‘Bedding’ is a catch-all term for the sheets, blankets, and other layering accessories used to improve comfort and temperature neutrality on an existing mattress and foundation. Many shoppers select their bedding based on factors like aesthetic value or price-point, but bedding choice can significantly impact one’s overall sleep quality — for better or for worse. And with a wide range of bedding options available to shoppers, making this choice can be somewhat difficult.
This guide will look at important factors for those who are shopping for new sheets, pillow cases, blankets, comforters, and duvets, as well as the top-rated models according to actual owners. First, let’s look at the materials that are most commonly used to produce bedding products.
Sheets and Pillow Cases
First, let’s discuss sheets and pillow cases. These items may be sold separately, but are usually sold together in sheet sets. A standard sheet set includes a top sheet, fitted sheet, and two pillow cases with matching or complementary colors or designs.
Although sheet configuration often comes down to personal preference, most people utilize two sheets on their bed. The bottom sheet, also known as a fitted sheet, features elasticated edges that fit over the four corners of a standard mattress. The top sheet, also known as a flat sheet, does not have fitted edges; instead, it rests freely on top of the fitted sheet.
Some people prefer to sleep beneath the top sheet for extra warmth, as it provides a cool barrier between the sleeper’s body and their covers, while others enjoy sleeping with the top sheet underneath. However, due to their elastic corners, bottom sheets are not designed for use as a cover.
Additionally, bed skirts are sheets that are placed between the mattress and the foundation. Because a sleeper’s body never comes into direct contact with them, bed skirts are purely decorative.
Important considerations when selecting bottom and top sheets include:
Size: This is crucial for fitted sheets because they will not properly fit over the mattress if they are too small and, alternatively, may not hold a firm grip on the mattress edges if they are too large. Top sheets do not necessarily need to match the mattress in terms of size, but top sheets that are too long or wide may hang over the sides, which can affect the overall appearance of the bed.
Pocket depth: Pocket depth refers to the thickest mattress size that a bottom sheet will properly fit over. For example, a fitted sheet with a pocket depth of ‘up to 16 inches’ will be too small for mattresses that are thicker than 16 inches. This pocket depth may also be too deep for mattresses that are relatively thin, but metal fitted sheet fasteners can mitigate this problem by holding the bottom sheet’s edges in place.
Thread count: Thread count is the total number of horizontal and vertical fabric threads found in one square inch of the sheet. Thread count is tied to softness — the higher the thread count, the softer the sheets — although this also depends on the material used. Most cotton sheets sold today have a thread count ranging from 200 to 800, and some high-end sheets may have a thread count that exceeds 1,000. For other materials, such as linen, the thread count may be lower due to the structure of the fibers, and does not necessarily indicate lower quality.
Plying: Plying is a process by which yarns are twisted together to form a thread. Most sheets are either one-ply (single-layered) or two-ply (double-layered). Two-ply sheets are heavier and denser than one-ply sheets. Historically, some sheet manufacturers would count each two-ply thread twice, essentially doubling the thread count. This is now illegal, per the Federal Trade Commission.
Shrinkage: Sheets, like other garments and materials made from fibers, may shrink in the wash. Some shrinkage is to be expected, but when properly laundered a sheet should not shrink by more than 5%. Please note that some sheet materials (such as silk) should not be machine washed for this reason.
Color and print: The choice of colors and prints on top and bottom sheets is a purely aesthetic choice. That being said, many sheet brands offer a wide selection of tones and designs to accommodate shoppers with different tastes and decor preferences. Also, shoppers should beware that some dyes used to color sheets may bleed onto the mattress, other bedding, or the sleeper’s skin. To test the color, simply dab the sheet with a paper towel and inspect it for stains.
Another important consideration is weave. During the weaving process, warp (or vertical) yarns normally float over and under the weft (or horizontal) yarns. However, weft-faced fabrics are produced using the opposite technique: the weft goes over or under the warp. Whether warp or weft floats over the other, the over-to-under ratio determines the type of fabric that is produced. Generally, sheet material falls into one of three categories in terms of weave.
Percale, or plain weave, is tightly woven and follows a strict one-over, one-under ratio. The material is soft and has a matte appearance.
