Do Sheet Thread Counts Really Matter?
One of the most common ways people choose sheets is based on thread count — but that’s misleading, says Jessica Basten, bedding buyer for Sleep Number.
The thread count myth holds that only thread count, and the higher the better, matters. That’s simply not the case, Basten says.
“Thread count is only part of the equation when choosing sheets. You really have to consider the quality of the fibers and the type of weave as well. These factors will determine how comfortable the sheets are and how long they will last,” says Basten.
So what should we know when buying sheets? Basten answers some common questions.
Question: Does thread count matter in sheets?
Answer: First let’s talk about thread count meaning. Thread count represents the number of threads found in one square inch of fabric. It does affect how a sheet feels, but only to an extent.
In fact, as thread count increases, fabric can become denser and warmer because there are more threads of yarn per square inch, especially if a multi-ply yarn is used. For example, 1000-thread count sheets tend to feel heavy and warm because the excess threads can make the fabric less breathable.
A sheet that doesn’t breathe can trap air and create a hot microclimate underneath the covers. You may end up feeling too hot, which can disrupt your sleep.
Using multiple yarns twisted together is a trick some manufacturers use to inflate the thread count. Generally speaking, anything labeled over 700 thread count is probably inflated, meaning they are using multi-ply yarns.
Q: How do fiber and weave impact sheet quality?
A: For high quality sheets, cotton reigns supreme. Sheets with long-staple, high-quality cotton wear better. Staple length refers to the fine strands that make up a raw piece of cotton. Longer fibers are softer, stronger and more durable. They’re also less susceptible to pilling, wrinkling and fading. For types of cotton, look for Supima, Pima or Egyptian cotton, which are some of the finest cottons in the world.
How you care for the sheets also makes a difference in how long they will last. Stay away from bleach, fabric softener, and dryer sheets, as those break down fibers faster.
The weave of the yarn affects how a sheet feels, looks and wears over time. Two of the most common weaves are sateen and percale.
- Sateen weave sheets provide a soft, silky feel. They’re woven as one yarn under, three yarns over. The exposed yarns on the surface give it a smooth, satiny finish. Sateen sheets are breathable and great for people who love soft sheets.
- Percale weave sheets provide a crisp feel. They’re woven as one yarn over, one yarn under for a very balanced construction. Percale sheets are lightweight and breathable. They’re great for those who love the feel of a cotton button-down shirt.
Q: What’s the lowest thread count that still delivers good value?
A: Well, first you should look for a high-quality cotton that is long or extra-long staple. Then, a 300 thread count is a great starting point for well-balanced sheets.
Quality sheets can also combine other fibers with long-staple cotton to provide additional benefits, such as the extra wicking ability from lyocell in Sleep Number’s Lyocell Ultra Sheets, or the temp-regulation of a bit of 37.5® polyester in Sleep Number’s True Temp Sheet Set.
It’s also important to know that not all quality sheets have thread counts. A knit sheet, like jersey or our Winter Soft Sheet Set, won’t have a thread count listed because they aren’t woven like most sheets. Consider using knit sheets during the colder months, when their extra warmth is welcomed.
Q: What sets Sleep Number sheets apart?
A: We use only single-ply yarns in our Sleep Number sheets, so you can be sure the thread count is NOT inflated, and our sheets WILL be breathable. We also only use long or extra-long staple cotton in our sheets. Remember, length equals strength. We also test our sheets for durability to ensure they’ll last for years and years. All our sheets undergo rigorous quality testing by third-party labs, and our quality standards are among the highest in the industry. As an American-based company, we’re also proud that many of our sheets are cut and sewn right here in the U.S. by a family-owned company.
Q: Which Sleep Number sheets are your personal favorites?
A: I’m loving our Supima Cotton Sheet Set right now. They are made from American-grown Supima cotton — some of the finest cotton in the world that’s also eco-friendly.
Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal well-being and performance. Because everyone’s sleep needs are different, Sleep Number 360® smart beds, with SleepIQ® technology inside, sense your movements and automatically adjust firmness, comfort and support to keep you both sleeping comfortably. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep.