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a Bedding Reviewer’s Argument 2021


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  • Top sheets are the extra piece of bedding that no one really needs.
  • They’re easier to clean, but they’re also an uncomfortable, unnecessary layer on top of your body.
  • I review bedding like sheets professionally for Insider Reviews, so I feel qualified to state this opinion.
  • Given how controversial they are, more brands should let you skip the top sheet in a bedding set. 

I am anti-top sheet. 

I’ve not only slept in a bed for almost 26 years, but I’ve also tested bed sheets of all types and designs professionally for four of those years, so I feel qualified enough to shout this from the mountaintops: you really don’t need to sleep with a top sheet.

Forget “don’t need.” You shouldn’t sleep with a top sheet. 

These are all the reasons why the top sheet is a superfluous piece of fabric, along with input from my colleagues (at least the ones that agree with me):

Sleeping with a top sheet feels uncomfortable and annoying. 

Top sheets are usually about as thick as a duvet cover or fitted sheet, which is to say, not thick at all. Are you really telling me that you enjoy sleeping with a paper-thin piece of fabric between your body and the soft, pillowy comforter you just invested a hundred bucks in?

“Why buy yourself a fluffy wonderful duvet only to never touch it?” said travel editor Emily Hochberg. People who say their flat sheets are more comfortable than their duvets or comforters need to get themselves a better and softer duvet cover

mint green pillows, bed, and comforter without a top sheet 2021

You deserve freedom of movement and the full enjoyment of your comforter.

Connie Chen/Insider

Now let’s say you truly find the feel of a top sheet comfortable. Good luck enjoying it fully through the night. Home editor Jenny McGrath said, “Who are you vampires that lie perfectly still all night with your crisp flat sheet draped over you? Mine inevitably ends up tangled at the bottom of the bed, in a crumpled heap not even my cats will sleep on.” 

A top sheet nearly always migrates down to your feet or bunched up elsewhere on the bed as you move naturally in your sleep. It’s an unpleasant feeling to wake up to. Kudos if you’re able to sleep lying totally still without disturbing your top sheet, though. 

Making your bed becomes even more of a nuisance when a top sheet’s involved. 

Top sheets add extra time and effort to the process of making your bed since you need to tuck them under your bed. Making the bed every morning is already a chore that many of us — save for the truly evolutionarily advanced — already don’t enjoy doing or have the time to do, so the top sheet element doesn’t exactly help the case. 

“All the folding and tucking into corners is too much for me. If I want to neaten my bed in the morning, I can just reposition the pillows and straighten out my comforter, no reorienting and re-tucking a top sheet,” said junior kitchen reporter Lily Alig. 

A top sheet is supposedly more hygienic and easier to clean — but there are other layers of bedding and clothing that offer the same protection. 

The biggest argument for top sheets I hear is, “perhaps most importantly, they create a barrier between you, your sweat [and body oils], and your duvet cover,” according to executive editor Sally Kaplan. But protection is the whole point of a duvet cover, as well as your pajamas. 

“Between pajamas, a top sheet, and a duvet cover, how much protection do you really need?” said senior home and kitchen editor Lauren Savoie. “For context, a mattress is way more of an investment than a comforter, less easy to clean, and more prone to spills and accidents; yet, most people are fine with just a fitted sheet between them and the mattress surface.”

I have to agree with Lauren — at a certain point, there are just too many layers involved. If you have PJs and a duvet cover and wash both regularly, then I don’t think the hygiene issue is an issue at all (see my hotel and travel exception below).

rust colored top sheet crumpled in a trash can as part of the argument against top sheets 2021

The top sheet above is thrown into a clean trash can for dramatic effect and we don’t support fabric waste. We recommend finding another use for your top sheet if it’s included in your sheet set.

Lauren Savoie/Insider

I will concede that a top sheet is a lot more convenient to wash than a duvet cover, which is more fabric and can be a pain to take off and re-attach. All my anti-top sheet reasons above bother me so much, however, that I am willing to just wash my duvet cover more often. Plus, again, I’m wearing pajamas and almost always shower before bed. I think I’m pretty clean. 

My hotel and travel exception is this: the hygiene benefit of a top sheet makes sense in the context of any large lodging space with frequent room turnover. We’ve all heard the stories of how hotels don’t wash their duvets after every guest or as often as they should, and a flat sheet seems like good insurance against that squeamish reminder.

What the top sheet debate means for bedding brands

We can argue back and forth forever about the merits and evils of top sheets, but the bigger issue I see here is that bedding brands should do something about it.

Top sheets are a divisive enough piece of bedding that they shouldn’t automatically be included in every bedding set. Clearly, a subsection of the population loves them and a subsection hates them, so each group should have the choice when they shop for bedding. 

I love when brands (Brooklinen, Parachute, and Sijo come to mind) give shoppers the option to add or opt out of the top sheet. It saves me money and space, and the flat sheet can go to someone else who will give it more appreciation than I ever could. These smart brands are very deserving of your business.

a Bedding Reviewer's Argument 2021 3

Sijo gives you the option to purchase its cozy linen sheets with or without a top sheet. You’ll save nearly $100 (and be making the clearly superior choice) by selecting “without.”

a Bedding Reviewer's Argument 2021 5

This sheet set comes with a fitted sheet, two pillow shams, and thankfully NO flat sheet.

a Bedding Reviewer's Argument 2021 7

This set of silky percale sheets also, mercifully, comes without a top sheet.

In the meantime, I’ll be starting a community program that matches unwanted top sheets abandoned by people like me with the heathens who swear by them. 

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