Everything You Need to Know About Bedding
Buying the right mattress for your sleep needs is the first step in creating a relaxing, comfortable sleeping environment for yourself. Bedding accessories such as pillows, sheets, mattress toppers, adjustable beds, and more play a significant impact on the overall comfort of your bed. Plus, accessories such as mattress protectors can prevent against wear and tear, helping your investment last.
Thousands of years ago, people would create bedding from straw, animal hides, leaves, feathers, wool, and hair to add a little bit of cushion to their makeshift mattresses. They even made pillows, too, from some of the same materials. In fact, the Egyptians are credited for the evolution of bedding, as it was in 3400 BC that they decided to move their beds up off the floor and wrap them in fine linens.
As years went on, the bedding industry evolved, and luxury linens were becoming more and more popular amongst the upper-class. In response, many bedding brands came out of the woodwork, offering top-notch products for competitive prices.
In this guide, we’ll be talking about the more popular accessories you can buy to enhance the comfort of your bed, including pillows, sheets, mattress protectors, adjustable beds, mattress toppers, and mattress foundations.
Ready to dive in?
Pillows have two main functions, to support your upper neck and back, and to be comfortable. Your spine has a natural curve and buying a pillow that’s either too tall or too short, too firm or too soft, can lead to recurring morning aches. Finding a pillow that’s just right to support the curvature of your spine is the best way to get the healthiest sleep and prevent against chronic back or neck problems— on top of buying the most comfortable mattress for your unique sleep needs.
There are three main types of pillows: orthopedic, bed, and decorative pillows. Decorative pillows are great to add a pop of color to your bedroom, but they’re not built to provide proper support for your neck and back while you sleep. For that reason, we’ll be focusing mainly on bed and orthopedic pillows.
Sleep specialists recommend people who sleep on their back and stomach buy thinner, softer pillows; but because side sleepers have a bigger gap between their head and the mattress, they’re best suited for thicker pillows. Side sleepers are also best suited with firmer pillows, too, because they prevent the neck from sinking in the pillow unnaturally.
Memory Foam Pillows
Pillows made from memory foam are especially good at relieving chronic neck pain. Memory foam, or viscoelastic polyurethane foam, contours to your body offering both soft comfort and healthy support.
There are a variety of memory foam pillows on the market. Some contain shredded memory foam while others are a solid block of foam in the shape of a pillow. You can also find memory foam wedge pillows, which are recommended to people who suffer from sleep apnea or acid reflux.
Feather pillows are often confused with down pillows, and though both contain feathers, are two different things. The feathers used to make a feather pillow usually come from the wings and backs of ducks and geese, whereas down comes from the bellies of these birds. Typically, feather pillows hold their shape and last longer than down pillows, which tend to flatten out rather quickly. Both feather and down pillows are cushioning and plush.
Sleeping with a body pillow has many benefits, and is recommended for side sleepers. As the name suggests, body pillows are about the same size as your body. When you sleep with a body pillow, it helps distribute your weight more evenly, reduce snoring, and alleviate back pain. Body pillows are also great for pregnant women and side sleepers because they help balance the back and stomach and promote healthier spinal alignment.
When you lay in bed, your sheets envelop your body, so it’s essential they contribute to the overall comfort of your bed. A typical sheet set includes a bottom fitted sheet, a top sheet to cover your body, and at least one pillowcase.
There are several bedding brands on the market selling luxurious sheets, but you can also find an assortment of options just by visiting your local Wal-Mart or Target. So how do you know which sheets are best? Or, how much you should be spending on them?
Sheets are made from a variety of different materials including cotton, polyester, Tencel, flannel, linen, silk, bamboo, and rayon. For the most part, cotton and cotton-blend sheets dominate the market because they’re airy, comfortable, and affordable. In addition, flannel and silk sheets are quite popular.
If you live in a colder environment or live where the seasons change, flannel sheets can help you stay warm and cozy all night long, despite the cold. On the other hand, silk or satiny sheets are breathable and cooling, making them great for the summertime, or for people who live in a hotter climate.
People often keep a spare set of sheets on hand, sometimes a couple of separate sets for the warmer and cooler months. Folding up the fitted sheet, the flat sheet, and the pillowcases keeps them in good condition when not in use.
When buying sheets, take note of their thread count. Thread count refers to the number of horizontal and vertical threads per square inch of the sheet. The higher the thread count, the cozier the sheet; whereas the lower the thread count, the more airy and breathable the sheets will be. The thread count of high-quality sheets can range between 200-800. It’s important to note, the thread count is not an indicator of the quality of the sheet— you can find well-made 200 thread count sheets and poorly-made 1,000 threat count sheets.
Egyptian Cotton Sheets
Egyptian cotton sheets are thought to be the most luxurious cotton sheet. Because they’re softer and more durable than regular cotton, these sheets usually have a hefty price tag.
Cotton sheets are breathable and airy, so they allow for body heat to escape the bedding, keeping you cool.
Organic Cotton Sheets
If you prefer to shop eco-friendly, organic cotton sheets are right up your alley. Organic products are better for both the consumer and the environment. If you choose to buy organic sheets, it guarantees they’re pesticide and pigment-free, free from chemical additives, and hypoallergenic. If you’re buying sheets or blankets for a babies bed, it’s always best to go organic.
