable (until you get the flu)
- Hypoallergenic (looks like it is the cat after all)
Because of the previously stated gulf in quality between the best and the worst, a lot of companies are able to essentially lie.
They’ll tell you a product is 100% cotton but you’ll end up with half your ear missing from a rough pillow case.
Egyptian cotton is like normal cotton, but different. You hear about this all the time as one of the most luxurious materials known to man.
Egypt’s weather and mineral composition enables some cotton species in this region to grow longer staples than other traditional cotton-growing territories.
A plant that produces Extra Long Staples (ELS) is a plant that will make someone a lot of money.
The manufacturing process binds these staples together. Where there is a joining of two staples, there is a breakage and thus a weak point compared to a continuous fiber. Therefore, the benefit of of ELS is fewer breaks which means stronger, softer, less fraying.
A better night’s sleep.
- Strong (like an ox)
- Minimum fraying (harder to tickle your sleeping friend’s face with)
- Wrinkle-free (you won’t be for much longer)
- Soft (in a competition of softness between Egyptian cotton and duckling down, Egyptian cotton wins every time)
Not all Egyptian cotton is Egyptian cotton, some is just cotton from Egypt. Sometimes it’s just a marketing ploy by companies to lull you into a false sense of caliber so they can jack the prices up. In the end you don’t get the bed sheets you deserve and have been denied many wonderful night sleeps.
- Take care making sure you are buying real Egyptian cotton
You didn’t think you’d see bamboo, did you?
Strictly speaking, bamboo fabrics are made using rayon (a regenerated cellulose fiber). The ones that pretend to be silk are referred to as artificial silk which is a compliment in my book.
Bamboo fibers need to be broken down chemically and spun into the material that we know and love because natural bamboo fibers are very short (<3mm).
There’s a lot of focus of bamboo from a sustainability point of view. It grows really fast, which is ideal for us humans who consume products that take a long time to form even faster.
Here’s why bamboo is awesome
- Very lightweight (easy to get out of bed when nature calls)
- Better cooling than other types of bed sheet (you can play Dungeons & Dragons and still be accepted by your peers)
- Durable (won’t make a hole when you stand on your bed to change the lightbulb)
- Soft (comparable with your labrador’s ears (other dog’s are available))
- Great for dying (unless a sock finds its way into the washing machine)
Although durable, there’s a certain minimum level of care that’s required to keep the sheets in their optimum condition. The kind of sheets you deserve.
Depending on how you view bed sheet-wrinkles, this may be a large problem. They appear more easily than with other materials and as soon as you chop one head off, another two sprout in its place.
- Care for bamboo sheets as well as they care for you and you’ll be together forever
If cotton is the celebrity of the bed sheet world then silk is surely royalty. Cotton gets frustrated but tries not to show it.
No one’s the best at everything.
Silk is a protein fiber that’s most commonly generated for the cocoons of silkworm larvae.
Part of its luxurious appeal is down to the way it shimmers in the light. Its structure is a triangular prism which refracts light in various ways to produce different colors.
Silk is surprisingly good at retaining heat so you’ll be comfortable sleeping in a colder room.
- Good moisture absorbency (leave the wet towel on your bed as long as you like)
- Very smooth (the dirt just slides off)
- Elastic (human catapulting is back on the cards)
- Low wrinkling (no more making the bed as tight as possible)
Maintaining silk sheets is a hassle, there’s no doubt about that.
At best you’ll have to hand wash your bed sheets, at worst you’ll have to take them to the dry cleaners.
The great news is you’ll form an unbreakable bond between yourself and the owner of the dry cleaners.
An unlikely duo who get caught up in the middle of a turf war between the Triads and the Hell’s Angels.
I can see it now.
- Upkeep can be a pain
The flax plant is the biological linen factory of Earth. Although it’s not easy to go from vegetation to manufactured linen we make the effort because the material is brilliant.
It’s an extremely strong fabric that absorbs plenty of moisture. It’s even stronger when it’s wet than when it’s dry. Once soaking, it has the decency to dry faster than cotton.
Linen is a very proficient heat conductor and is cool, even to the touch. It allows its occupants to breathe. Perfect for bed sheets if you live in a warm climate.
- Super strong (they wanted to make a movie but it was too niche)
- No lint (you can put the suit jacket for your interview down in peace)
- Very breathable (has lungs)
- Easy to take care of (everything will come out in the [machine] wash)
There are several drawbacks. If you’re someone who receives comments about the amount you perspire then stay away from linen. It can be damaged and discolor from sweat.
When you think of linen you automatically think of a Grandad out walking on a summer’s day in a linen jacket and pants. My mental image includes a linen trilby too.
This man is, in fact, exactly like Richard Attenborough in Jurassic Park.
You can already picture the wrinkles, can’t you? It’s because linen has poor elastic properties.