Sateen features a higher ratio of warp-over-weft — in some cases, four over to one under — which creates a looser weave than percale. Additionally, ‘weft-facing sateen’ is produced using the opposite technique with a higher ratio of weft-over-warp to weft-under-warp. Sateen has a higher shine than percale, as well.
Twill weaves have a diagonal pattern, unlike percale and sateen, which have straight weaves. Weft yarns are passed over and under the warp yarns one or two at a time, and then dropped to create a step between the rows that gives it a diagonal appearance.
A wide range of materials can be used to produce sateen, percale and/or twill fabrics used in sheets.
Cotton: Because it is naturally soft and breathable, cotton is the most common fiber used to make sheets. Cotton plants produce bolls (or seed capsules) that typically contain at least 200,000 individual fibers. Short-staple fibers (shorter than 1 1/8″), long-staple fibers (1 1/8″ to 1 1/4″ in length), or extra-long-staple fibers (1 3/8″ to 2″) may be found in cotton sheets. Types of cotton used to make sheets include:
Egyptian cotton: A high-end material usually found in expensive sheets. The staple fibers are extra long, and the thread counts are typically on the higher side.
Pima cotton: Pima cotton is commonly grown in the U.S. or sourced from Peru or other South American countries; the proprietary fabric Supima® is made from 100% American pima cotton. The staples may be long to extra long, and the material is exceptionally soft.
Upland cotton: Because it is relatively inexpensive compared to Egyptian and pima cotton, Upland cotton is the most common type of cotton used in sheets. American upland cotton sheets are widely available, as are standard upland cotton sheets (which are sourced outside the U.S.) Most upland cottons are short-staple and somewhat coarse compared to other cotton varieties.
Flannel: Flannel is made from combed cotton, which bunches up the fibers to create a more insulating fabric. Flannel may be produced from percale or twill weaves.
Polyester: Polyester is a durable synthetic fabric that mimics the softness and light weight of cotton. It may be blended with other fabrics (such as cotton or rayon) to create a blended material, or finely woven into microfibers.
Lyocell (Tencel®): Lyocell is the generic term for cellulose-based rayon that is produced from wood pulp. Like polyester, it is a synthetic fabric (not a natural fiber, despite some marketing claims) that mimics the softness of cotton. Lyocell requires less chemical processing than other synthetic and natural fibers, and some consider it a more eco-friendly option — though it should never be considered natural or organic. Tencel® lyocell, a trademarked material, is made from eucalyptus tree pulp. This is the most common type of lyocell found in sheets sold today.
Bamboo: Bamboo can be a misleading term when used in conjunction with sheets. The material is not made directly from bamboo plants; instead, bamboo pulp is processed with chemicals to create a synthetic rayon-viscose fiber. The result is similar to lyocell in terms of softness and buoyancy, but bamboo requires more chemicals and energy than lyocell; as a result, bamboo is considered less eco-friendly.
Silk: Silk is a natural protein secreted by silkworms that can be woven into a luxury fabric that is cool, breathable, and exceptionally lightweight, as well as hypoallergenic.
Linen: Linen is a natural fiber produced from the flax plant. It is exceptionally breathable and lightweight, but stiffer and more absorbent than cotton.
The table below looks at some pros, cons, and product details associated with the fibers discussed above.
Natural or Synthetic?
Luxurious material Exceptional softness, coolness, and smoothness Breathable
Prone to wrinkling High price-point
Exceptional softness, coolness, and smoothness Breathable
Prone to wrinkling
Widely available Lower price-point Breathable
Not as soft as other cottons Questionable durability
Warmer than other natural fibers Exceptional softness Durable
Not as breathable as other cottons
Widely available Lower price-point Durable and stain-resistant
Prone to wrinkling Not as breathable as other fibers
Eco-friendly processing Exceptional softness and coolness Durable
Not as breathable as other fibers Can feel damp to the touch
Exceptional softness and coolness Durable Naturally odor-resistant
Processing not as eco-friendly Shrinkage potential High price-point
Luxurious material Exceptional softness and coolness Breathable Hypoallergenic
Hand wash or dry clean only Questionable durability High price-point
Exceptional softness and coolness Breathable Durable and absorbent
Too stiff for some High price-point
Next, let’s discuss pillow cases. A pillow case is a zippered or non-zippered covering used to enclose pillows and provide a thin barrier between the sleeper’s head/body and the pillow itself, which is often coarse to the touch. Pillow cases have an opening on one side, into which the pillow is inserted.
