We spend one third of our lives in bed. How well we sleep depends on many things, such as our emotional and physical well-being, and the comfort of the bed itself. A good night's sleep starts with a good pillow and mattress and is closely followed by quality sheets and pillowcases. The content of the fibres making the fabric is the most significant component of the sheets. Deciding what function the sheets should fulfil, the care you are willing to give, and what look the sheets must provide, will lead you to choose the right sheets for your bed. Cotton or cotton/polyester are the two most common sheet fabrics, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Thread count is the number of threads used to weave one square inch of fabric. The quality of sheets is often linked to the thread count with a minimum of 400 being perceived as the threshold for quality sheets. It is, however, the fineness and length of the fibres in the thread that determines the softness of the fabric, and these qualities are determined by the type of fibre; in this example, either cotton, polyester or a blend of the two.
The cotton plant can produce long, fine fibres. Sheets made of 100% cotton will wick excess moisture and retain some warmth when wet. Cotton will stay cool to the touch, and, like most natural fibres, it is resistant to static and pilling. Cotton takes natural dyes well but is sensitive to sunlight and can fade and breakdown. High quality cotton sheets are lightweight and silk-like to the touch but can be expensive. Cotton sheets should be laundered separately without bleach. Wrinkles and shrinking are also characteristics of cotton.
Polyester is a man-made fibre, a product of the petroleum industry. It will not wrinkle and does not shrink but most polyester fabrics will pill. Polyester is colour-fast, and resistant to sun fading; it does no does not wick moisture, and will lose warming ability when wet. When dry it will quickly feel warm to the touch and sheets of polyester will be considerably warmer, and less expensive, than natural fibre sheets.
Blending two fibres creates sheets with the best of both fibres' qualities. Cotton is included for its wicking ability, coolness to the touch, and softness. Polyester is added to increase the resistance to wrinkles and shrinking, strength and longevity of the fabric.The per cent used of each fibre varies, the most common being 35 per cent to 60 per cent cotton combined with 40 per cent to 65 per cent polyester. The characteristics of the dominant fibre will be most evident in the finished product. For example, in a sheet that is 35 per cent cotton and 65 per cent polyester (written as 35/65 cotton/poly); the sheet will behave more like polyester than cotton.