How to Choose the Softest Sheets
Ahhh, what could be better than getting into bed at the end of a long day and snuggling into your soft and cozy bed sheets? The thing is, if your sheets aren't exactly soft, then getting into bed might not be such a pleasurable experience. In fact, scratchy sheets might even make it difficult for you to fall—and stay—asleep.
To help you find the softest sheets possible, we've put together this handy guide.
What makes a soft sheet
What makes some sheets softer than others? The type of fabric is, of course, important. But just as important is the way the fabric has been made. Always read the sheet label when you choose your sheets, paying attention to the following terms.
To find the softest sheets, it's best to go for natural fabrics. Bamboo, silk, jersey, flannel, linen and organic cotton sheets are all good choices, each of them offering something different. (More on fabric later!)
Thread count refers to the number of threads woven per one square inch of fabric and includes both horizontal (weft) and vertical (warp) threads. It's important to note that thread count is only really relevant for cotton bedding. Most people mistakenly think that thread count is the best indicator of quality and softness of sheets. However, thread count figures can be misleading.
The problem is that to get to higher thread count figures, manufacturers use thinner yarns twisted together (often yarn that has been split so that it can be counted as two threads instead of one). You will often see bedding made from four-ply yarn marketed as 1,000 thread count when in reality it's actually 250 thread count.
Too many threads of fabric cramped together on a loom will make for a sheet that is less breathable, less durable, and coarser (because of the fibers poking out of the weave). According to the National Sleep Foundation, the sweet spot for thread count in cotton sheets is between 200 and 400.
Longer fibers tend to produce a smoother and softer fabric that is also stronger and more durable. Organic cotton that is grown without harmful chemicals naturally produces plants that yield longer staple fibers.
Weave itself is not an indicator of quality, but you should pay attention to it because different types of weave produce fabrics with a different feel to them. Percale and sateen are the two most common types of weave, both producing excellent sheets.
Sateen is a one-yarn-under, three-yarn-over weave that tends to produce fabrics that are silkier and heavier, while percale (a one-yarn-over, one-yarn-under weave) produces sheets that are crisper, lighter, and more breathable. If you're after silky-soft sheets and don't mind the slightly reduced breathability, go with the sateen weave.
Ply refers to the number of fibers twisted together into a single thread. Always go for a fabric made from single-ply yarn. Two-ply or other multi-ply yarns create fabrics that are coarser, heavier, and less durable.
Shop These Super-Soft Sheets from Saatva
Softest bed sheets, ranked
There's a wide range of fabrics that will make soft sheets. Remember that how soft these materials feel will vary by manufacturer—and that softness is somewhat subjective. What feels best to you might not feel best to someone else.
Here, we've ranked eight of the softest sheet fabrics.
Cotton is a naturally soft material that gets softer with every wash. But organic cotton, which is grown without harmful chemicals, naturally yields plants with longer fibers, which make for a softer fabric than conventional cotton. Organic cotton also tends to be more breathable and durable than conventional cotton.
Linen is a natural fabric that excels at regulating body temperature, absorbing moisture, and keeping you dry at night. Linen has a reputation for being coarse, however, while initially it might feel rougher than other fabrics, it gets softer with every wash. Look for linen sheets that come pre-washed for extra softness from the very beginning.
Bamboo is a natural fabric that is soft, smooth, and cool to touch. It has great thermal-regulating properties that will help prevent you from overheating. Bamboo is a good option for the warm summer months but might not appeal to people living in colder climates.
Cotton jersey is a fabric that is knit rather than woven. The flat knit is what makes it soft and stretchy. It won't have the crisp feel of woven cotton or the smoothness of silk or bamboo, but it will appeal to those who like sleeping in their comfiest T-shirt.
Silk is a 100% natural fabric made from the secretions of a silkworm. It's soft, smooth, and lightweight. Silk is excellent for people who have sensitive skin.
Just keep in mind that silk doesn't absorb moisture as well as cotton or linen do. If you're not generally a sweaty sleeper, then that might not be a problem—but if you do tend to sleep hot, then silk sheets might not be right for you.
Flannel sheets are cold-weather favorites. They're naturally soft to the touch due to the process called “napping," during which the woven sheet of fabric is brushed by thousands of tiny metal brushes.
The tiny fibers pulled from the fabric create millions of small insulating air pockets that retain body heat (that's why flannel always feels warm) and make it feel soft. To get the best out of your flannel sheets, opt for 100% cotton double-napped (brushed on both sides) sheets.
Some people describe sleeping on fleece sheets like sleeping inside a teddy bear—that's how soft it is. Fleece is a knitted material (not woven like most fabrics) made of synthetic fibers. Fleece sheets are thicker than sheets made from other fabrics and tend to retain body heat, which could be good or bad, depending on how warm you sleep or the climate you live in.
There are several types of fleece, including microfleece (quite thin and lightweight) and polar fleece (much warmer and thicker). While fleece is soft, know that it's a synthetic material, meaning it won't have the breathability of natural fabrics.
Microfiber is a fabric made of very fine fibers of polyester. Microfiber sheets are usually very soft and can resist pilling. However, polyester is not as breathable as natural fabrics, so it's not the best choice for people who sleep hot or those with sensitive skin.
Have allergies or sensitive skin? Here's how to find the best hypoallergenic sheets.