Tencel is a brand name for lyocell fabric. Tencel is a popular alternative to cotton and is a synthetic fiber made from a blend of the cellulose of eucalyptus trees, hemp, wool, and other natural fabrics. In comparison to cotton, Tencel is softer, less likely to wrinkle, and less likely to shrink even after multiple washes. Tencel sheets are relatively popular amongst “green” consumers as Tencel is made from only organic fabrics and the manufacturing process of Tencel is eco-friendly.
See our lyocell vs cotton guide for an in-depth comparison of the two materials.
Flannel Cotton Sheets
If you live in a cold climate, flannel sheets are the way to go. These sheets are made of cotton fluffed to feel softer and warmer. When you sleep in flannel cotton sheets, they should trap your body heat around you, preventing you from waking up cold. Flannel sheets aren’t available in different thread counts; instead, they’re compared by weight. A high-quality flannel sheet should have a rating of 170 GSM or higher.
Silk sheets are thought to be the most luxurious bedding option out there, and quite pricey, too. Because silk is woven from silkworms and requires delicate care, silk sheets not as common to find in a local Bed, Bath & Beyond as sheets made with cotton or linen. There are a few health benefits associated with sleeping on silk bedding; not only is it naturally hypoallergenic, but it is good for the skin and hair. Plus, silk is moisture-wicking, so it should keep you cool while you sleep.
Linen is considered to be the best fabric to make sheets. Linen is bacteria resistant, ventilating, moisture absorbent, hypoallergenic, dirt-repellent, and good for people with sensitive skin. This breathable and eco-friendly fabric is twice as durable as cotton, but are still notably soft. Linen sheets are usually costly, but due to their durability, last for years.
Bamboo sheets are another eco-friendly bedding option. Bamboo sheets are hypoallergenic, antimicrobial, antibacterial, thermo-regulating, and resistant to pests and fungi. Though there are plenty of benefits to choosing bamboo sheets, they’re usually the same price as a standard cotton sheet set.
In addition to sheets, you’ll need a comforter to keep you comfortable and cozy at night. A comforter is two pieces of fabric sewn together with some kind of filling, usually down feathers or synthetic fiber filler. Comforters are meant to be paired with a sheet set and keep you warm while you sleep. The type of comforter you buy will depend on how warm you want it to be. If you live somewhere cold, you may benefit from a snug down comforter. Alternatively, if you sleep hot and just want something light to keep you comfy, you can buy a lightweight cotton comforter.
Duvets are commonly confused with comforters; however, they’re two completely different things. A duvet is a soft, flat fabric bag with some filling— whether it be fiberfill, down, polyester, wool, and silk. Just like you would with a comforter, you should choose what kind of filling you need for your duvet based upon how warm you want it to be. After you select your duvet, you pair it with a duvet cover. A duvet cover is a fabric bag that you put the duvet down into for decoration. You can easily remove the duvet cover to wash it, and because duvets take the place of a top sheet, you can pair them with a fitted or bottom sheet and be good to go.
If you’re an especially cold sleeper, you can pair your bedding set with a blanket, or two. You can find blankets at most any home decor store, some are better for decoration, and others are designed to help you sleep better. If you’re looking for a blanket for aesthetic purposes only, the sky is the limit. However, if you’re looking for a blanket to help you sleep better, a weighted blanket is worth researching.
Before, weighted blankets were primarily used to help children with autism or sensory processing disorders relax and calm down before falling asleep. Now, more and more people are discovering the benefits of using a weighted blanket to promote more restful sleep. The science behind weighted blankets is deep touch pressure, or DTP. DTP refers to weight being gently distributed across the body. Gentle pressure raises serotonin levels in the body, signals the release of melatonin, and decreases activity in your nervous system— helping you wind down and relax at the end of the day.
Weighted blankets are great for people with certain sleep disorders, too. The release of serotonin helps combat disorders like insomnia, while the weight of the blanket helps prevent symptoms of restless leg syndrome. Even if you do not suffer from a sleep disorder, you can get deeper, more restful sleep from the use of a weighted blanket.
A mattress protector encases your entire mattress to keep it safe and secure, some zip your mattress inside while others have an open end. Though the protector covers your entire mattress, it doesn’t take away from the overall comfort of your new bed. In the long run, a mattress protector can only help your bed. Why? They prolong the life of your mattress and protect it from wear, tear, dirt, germs, and spills. When you invest hundreds of dollars into a new bed, pairing it with a mattress protector is an inexpensive way to make sure it’ll stay nice and clean.
Waterproof Mattress Protectors
The most common reason people buy mattress protectors is to protect against spills, which could explain why waterproof mattress protectors are so popular. On top of spills, a waterproof mattress protector ultimately keeps your bed dry and clean. They also prevent allergens from getting stuck in your mattress, too.
Bed Bug Mattress Protectors
Bed bug mattress protectors do more than just prevent against spills and dirt; they protect against dander and bugs like dust mites and bed bugs. A common misconception about bed bugs is they’re only a concern in dirty, unsanitary places; however, bed bugs can be picked up and breed in the cleanest of areas, including your brand new mattress. To guarantee your bed is safe from disgusting, dangerous pests, invest in a bed bug mattress protector.