Your Ultimate Guide to the difference Between Cotton & Microfiber Sheets

6 min read

Tabby Cat lying on a white bed with white sheets looking out the window

Cotton vs Microfiber Sheets

Your bed is your recharging station as it provides you with the restful sleep you need on a nightly basis. How you dress your bed determines the quality of your sleep; the better your sleep environment, the more relaxed and enjoyable your sleep will be.

Cotton and microfiber sheets both offer sleep benefits; however, each should be matched to the individual. Cotton sheets are made from natural organic cotton, while microfiber sheets are made from synthetic man-made fibers. Personal preference is usually what inspires most people to buy a specific sheet type, but little thought goes into the practical experience of actually sleeping between the sheets.

We will explore why better consideration is necessary when purchasing your next set of cotton or microfiber sheets.

Your Sleep Health

Quality sleep is not only measured by the number of hours we sleep, with 8 hours being the yardstick. When considering what quality sleep means, we need to look at what sleep means to us, and the way to do this is through measuring sleep to determine its health benefits.

Mathew Walker, a Neuroscientist, recently authored a book titled “Why We Sleep”. In the book, he details sleep as your body’s recharging station where your emotions are reset, your brain restores the ability to make logical decisions, and learning is enhanced through improved memory. Creativity also improves through our ability to dream.

Walker stresses the importance of sleep on health, both physical and mental. Quality sleep is an essential ingredient for good health. Sleep allows us to regulate hormones, improve our immune system, and offer us the time for focused restoration and healing. 

Sleep slows down the aging process and revitalizes all of our internal functions that have proved beneficial in cancer prevention, the onset of Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. Most of the medical conditions we faced will include rest or sleep as part of the treatment program.

Getting regular “quality sleep” depends greatly on your sleep environment, including your choice of bedding. In order to reach the quality sleep level, interrupted sleep must practically be eliminated. Here are a few pointers to consider:

  • Room temperature: The best bedroom temperature for sleep is approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius) 
  • TV screens: We all love to watch TV in bed but falling asleep with the TV on will result in interrupted sleep, and you will still feel tired in the morning.
  • Ventilation: Fresh air is important, so keep your home well ventilated and avoid smoking in your home.
  • Bedding: Select the right bedding to suit your sleep climate. Sleep posture is also a health factor, and the right mattress and pillows will keep your spine aligned with the rest of your body.
  • Pre-sleep: Introduce a wind-down period into your routine where you relax with a book or some soft background music. Avoid eating or snacking just before you go to sleep.

Cotton vs microfiber cotton plant on white background

Cotton Sheets

Cotton is a naturally sustainable product that has been in use for centuries. Cotton sheets promote quality sleep as the material is soft and breathable. However, cotton sheets come in various grades, and some are more prone to wear and tear than others.

Measured by thread count, which is the number of threads per square inch, inferior quality cotton sheets will have a lower thread count, and luxurious sheets will have a higher thread count. Lower thread-count sheets tend to be coarse, scratchy and are prone to ruffling or creating small balls on the surface.

Sheets that include Egyptian cotton or Supima cotton usually have a high thread count. The range will be anywhere between 300 and 700, but 200 thread-count sheets are still considered good quality. Pima cotton sheets can go as high as 1000 thread count.

Both Egyptian and Pima (Supima, which means Superior Pima) sheets are made from long strands of cotton. Egyptian cotton is grown on the banks of the Nile River, while Pima cotton is grown in the United States. These two cotton types account for a mere 10% of the world’s cotton production, explaining the rather hefty price tag of products made with these two cotton types. 

Pros of Cotton Sheets

  • Made from natural cotton plants.
  • Breathable.
  • Wicks away humidity and moisture.
  • Cool
  • Soft
  • Becomes softer with age.
  • Hypoallergenic. Cotton sheets create a cool, breathable environment that makes it difficult for mold and bacteria to thrive.
  • Most common sheet material and widely available in different colors, sizes, and styles.