Materials: Pillow cases are usually made from some of the same materials as sheets. Cotton and polyester pillow cases are most common, but some models are also made from materials like silk, linen, or rayon from bamboo. Like sheets, pillow cases made from cotton often advertise their thread count. Although personal preference plays a role, most consumers agree that pillow counts with a thread count of 300 to 600 provide the ideal softness.
Sizing: Size is key with pillow cases. If a case is too large, then gaps may form between the pillow and the cover that result in sleeper discomfort. On the other hand, pillow cases that are too small may cause the pillow insert to awkwardly protrude from the opening. Excessively small pillow cases may also require excessive pulling to remove the pillow insert on laundry day; this can compromise the structural integrity of both the insert and the case.
Zippered pillow cases can somewhat mitigate the sizing problem by completely containing the pillow insert, but if the case is too small then this may cause the insert to become lumpy and misshapen, which can be quite uncomfortable.
Pillow cases should not be confused with pillow shams, which do not have an opening on either side; rather, they open with a flap in the back into which the pillow insert is tucked. Pillow shams are normally used for decorative pillows, although shams made from fabrics like cotton and polyester may be used for sleeping pillows as well.
Blankets and Bedspreads
Next, let’s discuss the thicker, heavier covers that sleepers usually use for warmth and insulation.
A blanket refers to the insulating layer between the top sheet and the comforter. Some sleepers prefer to tuck their blankets into the sides of their mattress for extra warmth, while others let the blanket rest freely on the top sheet. Either way, blankets are sized slightly longer and wider than mattresses to provide some overlap on the sides. Blankets are generally available in four sizes:
Suitable Mattress Size
66W” x 90L”
Twin Twin XL
38-39W” x 75L” 38-39W” x 80L”
Full or Double
80W” x 90L”
Full or Double
53-54W” x 75L”
90W x 90L”
Full or Double Queen
53-54W” x 75L” 60W” x 80L”
90W” x 90-100L”
60W” x 80L”
108W” x 90-100L”
King California King
76W” x 80L” 72W” x 84L”
Unlike sheets — which are almost always woven — blankets may be produced using weaving, knitting, or quilting techniques.
Weaving styles used for blankets include the following:
Flat: A flat weave may be tight or loose, depending on the process, but the result is an even, somewhat coarse surface with little to no pilling. Flat-woven yarns tend to be heavier and more durable, and are often used to produce carpets and rugs as well.
Thermal: A thermal weave is looser, creating a more breathable blanket that usually has a waffle or honeycomb texture. Thermal weaving is typically used for cotton blankets, and is also used to produce warmer-than-average shirts, pants, and undergarments.
Sateen: The sateen weaving process for blankets is similar to the process for sheets, whereby the over-to-under ratio for warp and weft is greater than 1:1. This looser weaving technique produces cooler blankets.
Jacquard: The term ‘jacquard’ refers to a specialized loom used in the weaving process that creates patterns in the fabric without printing or embroidery. These patterns range from simple to highly sophisticated. Jacquard weaving is also used in certain garments, such as blouses and dress shirts.
Percale: Although this process is more commonly used with sheets, percale blankets are also tightly woven and exceptionally soft (much like percale sheets).
Unlike weaving, which involves yarns being twisted together to create a fabric, knitting involves a continuous thread featuring a series of proportional loops. There are no warp or weft threads in knitting; rather, new loops are pulled through existing loops to create an interloping structure. Knitted yarns have better circulation than woven fabrics due to the openings between the loops, and knit blankets tend to be drapier.
Quilting, unlike knitting or weaving, requires two or more layers of fabric to be sewn together. Quilting can be done by hand, or with a sewing machine. Most quilts consist of three components:
The top fabric, also known as the ‘quilt top’
The batting, or insulating material between the fabric
The backing fabric
Quilted blankets are somewhat rare compared to woven or knit varieties, and the technique is more commonly associated with heavier quilted covers that are used as bedspreads (see below).
Common fabrics used to make blankets include:
Cotton: Cotton is a popular choice for cooler, lightweight blankets. Due to its relative durability, cotton is also machine washable. However, these blankets are not usually suitable for year-round temperature neutrality; depending on the construction, they may be too cool or too warm for certain times of the year.
