Sleep is critical to health and wellness. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that the average adult needs at least seven hours or more of sleep each night. Unfortunately, about 35% of American adults are short sleepers — they get less than the recommended seven hours.
Sleep deprivation has been linked to a host of health problems, ranging from obesity to cardiovascular disease. The good news is that simple things such as selecting the best sheets for your sleep style may help you get the rest you need. This guide explains the role that bed linens can have in healthy sleep, the differences between the materials used to make sheets and how you can pick sheets that work for you.
While there's no clear consensus on how bed linens impact health and wellness, researchers have examined the impact of extreme temperatures on sleep, and that gives us some clues to what the best sheets might be for individuals who live in cold or hot climates.
According to a study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, "The thermal environment is one of the most important factors that can affect human sleep." The study's authors found that excessive heat or cold exposure during sleep leads to decreased periods of rapid eye movement, or REM sleep, which is the type of sleep that's associated with increased brain activity, learning and memory. A lack of REM sleep is thought to be linked to difficulties with learning new information and accessing memories, two issues that are associated with Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
The type of sheets you use can play a role in your body temperature while you sleep, and choosing one type over another could help you get the sleep you need to look and feel your best.
Choosing the best sheets can be a real challenge because there are so many different materials used to make bed sheets.
Here's a breakdown of the most common fibers used for sheets
Cotton is a plant-based fiber sourced from the cotton plant. Cotton has been used to make fabric for thousands of years, and it's known for being strong, abrasion-resistant and soft. Because cotton fibers are naturally hollow, sheets made from pure cotton tend to be reasonably cool, making cotton sheets ideal for summer months.
One major drawback of cotton sheets is that the fibers are exceptionally absorbent. If you're someone who tends to sweat while you sleep, you might find that pure cotton sheets feel damp due to moisture retention.
Cotton sheets also come in different weaves, such as flannel, also called brushed cotton. Flannel sheets have a cozy feel due to their fuzzy surface created during the weaving process, making flannel a good option for use during cooler months.
Bamboo is another all-natural fiber that's well known for being exceptionally cool, durable, soft and lightweight. These combined properties make bamboo sheets a good option for anyone who tends to feel too warm while they sleep. Also, bamboo is quite soft, making it popular among sleepers who prefer a gentle fabric.
Bamboo that's been highly processed to convert the normally tough, stringy fibers of the bamboo plant into a soft thread should be labeled as rayon, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Polyester is a synthetic, oil-based fiber made from the same basic materials used to create soda bottles. It's inexpensive and durable, although when used on its own, it can also be quite stiff and excessively warm.
When used in bedding, polyester is often mixed with cotton to create a sheet that's affordable, long-lasting and far more comfortable than a sheet made from polyester alone. Exceptionally fine strands of polyester can be woven in a way that creates a soft, cozy fabric known as microfiber, which is a popular option for use in cold-weather bed sheets.
Regardless of what type of sheets you prefer, it's important to wash your bed linens regularly to prevent a buildup of dust mites and bacteria. Most home economists recommend laundering your sheets at least once a week for optimal health and comfort.
When it comes to bedding, it's all a matter of comfort, so try out some different fabrics until you find what works best for you. And you may find switching things up to match the season a practical solution.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.