The right amount of sleep has been linked to lower obesity rates and improved memory, reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, lower incidence of depression, and improved immune function. In other words, sleep is perhaps one of the single best things we can do for our overall health. One great way to ensure you get enough Z’s? Create a soothing, comfortable sleep environment. And that begins with good sheets and bedding.
Don’t know how to buy bedding for your budget? The following guide has you covered, from the basics of sheet thread count to the difference between duvets and comforters.
Pillows, Cases, and Shams
Not sure if you need a new pillow? Fold it in half: If it springs back, it’s still good. If it doesn’t, it needs to be replaced. But there are several things to consider when choosing a new pillow:
- Think about your most preferred sleeping position. If you are a stomach sleeper, choose a soft, fairly flat pillow that will allow your neck to stay in line with your spine. Back sleepers do best with a medium thick pillow, while side sleepers need a firmer pillow for neck support.
- Pillows come in several sizes: standard (20”x 26”) is considered the best for sleeping and is the most inexpensive; queen (20” x 30”) is a good choice if you toss and turn, because it provides room on either side of your head; king (20”x 36”) was designed for the extra width of a larger bed and can be used for back support; and Euro (from 16”x16” to 26”x 26”), which is usually decorative but can also be used for reading in bed.
- Pillow cases and pillow shams are not the same. Put most simply, cases are used for sleeping, while shams cover decorative pillows.
If thread count makes as much sense as a trigonometry equation, you’re not alone. In theory, it should be simple. The short answer is that a higher thread count means a tighter weave, which makes for a more durable and longer-lasting sheet. That said, some manufacturers use ply — the number of threads wound together to make a single thread — to artificially inflate thread count.
Instead of choosing the highest thread count, which can be deceiving, opt for the highest number you can get in a single-ply. Also, judge sheets by material, not thread count, and choose based on your climate, ease of care, and comfort:
- Cotton Percale has a matte finish with a cool, crisp feel and is best for hot sleepers.
- Cotton sateen has a satin weave with a smooth feel and is best for cold sleepers.
- Jersey is a stretchy fabric that is soft, yet clingy and is best for snuggling.
- Cotton-poly blends are wrinkle-free but can be scratchy and are best for easy care.
- Flannel is soft and cozy and the best for cold climates.
Comforters and Duvets
The top-most layer of your bed makes a statement about your personal style — from bright geometrics to subtle florals — and keeps you warm and comfortable. A comforter is a thick blanket usually filled with synthetic fiber quilted or stitched to keep in place. Most comforters have decorative patterns on them, meaning they need no cover.
A duvet, on the other hand, is a soft flat bag filled with down, feathers, wool, or a synthetic alternative, and it requires a cover of some sort. Many people choose a duvet for bed-making convenience, because with a duvet, you don’t necessarily have to use a top sheet, since the duvet cover is removable, and thus washable. This single layer makes it easier to make the bed, plus the cover can be swapped out with the change of seasons or style whims.
As with pillows, when choosing a duvet, focus on the weight, or the amount of fill:
- Wool is hypoallergenic and wicks away moisture. It’s best for allergy suffers.
- Down is warm, but expensive. It provides lightweight support that is best for cold sleepers.
- Synthetic is hypoallergenic, more affordable, and best for easy care.
Depending on where you live, you’ll likely have to change your bedding with the seasons.
Coverlets and quilts can easily be added in the winter and folded at the foot of the bed to use when needed. Duvets are available in different thicknesses, allowing you to choose one that works best for your climate.