How to Find the Best Sheets for Your Sleep Needs
It's important to consider the type of sleeper you are when purchasing new sheets. Do you tend to run hot at night? Do you sleep on your stomach versus on your side? Do you have sensitive skin? Your answers to these questions will help you figure out the kind of fabric, thread count, and weave to choose. So before you add a new set of sheets to your cart, here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for bedding.
The best sheets for hot sleepers
Cotton: Michael J. Breus, PhD, clinical psychologist and fellow at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, says that cotton sheets are best for hot sleepers because they're soft, breathable, and don't irritate the skin. Even if you don't have issues with heat, choosing a lightweight material is ideal since cooler temperatures help you sleep peacefully through the night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. 100% organic cotton is particularly good for hot sleepers—because it hasn't been processed with harmful chemicals, you may notice that it feels softer and is more breathable than conventional cotton.
Look for organic cotton with a thread count of 400 or less (anything higher than that can trap body heat). “People tend to perceive that a higher thread count means that you are getting a higher quality sheet," says Bill Fish, co-founder of Tuck and a certified sleep science coach. "That said, thread count is not the sole factor into whether or not you are receiving a quality product." When it comes to weave, percale is a better option than sateen because it's more breathable.
Our Best Sheets for Hot Sleepers
Eucalyptus: You'll find that many cotton bed sheets have eucalyptus fibers embedded into their fabrics or are made solely from the plant. Eucalyptus sheets can be more sustainable than cotton and feel cool to the touch. “They can be softer than most cotton sheets, but the most interesting piece is that the fibers of eucalyptus sheets dry 30% more quickly than the average fibers of cotton sheets," says Fish.
Linen: Lightweight and breathable, linen sheets aren't as soft as cotton sheets, but they can be more durable and offer crisp, cozy insulation that's perfect for year-round. They're also stain-resistant and don't pick up lint, which makes them a good choice for people with children and pets too.
Linen sheets are pricier than cotton because they're made from the flax plant, which is grown in Belgium and France, and require more labor to produce. The thread count for linen sheets is much lower than cotton because the material is thicker, but this doesn't necessarily mean that the quality is worse. A better indication of the quality of linen is where the material is sourced.
Related: The best sheets to keep you cool
The best sheets for sensitive skin and allergies
If you suffer from eczema or have another skin condition that makes you susceptible to irritation, Fish says moisture-wicking sheets, like those made of bamboo, are a good option. “Find the most smooth fabric possible that doesn't contain any protruding fibers," he suggests. "Natural dyes and fabrics can also be key to protecting your skin."
Bamboo sheets are made from—you guessed it—the bamboo tree and tend to be softer than cotton. Like cotton, bamboo has thermal-regulating properties that prevent overheating, helping you sleep better at night. Bamboo is also naturally hypoallergenic, which means it repels dust mites and allergens. A good thread count for bamboo is sheets is between 200 and 400.
“Since mites can trigger an itch-scratch cycle and worsen atopic dermatitis, be sure to have a mattress, pillowcases, sheets, and a comforter that blocks them," says Heidi Waldorf, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Waldorf Dermatology Aesthetics. Waldorf also advises people with sensitive skin or allergies use fragrance-free detergent and avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets because they may have fragrances that can irritate the skin.
The best sheets for wrinkles and acne
Silk: Silk sheets are constructed from silkworm threads that are processed into a natural fiber. They are measured in momme, a Japanese weight measurement. Generally speaking, the higher the momme, the heavier the fabric and higher the quality. Waldorf says that silk pillowcases are ideal for people who want to minimize and prevent the appearance of wrinkles.
Sleeping on your face, on your side, or on your stomach can increase your risk of developing wrinkles, but silk allows your skin to glide on smoothly and doesn't absorb moisture, so your face creams and serums stay on your face—not on your pillow. "Silk pillowcases also cut down on hair tangling overnight so it is a win-win for face and hair," Waldorf says.
Liz Brown, a certified sleep science coach and founder of Sleeping Lucid, a company that aims to raise sleep problem awareness by creating informative sleep product reviews and helpful sleep content, also likes silk sheets for taming acne-prone skin. “Silk sheets have a softer and nicer feel compared to other sheets, such as cotton which can be rough for pimple-prone skin," Brown says.
Satin: Because silk sheets can be expensive, with prices upwards $300 per set, satin is a good alternative as it's much more affordable and offers similar benefits. “The term satin refers to a type of weave of the fabric," Fish explains. "Satin sheets can be made of different materials such as polyester and silk."
The best sheets for cold sleepers
Made with cotton, wool, and synthetic fibers, flannel sheets are a great choice for the winter months because they trap heat, Fish says. Flannel sheets get their soft and fuzzy texture from being carefully rubbed with metal brushes. When shopping for flannel sheets, look for the GSM (grams per square meter). “We recommend anything 150 GSM or above," Fish says. The heavier the flannel sheets, the higher the quality and longer-lasting too.
Carolyn Burke, editor and certified sleep coach with The Sleep Advisor, generally recommends wool flannel. “Studies have shown a connection between sleeping in wool materials and an increase in sleep time and quality," she says. This is because wool not only helps to cool sleepers but works to regulate temperature in general, so nobody should feel too warm or too cold. In fact, a 2019 study from Nature and Science of Sleep suggests that people snooze better and experience fewer sleep disruptions in wool over cotton and polyester sheets and sleepwear.
For more advice on finding the right sheets for you, read this guide to common sheet terms you should know.