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February 9, 2022

Sheets: Why Thread Count is a Myth

Doctors say the deepest, healthiest sleep is obtained when our bodies are cool, comfortable and we are able to breathe. A goodnight’s sleep improves your cognitive health by boosting memory and speed processing, cardiovascular health by aiding healthy organ functioning and normal blood flow, boosting immunity, and maintaining a healthy weight by controlling energy and hormone levels.

What Is Thread Count

For many years thread count has been known as a way to judge the softness and quality of a set of sheets. The higher the thread count, the softer and better quality the sheets were assumed to be. Thread count is determined by counting the threads both horizontally and vertically in a square inch of fabric but it is actually an outdated way to measure sheets as it only works accurately with cotton single-yarn threads.

Materials Used In Sheets

Today, sheets are not made only of cotton. Sheets made from linen, silk, bamboo, eucalyptus, polyester and microfiber have become more and more common. These, as well as flannel and jersey sheets, are not measured by thread count but use grams per square meter (GSM). The higher the number, the heavier the fabric is. Good quality flannel may be as heavy as 200 GSM while good microfiber sheets may measure 100 GSM or less.

As thread count began to be used more and more in marketing to imply quality, the counts began to be hugely exaggerated. Manufacturers began to find new ways to increase the thread count and, subsequently, the price of their products without increasing the quality. One method was to use 2-ply or 3-ply threads by braiding thinner strands together and doubling or tripling the count. For example, 200 thread count sheets were suddenly advertised as 400 to 600 count sheets based on the ply of the strands.

These thicker strands were not only made of low-quality threads but also affected the breathability of the material because of the increased thickness of each strand. Quality over quantity is a major factor. Only so many threads can fit in a square inch, therefore the more threads – or higher thread count – the tighter the weave will be. A tight weave will stifle the air flow, reduce the cooling and breathability of the fabric and affect the natural body temperature control.

The high thread count counterfeits will maintain body heat, causing restlessness. Even single strand thread counts over 600 will be woven so tight that both air flow and softness will be lost. If a sheet maintains heat, tossing and turning may cause the fabric to pill and irritate the skin. All these factors can interrupt a person’s sleep cycle.

Types of Sheets

The most common types of sheets purchased are cotton, flannel and polyester, most likely due to price and possibly due to lack of product knowledge. Bamboo and tencel sheets are newer to the industry and their benefits of body temperature regulation and a smooth, silky feel are not as well known. Additionally, the higher price point of these products often deter the consumer from buying.

When purchasing sheets there are several things to consider that are just as important if not more important than the thread count.

Fiber content, construction and processing will have the most effect on the comfort, softness, body temperature regulation and the longevity or durability of the product.

Cotton Sheets

Cotton sheets can vary not only by thread count but by long and short staples, single, double and triple ply strands, chemicals used when processing the fabric and the type of weave used.

Cotton thread types include American Upland which is made with short staple fibers and tend to have a rougher feel while Combed cotton is combed to remove the shorter fiber and leave the longer ones. Egyptian, Turkish, Peruvian or Pima and Supima threads are made from long staple fibers and have a much smoother and softer feel. Egyptian and Turkish threads are generally the finest quality but are incorrectly labeled most often so you want to read the fine print and ensure you are getting the quality you are paying for.

The way cotton is woven also affects the feel and durability of the fabric. Percale sheets have a balanced weave that are woven equally both horizontally and vertically. They are recommended for warm sleepers. A sateen weave has single threads in one direction with multiple threads in the other direction and are great for medium and cool sleepers.

Microfiber Sheets

Microfiber bed sheets are composed of finely woven fibers made from wood pulp, polyester, or nylon polymers. They’re affordable and soft, yet they’re more durable than traditional polyester sheets. A fabric’s denier must be less than 1 denier in diameter to be considered microfiber.

Microfiber threads are synthetic and not made from natural fibers like cotton. They are affordable, come in a variety of colors, are more durable than cotton although they aren’t as breathable, they wash and dry quickly and are stain and wrinkle resistant. Double-brushed microfiber is the softest and most luxurious option within its price point. It also retains heat more than other sheet fabrics so it is recommended for medium and cool sleepers or for use during the cooler seasons.

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Rayon from Bamboo Sheets

Rayon from bamboo sheets are soft and lightweight, they are more durable than cotton sheets and sleep cooler than microfiber sheets. Rayon created by woven strands of bamboo are breathable and control body temperature much better than

other fabrics. They will not only keep you cool at night but will wick away moisture as well. Bamboo’s natural hypoallergenic properties fight off bed bugs and dust mites. No harsh chemicals are needed to dye this material as it takes color easily. They are perfect for sensitive skin sleepers and warm sleepers.

image of green bamboo stalks

Tencel Sheets

Tencel is a registered trademark for a material made from various wood pulp like eucalyptus and beechwood. Tencel sheets are made from eucalyptus pulp and are not only known to have longevity but the moisture-wicking properties and temperature control characteristics will help all types of sleepers get a good night’s sleep all year long.

There are two types of Tencel: modal, which is made with beechwood, and lyocell, made from various wood but eucalyptus is most common. Tencel fibers exhibit a smooth surface area, ensuring natural comfort for sensitive skin. Sheets made with either type may be labeled as Tencel or may be labeled as the wood they are made from.

Tencel requires a complicated production process so the cost is often higher than many of the other sheet alternatives. It is said to be eco-friendly but some pesticides may be used during the growing process depending on the type of wood used.

All types of sleepers will benefit from using these versatile, soft, silky, lightweight and durable sheets.

Mattress Express offers Malouf brand bedding which will help you wake up refreshed and invigorated. This high-quality product line offers a variety of choices for every type of sleeper. Malouf smooth-fit sheets work on all size mattresses from 6” to 22” thick.

For an economical choice, our Malouf Brushed Microfiber sheets are recommended for medium to cool sleepers.

Our Malouf Rayon from Bamboo sheets are recommended for sensitive skin and warm sleepers. Their unique weave of the rayon from bamboo strands makes the texture breathable, keeping you cool and dry as the sheets wick away dampness from your body throughout the night.

Our Malouf Tencel brand sheets are perfect for all types of sleepers who like a silky feel and temperature regulation throughout the year.

Stop by any of our Mattress Express locations to experience the feel first-hand.