Cons of Cotton Sheets

  • Not durable compared to synthetic fiber sheets.
  • Tend to be more expensive as the thread count increases.
  • Tend to wrinkle.
  • May shrink when washed incorrectly.

Microfiber Sheets

Microfiber sheets are commonly made from acrylic, polyester, and nylon polymers. The thickness or linear density of an individual fiber is measured using the denier unit. 

The silk fiber is approximately 1.25 deniers, whereas a microfiber is about half that measurement at about 0.9 deniers. To be classified as microfiber, the threads must measure less than one denier. This results in microfiber sheets not having a thread count on their label.

Softness is associated with microfiber sheets which have a fine silky finish. This fine texture and aesthetic appearance may not be conducive to better sleep because although some advertisements claim moisture-wicking properties, overheating is a common experience among many users.

Soft, lightweight sheets do have appeal, and microfiber sheets fit the bill. Besides this, they are also wrinkle-resistant and are strong and durable. Microfiber sheets absorb and retain heat which is great during the colder months, but in the warmer months, they may just work too well at keeping you snug. 

Microfiber sheets are definitely more affordable than conventional cotton sheets, and although not great in high heat situations, they will not shrink as natural fabrics do. A too high drying heat may scorch or glaze microfiber, but as long as you stick to the manufacturer's instructions, this shouldn’t be an issue.

The weave of microfiber sheets is either a flat weave or a waffle weave. A flatweave is more durable, stain-resistant, and repels moisture, making it ideal for younger children who may wet the bed from time to time. The waffle weave is more absorbent and retains heat which makes it a poor choice. 

Pros of Microfiber Sheets

  • Durable.
  • Low maintenance. Easy to clean.
  • Affordable.
  • Soft.
  • Lightweight.
  • Wrinkle resistant.
  • Stain-resistant.
  • Resistant to tears if the weave is tight.

Cons of Microfiber Sheets

  • Flammable.
  • Some types can be very thin.
  • Made from petroleum waste which is not environment friendly.
  • The build-up of static electricity, which can be unpleasant.
  • Can cause skin irritation if you have an allergy to synthetic materials.
  • Must be washed in cool water to prevent linting.
  • Heat retention may result in overheating.
  • Not breathable.

Choosing the right sheets

From the pros and cons of cotton and microfiber sheets mentioned above, you will be able to decide which of the two will improve your sleep environment and promote quality sleep. After all, a good night’s rest is what you should use to weigh up your decision.

If you have temperature control in your home, you could overlook the heat retention of microfiber sheets and find more value in the aesthetics, durability, and low maintenance.

Night sweating is something that affects many people, and here microfiber sheets will interrupt your sleep and may even exacerbate the problem. If you suffer from night sweats, cotton sheets are the better choice because they are breathable and cool.

Cotton sheets being a natural fabric, is environmentally friendly and offer more benefits than synthetic fabrics like microfiber sheets. When it comes to sleep health, cotton should be your first choice. For night sweating or bedwetting, a simple remedy would be to use a mattress protector and to change your bedding as often as necessary.

Consider the fact that purchasing bedding isn’t a weekly or monthly event. On the contrary, most bedding will last for years before replacement. This will allow you to save or budget for that expense and make an educated choice about maintaining or improving your quality of sleep.

Conclusion

Cotton and microfiber sheets both have their place in promoting quality sleep, and each may be better suited to particular individuals. However, it is extremely important to work on your entire sleep environment that will give you a pleasing bedroom to walk into and be practical from an improved sleep perspective. 

If you take care of your bedding, sheets, in particular, you will be able to use them for years. To improve the longevity of your sheets, follow the washing instructions and rotate your bedding while taking care to store your fresh bedding in a cupboard free of moths and other insects.

Purchase within your means, but if you plan purchases that occur once every few years, you will be able to invest a great deal more into creating the ultimate sleep environment that will complement your healthy diet and regular exercise routine. Good health rests on the foundation of a healthy sleep environment.  

Shop our Cotton Microfiber mix blankets

Cotton Microfiber African made blanket

Steve Watts
Steve Watts


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