- Although cool, can get damaged by sweat
- Wrinkles very easily
Types of weave
The Percale weave is plain with a matte finish (it’s not glossy).
It usually has a thread count of over 200 and is tighter than you’d normally get in a bed sheet weave.
Percale is comfortable being washed and has a medium weight.
It’s typically found with various materials such as cotton, polyester or blends of fiber.
Sateen is made of cotton fibers which are treated with lye (sodium hydroxide) in a process known as mercerization and then doused in acid.
This treatment has it all. It improves dye update, reduces the chance of tearing, fabrics aren’t liable to shrink, and gives a silky appearance.
Anything that can be mercerized should be mercerized.
This is where it gets slightly confusing.
Sateen is woven in a satin weave with treated cotton – this isn’t typical. You don’t normally get cotton with satin weaves.
The idea is to combine the powers of cotton’s durability with the luxurious abilities of the satin weave.
- A fundamental weave
There is a very obvious, high luster when a fabric has a satin weave. This is because of the number of floats in the fabric.
You might catch your brain thinking it’s its a pool of inviting liquid, very confusing when the material is red.
When the fibers used are long and filamentous (for example, silk, nylon and polyester), the fabric is allowed to be called satin.
Purists believe that only silk can be used to create a satin fabric. Who do you believe? It depends on how deep you want to sleep.
- A fundamental weave
Twill is a type of weave which forms parallel ribs. This orientation means that you’re able to drape twill weaves very easily.
You’ll find there’s usually a front and back to twill weaves, whereas a plain weave is identical both ways.
It’s unlikely you’ll find twill weave on many bed sheets as it can be rough on the skin but I wanted to include it as it’s an important weave to the fabrics industry and therefore you.
Plain, satin, and twill are the fundamental weaves that make up the majority of fabrics, including bed sheets, that you use.
What makes up a bed sheet set?
There are different components that go into making a bed sheet set. I’m going to run through them now so you don’t find yourself blankly staring at the screen when you’re making your purchases.
You didn’t expect that one, did you? You’ll either get a flat sheet or a fitted sheet.
The flat sheets are just pieces of fabric that then draped over and tucked under the mattress.
A fitted sheet has an elastic trim around the corners which make it easier to fold under the mattress.
A valance sheet is oversized and and used to hide all of the unsightly items that you’ve discarded under your bed when you realized that someone you wanted to impress was making an impromtu visit.
These go under the mattress which will hold it in place.
I know you know what a duvet is. The part of the bed sheet set that keeps you warm in the winter and too warm in the summer.
The duvet cover adds color and pattern to compliment the look of the bedroom, as well as being the part you wash to keep everything fresh.
Unfortunately, the duvet cover does have a stigma attached to it that may never leave.
It’s a Saturday, you’ve been good and kept up with the chores and no one can take that away from you.
The washing’s done and you’ve hung it out to dry. It’s time to go out, it’s the weekend after all.
A few beers with the friends.
Nothing too wild but you know you’ve been out.
You walk in the door and your heart sinks, rooting you to the spot. Your eyes lock on the duvet and you the focus starts to zoom in and out like you have vertigo.
A montage plays over all the times you’ve struggled to get the duvet cover onto the duvet and the fury that comes with it. Not this time, you think. This time is different.
Ten minutes pass by and you find yourself inside the duvet cover. You don’t know which way is up.
You walk in the door and your heart sink
I used to think that a pillowcase was a pillowcase but the reality is there are a many different types.
Please, let me educate you on the main two.
The first is a ‘Housewife’ pillowcase. I’m not entirely sure if that’s an appropriate name or not nowadays but unfortunately, that’s all I can give you.
Housewife pillowcases are your standard pillowcases that are sewn all around the edge.
The next type is the ‘Oxford’ pillowcase. These have a decorative fabric trim that runs along the outside edge of the pillowcase.
There’s no difference when fitting the pillow into either case, however, the Oxfords look bigger.
Set vs individual
Have you thought about getting a bed sheet set or buying individually?
Buying a set means you don’t have to worry about finding the other components at a later date. You know they’re all the same color and pattern, leaving you without the hassle of trawling through the online stores looking for separate pillowcases that may or may not go with the duvet cover you bought two weeks ago.
Especially important if you’re colorblind (like me, I type while a solitary tear runs down my cheek).
Buying parts of the bed sheet set individually provides more control in the style or allows you to replace whatever has been worn down or is looking dated.
Most of the time it’s going to be the bottom sheet that’ll get a bit ragged. There’s a lot of downward pressure from your body that will begin to make the fabric thin.
Remember – holes in bed sheets = a terrible idea.
I’m sure you’re extremely good looking and have great skin but even supermodels have oils that leech onto pillowcases and start to degrade them.