The Great Top Sheet Debate: Where Do You Stand?
Just like politics and sports, the subject of top sheets—specifically, whether or not you sleep with one—inspires a lot of strong opinions.
Until recently, I had no idea that not everyone slept with a top sheet. After all, every set of sheets I’ve ever bought came with a fitted sheet and a flat sheet. More surprising than that, though, I didn’t realize that top sheets could spark such passionate debate. In fact, whether or not millennials use top sheets even became a trending topic among media outlets. (What is a top sheet, you ask? In case you were unaware, a top sheet refers to the flat sheet that serves as a barrier between you and your comforter.)
I first learned that some people sleep with no top sheet while listening to a recent episode of Fat Mascara, one of my favorite podcasts. A guest host mentioned that she tweeted her dislike of top sheets a few months ago, and she still gets messages from people disagreeing with her opinion all the time. Apparently sleeping with a top sheet is a thoroughly American bedding trend. Europeans tend to favor a fitted bottom sheet and a duvet only.
Intrigued, I then took informal polls of my Saatva colleagues and friends, and the sentiment was split. Regardless of the answers I got, everyone felt pretty passionately about their sheet habits. So why do some people love top sheets and others hate them? Here are the top reasons.
Pros of sleeping with a top sheet
I never really gave my top sheet much thought until now—it’s always just been there—but it turns out sleeping with one does have a few benefits.
- It keeps you from having to frequently wash your comforter. While reporting on how often you should change your sheets, I learned about the icky germs living in all of our beds. We shed millions of bacteria every hour, making it necessary to change our sheets approximately every two weeks. The only thing more annoying than washing dirty sheets? Washing a big ol’ comforter. Let’s be real: Who’s going to lug their comforter to the laundromat on a weekly basis? If you don’t use a top sheet, and your comforter doesn’t have a protective cover, well, you’re going to want to pencil in some extra time for weekly laundry sessions. (According to the pros at Martha Stewart, you only need to wash a duvet cover monthly if you use a top sheet, while comforters themselves only need to be washed a couple times a year, reports Good Housekeeping.) In a piece for GQ.com, writer John Ortved has this to say: “People don’t see the shame and mire of your top sheet; they see your duvet. You can only flip that thing so many times.”
- It’s a great alternative to a heavy blanket during warmer weather. In the spring and summer, I ditch my comforter altogether and just use my top sheet when it’s hot outside. I like having something covering me—but a heavy comforter is too hot, raising my body temperature too much. When your body gets too hot, this makes it harder to get a restful night’s sleep. Bonus points if your top sheet is made from breathable cotton, which naturally helps you sleep cooler. (Here’s more advice on how to sleep cool.)
- It’s comfortable. Simply put: Sleeping with a top sheet is cozy. “Have you ever slipped into a bed under a firmly tucked sheet (like they have at every hotel across the globe)?” asks Ortved in his top sheet opinion piece. “It’s structured bliss.”
Pros of sleeping without a top sheet
Now for the flip side of things: Here’s what opponents of the top sheet have to say about why you shouldn’t sleep with one.
- It’s easier to make your bed. According to the National Sleep Foundation, making your bed in the morning will help you get a good night’s sleep. Having one less layer to worry about smoothing out makes this process a little easier. “In the morning, instead of walking away from your crumpled warren of sheets because the thought of straightening and smoothing and tucking them is so involved as to be unbearable, you just give the duvet a little shake, and there you go!” exclaims Rachel Sanders in a Buzzfeed piece titled “Throw Your Top Sheet in the Trash.”
- You have more freedom to move around. Some people don’t like being tucked under too many layers. Ditching your top sheet gives you more mobility. “Without a top sheet, your feet and legs can roam freely as you slumber,” writes Sanders. “They will not get sweaty and trapped; the sheet will not end up in a gross wad under the blanket at the foot of your bed because your feet spent all night trying to free themselves of its feeble, clinging embrace.”
- It’s unnecessary. One of the biggest arguments against top sheets is that they don’t add any value to your bed. What’s the point of having an extra sheet on the bed when you can snuggle under a comforter? The top sheet is an unnecessary layer that can make you sleep hot. “A top sheet is the gift wrap of bedding: It looks nice, but you need to throw it away,” says Maggie Lange in a post published on GQ.com.
Who wins the top sheet debate?
The bottom line is, whether or not you sleep with a top sheet comes down to personal preference. I do have to admit: People on both sides of the aisle make a lot of convincing points—but those who are anti-top sheet haven’t been persuasive enough to convince me to ditch mine. For the record, I’m still firmly on #TeamTopSheet.
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If you decided you no longer have a need for your top sheet, here are 15 things to do with old sheets.