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What is a Top Sheet? Should You Use One?

If you’ve ever stayed at a hotel and wondered what that tight, thin piece of fabric between your duvet and the bedsheet was, you’re not alone. As top sheets become increasingly uncommon in daily use, a lot of people are confused by their purpose.

What was once a regular part of your bedding and linens has today become a contentious subject. The debate surrounding top sheets has probably also made its way to you at some point, even if you may not have realized it.

So, what’s a top sheet and why is it a point of division? Does everyone need a top sheet? Does it offer any benefits? There are a lot of questions surrounding this bed linen.

Let’s uncover all this and more to try and settle the debate on top sheets!

Top Sheets: What They Are

A top sheet is a thin, flat sheet that you place between yourself and your blanket or comforter to create a protective layer.

A top sheet is primarily meant to keep your comforter hygienic and protected from dirt, bacteria, and sweat, thus reducing how often you’d need to wash the comforter.

Top sheets have been around for ages. They’re available in a host of different fabrics ranging from cotton, satin, and linen to bamboo, percale, and other blended materials and have been a staple of bedding sets.

Ideally, top sheets are made with breathable fabrics like bamboo, which work great for all climates. Linen can be used for warmer weather such as the summer months. Brushed cotton is another good option for top sheets as it can also be used for all seasons. Other materials like silk, percale, and microfiber are also commonly used for top sheets. Percale is especially used for cold weather.  

So, what’s the reason for top sheets being so divisive?

Well, top sheets offer a wide range of pros and cons that are highly subjective. While some focus on the benefits and consider top sheets to be irreplaceable, others believe that they are obsolete and archaic.

Let’s look at some of the common benefits and drawbacks of top sheets so you can see where the argument stems from.

Benefits and Drawbacks of a Top Sheet

Top sheets are beneficial in terms of both hygiene and comfort. Additionally, they also add an element of convenience.

However, these linens are a double-edged sword, which partly explains why they’re so controversial. Despite their benefits, they also have a fair amount of disadvantages, all of which boil down to personal preferences.

Benefits of a Top Sheet

1. Hygienic

When you sleep, you shed dead skin and hair, secrete natural oils, and often also sweat. Additionally, if you’re someone who showers in the morning instead of the night, you may even be adding outside dirt and dust to the mix.

All of this combined with dust mites can create a breeding ground for bacteria on your blanket, duvet, or comforter. And if you fail to wash your bed linens regularly, it can cause you to suffer from skin conditions such as rashes, acne, and skin diseases.

A top sheet helps circumvent this issue by acting as a protective layer between your skin and the comforter or duvet.

2. Convenient

When you add a top sheet to your bedding, it allows your comforter to remain clean and hygienic for longer, and you don’t have to wash it as often as your other bed linen.

Aside from making your linen laundry day more convenient, it also makes your comforter last longer as frequent washing can fade or wear your comforter out. This also applies if you use a duvet cover.

3. Temperature Regulation and Comfort

Apart from hygiene, top sheets are also extremely functional as far as temperature regulation and comfort go.

Depending on where you live, the summer heat can be stifling. And you may not need a heavy duvet that could get hot and uncomfortable. Top sheets are much thinner and can instead be used as a substitute for the thick comforter or duvet. It will act as your protective layer while also catching the cold air of an air conditioner ensuring that you remain cool and breezy throughout the night.

In winter, the added layer of a top sheet can be extremely comfortable as it provides warmth and helps retain your body heat, making you feel extra cozy.

The texture of a top sheet is also a huge aspect of why people prefer top sheets. Often made with soft, breathable fabrics, top sheets add to the coziness of a duvet or comforter and provide more comfort.

Disadvantages of a Top Sheet

1. Added Bed-Making Burden

A top sheet adds an extra step to your routine. You have to ensure that it’s properly tucked in every time you make your bed in the morning. Even when changing your sheets, it can slow down the process as the bedsheet and duvet are relatively easier to tuck in compared to top sheets. Plus, people argue that if you’re already sleeping with pajamas on, there’s no need for an added layer between you and your blanket!

2. Extra Piece of Laundry

A top sheet also adds to the laundry. Although it’s just a thin piece of fabric, it’s still an extra piece of laundry to wash, dry, and fold.

Changing, washing, and arranging your top sheet can thus become an added chore. If you’re someone who is already averse to doing your laundry, a top sheet only becomes a huge inconvenience.

3. Restrictive

Top sheets are securely tucked in and are meant to be pulled taught, making them a lot tighter around your body than just a duvet or blanket. This makes top sheets highly restrictive and can hinder movement.

If you’re someone who likes to move around in your sleep or just like having your duvet or comforter bunched up, a tight top sheet can cause a lot of discomfort and lead to an uncomfortable, uneasy sleep.

In worst cases, it can cause sleep deprivation, waking up groggy and tired, and unable to function properly. And no one wants that. Restrictiveness is thus a major reason for most people disliking top sheets.

4. May Not Suit Your Partner’s Sleeping Preferences

If you sleep alone, you can easily choose to use or not use a top sheet whenever you feel like it. But, if you share your bed with your partners, this can create a tricky situation. When two people who sleep together do not share similar sleeping habits, it can create some friction. You might find yourself constantly debating whether to use a top sheet or not.