Wool: Natural wool extracted from sheep is dense and highly durable. The material also wicks away moisture and offers exceptional temperature neutrality; it will keep sleepers warm during the colder months, and is also breathable enough for warm weather. Two notable downsides: many people are allergic to natural wool, and wool blankets can be somewhat pricey.
Cashmere: Cashmere comes from goats, not sheep, but shares many of the same properties as wool. However, cashmere blankets are usually much more expensive than wool blankets.
Polyester: Polyester blankets are considered a low-price alternative to all-cotton blankets, as they provide the same softness and are just as durable. However, polyester is not as breathable as cotton, and the material is a known conductor of static electricity.
Fleece: Fleece is a synthetic version of wool. It is usually cheaper than wool without sacrificing warmth or density, and may be a good alternative for sleepers with wool allergies. Unlike wool, however, fleece may be too warm for certain times of the year.
Acrylic: Acrylic is a synthetic alternative to wool or cashmere that is warm and hypoallergenic. It is also lighter than these other materials, and acrylic blankets tend to be cheaper. However, acrylic — like polyester — has static potential and is also susceptible to pilling, a form of wear and tear that causes balls of fabric to form on the surface.
The table below lists some product details, pros, and cons of these six common blanket materials:
Natural or Synthetic?
Exceptional softness and breathability Durable Low-price point
Not warm/cool enough for some
Exceptional softness and breathability Temperature neutrality
Allergy potential High price-point
Exceptional softness and breathability Temperature neutrality
Allergy potential High price-point
Exceptional softness Durable and stain-resistant Low price-point
Some people prefer to supplement their primary blanket with a throw blanket, which is smaller and usually used as a foot-warmer. Throw blankets may also be used for decorative purposes. These blankets are typically made from the same materials as standard sleeping blankets.
Additionally, electric blankets are widely available for sleepers who require a little extra warmth. Electric blankets are always made from synthetic fabrics, and are designed with heating wires integrated in the fabric. When the blanket is plugged in, the fabric heats up; most electric blankets come with a controller that allows users to adjust the temperature, and some feature dual climate-control for multiple sleepers. As a safety precaution, electric blankets should never be placed directly on top of other blankets or comforters, and children should never use them.
Next, let’s look at bedspreads. The term bedspread refers to any cover used as the top bedding layer. Bedspreads sold today typically fall into one of two categories: comforters and duvets. These terms are often used synonymously, but they are technically different.
A comforter, by definition, is a single-piece bedding cover that is filled with down, feathers, wool, or down alternative synthetic fibers. All four sides of the comforter are stitched or quilted to prevent the fill from escaping. A duvet, on the other hand, consists of two components: the duvet insert and the duvet cover. The duvet insert, like a comforter, is filled with down or synthetic fibers. The duvet cover is similar to a pillow case, and features an opening on one side for the insert. Most duvet covers are made from cotton or a blend of cotton and other fabrics (such as polyester).
However, one thing to note is that comforters can double as duvet inserts when placed inside a duvet cover.
The table below lists general similarities and differences between comforters and duvets.
Type of Bedspread
Type(s) of Fill
Down Feathers Wool Silk Down alternative
Down Feathers Wool Silk Down alternative
Used with a cover?
Not normally, although comforters can be used with duvet covers
Usually; some models should be professionally cleaned only (check care tag)
The duvet cover is usually washable, but the duvet insert should be professionally cleaned
A comforter should be used with a top sheet
A duvet is a standalone bedspread that does not require a top sheet or other bedding accessories
In terms of sizing, both comforters and duvets should match the mattress size (i.e., a Queen-size comforter or duvet should be purchased for a Queen-size bed). Comforters are often larger than the mattress itself, resulting in overhang on the sides. Duvets match the mattress size more closely, resulting in less overhang.
As the table indicates, comforters and duvets vary in terms of fill (also known as batting). Common fills for bedspreads include the following:
Feathers: When discussing bedding, ‘feather’ comforters and duvets contain the exterior plumage of ducks and geese. The outer feathers contain quills, and are coarser and heavier than down plumage found underneath.
