Like the icing can make or break a good cake, your choice in bedding plays an important role in making sure you get a good night’s sleep. After all, that pattern may be pretty, but is the fabric going to be as pleasing when you get it on your bed? What makes one thread count better than another? What are the advantages of different fabrics and how do you decide which sheet/blanket/pillow will best fit your sleeping needs? If you’ve ever walked into a linen store and found yourself in a state of confusion, read on!
The Truth About Thread Count
Thread count measurements are simple: the higher the count, the softer the sheet. This count is measured by the amount of horizontal and vertical threads used in one square inch of the material. The count can range from as low as 80 to up to 800, but for most sheets, you’ll find the count ranging from 180 to 320. Other materials such as flannel, linen or jersey have lower thread counts, but the appeal of these is related to the unique feel of the fabric. High thread count sheets may be considered “higher quality” but that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll last longer. For the best wear-and-tear type sheets, a cotton blend with a 180-200 thread count is a good choice.
Most linens today are made from various cotton blends. The cotton/polyester blend is a popular one for affordability and because it wrinkles less than other sheets. Egyptian cotton has a reputation as one of the most luxurious, soft and durable options, but it is much more expensive. It’s important to look at the labels of both Egyptian and Pima cotton to determine just what percentage of this high-quality cotton is actually in the sheet. Sateen sheets are made from 100% cotton with a satiny finish, and are also considered quite luxurious, with thread counts going up to 800. Coming in a range of designer colors, these sheets can have a slippery feel. Part of this comes from the different structure in the weaving process, although this does make them somewhat less durable. On the whole, cotton or cotton blends are a good solid bet if you’re looking for a nice, comfortable, durable sheet.
Fun with Flannel and Silk Sheets
In the cold weather, what better way to cosy up in bed than with soft flannel sheets? Made from a wool textile and cotton blend, flannel can also come in a range of thread counts although many manufacturers will not print this count, feeling it is less applicable to the material. While flannel makes for a great, hearty winter sheet, it isn’t a recommended choice for the heat of summer or for use in warmer houses. Silk is more than just a decadence: it is a fabulous, breathable fabric that pulls moisture from your body in the summer, and holds in body heat in the winter. Hypoallergenic, silk ranges in durability and is naturally fire retardant. The downside is that silk should be hand-washed for the first few times and air dried, but for environmentally-friendly folks, this is a benefit.
Pillows really are about personal preference and last on average around 18 months. The size of the pillow often reflects the size of the bed — twin pillows for twin beds, queen pillows for queen and so forth. As well, some pillows are flatter while others are fatter, which is all about personal taste: back sleepers would do better with a flat pillow, while side sleepers need something fatter that offers more neck support. Cheaper pillows work well for decoration, while the more expensive ones are ideal for sleeping. The filling of your pillows also plays a role: foam holds a better, firmer shape, while the softness of down pillows allows your head to sink into them. The downside of down and feather pillows is the allergenic element which is something to keep in mind, even when the label reads “hypoallergenic.” Consider hypodown pillows which are specially processed to be hypoallergenic. None of these feather options are dust-mite free, however, and should all have special casing. Pure wool pillows are an expensive option as a down alternative. Polyester pillows are the happy medium between foam and down.
Comfort from Duvets and Comforters
Duvets originated in Europe as a soft, flat bag filled with down or feathers and used as a blanket. Duvets and duvet covers are incredibly popular and come in a range of designs. Most duvets are filled today with a duck down/feather combination, with goose feathers being a more expensive option. The higher the quality, the less likely the duvet will “leak” feathers. There are now also duvets that come in synthetic alternatives as well. In order to preserve them, duvets filled with natural materials are not washed, which is why they come with washable covers that act as giant pillowcases. Comforters are thicker blankets filled with artificial materials such as polyester batting and tend to stretch down the sides of the bed, unlike duvets. They do not require their own cover as they usually come with a design and are washable. Quilts are traditionally layers of quilted fabric over thin batting. Your blanket preference is entirely personal, but keep in mind the temperatures of your home environment before you make your choice. Stick with lighter layers like cotton or sateen for a warmer home and duvets and comforters in flannel and cotton blends for cooler homes. Silk does double duty, as it’s comfortable in any atmosphere.
Finding the Right Choice for You
Consider all the elements before you rush into buying your bedding. After all, while the notion of silk sheets seems greatly appealing, if you’ve got five kids and a laundry list a mile long, it might make more sense to choose something lower maintenance. Throwing a duvet over a bed is a much easier than working with layers of blankets and sheets. All these little factors such as sleep patterns, convenience, durability, comfort and more, come into play when you’re picking your bedding. So while that particular design may be gorgeous, make sure the rest of the elements match up to your own personal needs.