There’s also the possibility of you or your partner getting tangled up in the top sheet and waking the other in the middle of the night. All of these unnecessary issues can easily be avoided by skipping the top sheet altogether.

5. Can Trap More Heat

A top sheet adds one more layer to your bedding and essentially obstructs the flow of air around your duvet. This added layer makes it difficult for your body heat to disperse when you sleep. It can also obstruct your duvet from wicking moisture.

Depending on the top sheet material, this can lead to trapped body heat, causing you to sleep uncomfortably.

Is Top Sheet The Same As Fitted Sheet?

The terms “top sheet” and “fitted sheet” can be highly confusing to those who aren’t familiar with all the different types of bed linen. After all, both are thin fabrics that go on the bed, right?

Well, the key difference here is that the top sheet is placed under the duvet or comforter to act as a thin layer between you and the blanket or duvet. Meanwhile, the fitted sheet is placed on the mattress as is the layer between the mattress and you.

So, essentially, the top sheet protects the duvet while the fitted sheet protects the mattress when you sleep.

While top sheets can be omitted, as we’ve discussed above, fitted sheets are an integral, essential part of your linen set.

Fitted sheets are also often thicker and sturdier than top sheets as they are meant to protect the mattress, while top sheets are usually a lot thinner and softer to provide ventilation to your body.

So, Do You Need a Top Sheet?

Now that we’ve learned what a top sheet is, what purpose it serves, and weighed its pros and cons, it’s safe to say that the top sheet does have its uses.

However, there is a rising trend today of people doing away with top sheets for various reasons. Some claim they are too uncomfortable, are a hassle, or just add to your chores unnecessarily.

But even if you don’t wish to use a top sheet, keeping a couple of spare top sheets in your linen closet will undoubtedly come in handy. Perhaps a guest may request one, or you may feel too hot under your usual blanket and need a thinner layer instead.

Where to Get High-Quality Bed Sheets?

When choosing your bed linens, there are a few factors you will need to consider such as the weather where you live, the fabric, and durability. If you live in a hot and humid climate, for example, bamboo, cotton or linen bed sheets would be ideal.

Fortunately, several companies offer complete bedding sets that include bed sheets, flat sheets, bed covers, etc. Sunday Citizen is one such brand that has a Premium Bamboo Bed Sheet set that includes a fitted sheet in Queen or King size and two pillow covers. You also have the option of choosing a flat sheet with your bed sheet set. This means you don’t have to go hunting for a flat sheet or top sheet separately.

Is There an Alternative to Top Sheets?

If you don’t want to use a top sheet every day but are still concerned about the hygiene factor, don’t worry.

There are alternatives — duvet covers and hybrid two-sided comforters!

Duvet covers will not only keep your blankets or duvets clean for longer but also reduce the risk of bacteria. They’re an ideal alternative as duvet covers are just as protective as top sheets without restricting movement or adding a step to your bed-making.

By doing away with the disadvantages of a top sheet, duvet covers provide the perfect solution to the pro-top sheet and anti-top sheet debate.

  •         They are thin and easy to wash, dry, fold, and use.
  •         They protect your duvet from dust, dirt, sweat, and bacteria.
  •         You don’t have to deal with an added piece of linen as they go over your duvet. You just have to lay it out properly!
  •         They don’t restrict movement.
  •         They maintain hygiene while providing maximum convenience.

Two-sided comforters provide a fluffy comforter fabric on one side and a naturally cooling sheet fabric on the other side. They’re the next generation of comforters. With these, you are able to eliminate the top sheet and still have that cool touch and hypoallergenic fabric in between. Besides, they’re also easy to wash. It’s an all-in-one option meant to replace the top sheet plus comforter. 

Conclusion

Top sheets have become increasingly obsolete in the past few years, and their popularity continues to decrease. However, there’s still a huge population that believes that top sheets are indispensable. There’s also a generational gap at play here, with the older generation firmly in the pro-top sheet camp while the younger generation is happy to do away with them.

Ultimately, your sleeping preferences are your own.

Regardless of your opinion on top sheets, duvet covers are a very convenient alternative that helps put the debate to rest. Just make sure you wash your bed linens once a week, maintain bed hygiene, and you’re all good!

FAQ

What is the purpose of a top sheet?

A top sheet serves as an added layer between your body and your duvet, which helps ensure hygiene, improves the durability of the duvet or comforter, and provides comfort while you sleep.

Is a flat sheet the same as a top sheet? 

Yes. A flat Sheet and a top sheet are essentially the same. 

Is a fitted sheet the same as a top sheet?

No. The main difference between a fitted sheet and a top sheet is that a fitted sheet protects the mattress while a top sheet protects your duvet or comforter.

Do you sleep under the top sheet?

Your top sheet is essentially placed between you and your duvet. So, yes, you sleep under the top sheet.

Why do millennials not use a top sheet?

There are many reasons for an increasing number of millennials ditching the top sheet. Some common reasons include inconvenience, added chore, added laundry, unnecessary expense, and discomfort.

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