Down:The term ‘down’ refers to the softer plumage that grow underneath the longer, coarser exterior feathers of ducks and geese. Most down is collected from the stomach of these birds. Down tends to be fluffier and more lightweight than outer feathers.
Down alternative:Down alternative refers to polyester puffballs that mimic the softness and fluffiness of natural down.
In some cases, down is combined with feathers or down alternative for the fill. The ratio of down to feathers/down alternative will vary, but most comforters and duvets labeled as ‘down’ have at least 70% down.
When comparing different types of down/feather fill, it’s important to consider fill power. This term refers to how light and fluffy the material feels, as well as the overall quality of the fill. The higher the fill power, the better the quality. Fill power generally ranges from 400 to 800. Fill power is also associated with fill weight. Generally speaking, the lighter the fill, the higher the fill power, and vice versa.
Additionally, wool and silk may be used as fill for comforters or duvets.
The table below lists some notable product details, pros, and cons associated with comforters and duvets with different batting types.
Comforter/Duvet Fill Material
Natural or Synthetic?
Average Comforter/Duvet Cost
Heavier for better insulation Cheaper than down
‘Poke’ potential from quills Material may escape Allergy potential
Minimal risk of escaping material Exceptional durability
Less insulating than feathers Allergy potential High price-point
Synthetic (usually polyester-based)
Hypoallergenic Low price-point
Questionable durability Not as soft or insulating as natural materials
Year-round temperature neutrality Exceptional warmth and softness
Allergy potential High price-point
Naturally breathable Hypoallergenic
Questionable durability High price-point
Selecting duvet covers is akin to choosing sheets and pillow cases. Criteria to consider include:
Material: Cotton, polyester, and linen are the most commonly used materials for duvet covers.
Staple length: If the duvet cover is made of cotton, long-staple or extra-long-staple cotton is usually used.
Weave: Most duvet covers are either sateen or percale.
Thread count: The thread count for a cotton duvet cover should be at least 200, and most fall in the range of 250 to 500. Linen duvet covers have smaller thread counts — typically between 80 and 150.
Size: The duvet cover’s size should match that of the duvet insert or comforter that will be used with it. The three most common sizes for duvet covers are Twin, Full/Queen, and King/California King.
Important Considerations for Bedding Shoppers
Now that we’ve discussed the various types of sheets, blankets, and other types of bedding, let’s look at some important factors to take into account when shopping for new bedding and comparing different brands.
What size is your mattress? This should help you determine the proper size for sheets, blankets, and bedspreads.
What is your shopping budget? Keep in mind that price-points for bedding accessories can vary by a significant margin based on brand and material composition.
What is your desired sleep temperature? If you prefer a warmer bed, then blankets and bedspreads made of materials like wool and/or down will probably work best. For those who like to sleep cooler, cotton sheets and lighter blankets and bedspreads may be more suitable.
How thick is your mattress? This will be used to determine the minimum pocket depth for new sheets.
What is your desired thread count? Remember: the higher the thread count, the softer the sheets will feel.
How thick do you want the sheets to be? This can help you decide between one- and two-ply sheets.
Which weave do you prefer? Percale and twill sheets tend to be coarser and matte in appearance, while sateen sheets are smoother and shinier.
Is wrinkling an issue for you? Cotton sheets are much more prone to wrinkling than sheets made from other materials.
If you want to buy cotton sheets, how soft do you want them? In addition to thread count, the staple length can help determine how soft cotton sheets will feel. Short-staple cotton is least soft, extra-long-staple cotton is softest, and long-staple cotton is a compromise between the other two.
What size are your pillows? The pillow case should be slightly larger than the pillows for easy insertion and removal.
What is your ideal pillow case softness? Most sleepers find that pillow cases with a thread count of 300 to 600 offers the best level of softness.
Is the pillow used for sleeping or decoration? Sleeping pillows usually require pillow cases, but a sham may be used for decorative pillows.
What is your desired weave? A wide range of weaving techniques are used to make blankets, including flat, thermal, sateen, jacquard, and percale.
Are you looking for a non-woven blanket? If this is the case, a knit or quilted blanket may be suitable.
Do you have allergies? Both wool and cashmere blankets carry allergy potential.
How important is durability? Cotton, polyester, and wool are generally considered the most durable materials used to make blankets. Polyester, fleece, and acrylic blankets may not last as long.
Do you still feel too cold with a blanket? A throw blanket can be used as a foot-warmer in conjunction with other bedding, or an electric blanket can provide adjustable warmth (and should be used on its own).
Do you want to use more bedding in addition to your bedspread? Comforters are designed to be used with top sheets and other bedding, while duvets are normally used as standalone bedding without top sheets.
Do you plan to wash the bedspread at home? Comforters can usually be machine-washed, but duvet inserts should be professionally cleaned; duvet covers may be machine washable.
Do you have allergies? Feather, down, and wool comforters and duvets all carry allergy potential, while down alternative and silk are hypoallergenic.
What material is used? Cotton, polyester, and linen are the most common duvet cover materials. If cotton is used, it will usually be long-staple or extra-long-staple cotton.
Which weave do you prefer? In most cases, duvet covers are either percale or sateen woven.
What is the thread count? Most duvet covers made of cotton have a thread count of 250 to 500, while those made of linen have thread counts of 80 to 150.
What size is the duvet insert or comforter? The duvet cover’s size should match the insert’s.
Best Sheet Sets (Sheets and Pillow Cases)
Now, let’s reveal the top-rated bedding products. The following table lists our five picks for the best sheet sets that are currently available for sale. The sheet sets listed below include a top sheet, fitted sheet, and two pillow cases. All customer satisfaction ratings are generated using authentic customer and owner reviews.
The second table lists the five highest-rated comforters according to owners and customers. Although some of these products may be used as duvet inserts with duvet comforters, they are primarily designed to be standalone comforters.
Egyptian Bedding Hungarian Goose Down Comforter
Pacific Coast Year Round Warmth Comforter
Silk Camel Luxury Comforter
Fill Power (Down only)
Fill Weight (Queen)
50 oz. (F/Q)
13.5 oz./sq. yard
40.5 oz. (F/Q)
Full/Queen (90×90) King (106×90)
Twin (68×90) Queen (90×90) King (106×90)
Twin (68×88) Queen (88×88) King (96×104)
Twin/Twin XL (68×90) Full/Queen (90×98) King (108×96)
Twin (68×90) Queen (86×90) King (102×90) Cali King (108×96)
The next table lists our top five duvet inserts. Please note that some of these products are listed as comforters or duvet comforters, but they are designed to be used with a cover — thus making them duvet inserts.
In addition to the bedding accessories we’ve discussed above, this section will look at three bedding components that offer extra comfort, support, and cushioning.
Pillows: Pillow selection often comes down to two factors: loft (or thickness) and material composition.
Pillow loft typically falls into three general categories. When determining loft, you should take your head size, shoulder width, body weight, and mattress firmness into account. The table below looks at criteria for calculating loft.
Optimal Head Size
Optimal Shoulder Width
Optimal Mattress Firmness
Less than 3″
More than 230 lbs.
Soft to Medium Soft
3″ to 5″
130 to 230 lbs.
More than 5″
Less than 130 lbs.
Medium Firm to Firm
In terms of material composition, some pillow materials — such as buckwheat, latex, and memory foam — conform closer for better pressure relief and provide better support, but these models typically have higher price-points. Other pillows materials, such as polyester and down alternative, are associated with cheaper prices and lower owner satisfaction.
Mattress Toppers: A mattress topper is an individual layer of cushioning that is placed on top of the mattress for added comfort and support. Toppers typically reduce the firmness of the sleep surface, but some toppers can make softer mattresses feel firmer. Materials used for toppers include memory foam, wool, latex, feathers, and convoluted polyfoam; toppers may cost anywhere from $10 to $400, depending on the material composition.
The table below lists optimal topper settings based on sleep position and sleeper weight.
Mattress Pads and Protectors: Not to be confused with mattress toppers, mattress pads keep mattresses are primarily designed to keep mattresses safe from stains, contaminants, and physical damage; they may also be thick enough to provide moderate comfort adjustments. Mattress protectors, on the other hand, are solely designed to safeguard mattresses from stains, contaminants, and physical damage; they provide virtually no comfort adjustment. Other key differences between mattress pads and mattress protectors are outlined in the table below.
To act as a mattress barrier and protect the bed from contaminants, as well as minor comfort adjustment
To protect the mattress from both contaminants and liquid spills