As a fiber scientist who tests and reviews products for a living, people are always coming to me with their most difficult shopping decisions. I often hear that there's nothing harder than picking bedding, and I totally get why: There are seemingly endless options to choose from. But with the right knowledge, building your perfect bed is easier than you'd think.

For starters, shopping for bedding is highly personal and there isn't one perfect product for everyone. To help you make the right choices, here are the most commonly asked questions I get, with answers on how my team and I use our expertise to shop.

Do you prefer foam or innerspring mattresses?

No need to choose! It’s a great time to buy a mattress because there’s been so much innovation. I’m a big fan of newer hybrid models that combine metal coils with memory foam or latex. Coils provide support and airflow, while foam offers pressure relief and cradling comfort. After sleeping on one, I will never go back to a bed that is either 100% coils or all foam.

What's the best thread count for sheets?

Thread count is often misleading, so it shouldn't be the main thing you look for when shopping for sheets. Our top-tested 100% cotton sheets are often in the 300-500 thread count range, but that's not always the case. Plus, thread count doesn't even apply to other sheet fabrics like linen, silk, microfiber or even cotton blends.

Instead, focus on the fiber content and construction of the fabric — i.e., what it's made of and how it's woven. My personal favorite (and many of our testers agree!) is 100% cotton sateen, but here are your main choices:

Fiber Content

  • Cotton: It's the most common sheet fiber because it's soft, durable and natural.
  • Polyester: While this synthetic won't feel as luxe as cotton, it's affordable, shrink-resistant and smooth. You can also find cotton and polyester blends to get benefits from both.
  • Rayon: Also known by "viscose" or "lyocell" depending on how its made, these fibers are chemically processed from plants. They stand out for feeling incredibly soft.
  • Linen: Airy and crisp with a relaxed look and feel, this natural material is mostly used in the summer. Hemp sheets are very similar to linen and are also gaining popularity.
  • Silk: It's pricey and delicate, but it's incredibly smooth and naturally temperature regulating.

    Construction

    • Percale: A basic weave that feels breathable and crisp.
    • Sateen: A satin weave that's soft and smooth.
    • Flannel: Fabric that's brushed to trap in air, making it feel warm and cozy.
    • Jersey: Knit material that's more stretchy, like a T-shirt.
    • Microfiber: Tiny polyester fibers that feel buttery soft, though sometimes flimsy compared to others.

      Help! Is there an easy way to fold a fitted sheet?

      Yes! Forget rolling your sheet into a crumpled ball; our simple fitted sheet-folding method will have you folding it in under a minute:

      1. Place your hands in the corners with the long side of the sheet going across your body and the top side of the fabric facing you.
      2. Take one corner in your hand and tuck it into the other. Repeat the tuck on the opposite side. Now your sheet is folded in half.
      3. Repeat the tuck one more time so that all four corners are now folded into each other.
      4. Lay the sheet on a flat surface like a table, countertop, or bed. You should see a C-shape in the fabric.
      5. Fold in thirds from outside in, smoothing the fabric as you go. Fold in thirds again from the other direction. Flip it over, and you're done!

        How can I find the most comfortable pillow?

        It all comes down to your body type, sleep position and your personal preferences for materials. The easiest way to decide is to shop by pillow fill and height:

        Fill Materials

        • Down: These come from the undercoat of ducks and geese and tend to be the fluffiest choice. They're often pricey, but a blend of down and feather may be firmer and less expensive.
        • Down alternative: They're typically made with synthetic fibers so they're animal-free and more affordable, yet can still feel soft and provide support.
        • Memory foam: Often firmer and more supportive than fiberfills, these pillows come in both solid foam or foam clusters, which feel more plush.
        • Latex: Made from rubber trees, these fills feel similar to memory foam, but have more bounce with less contouring.
        • Hybrid: Similar to how hybrid mattresses combine the benefits of two materials, these pillows blend foam and fiberfill to feel supportive yet plush.

          Pillow Height

          • Sleep position: Side sleepers need a taller pillow to keep their spine aligned, while stomach sleepers need a lower height. Back sleepers can opt for something in between.
          • Body type: To avoid having your head and neck tilt in any direction, larger frames should use a higher pillow whereas smaller bodies need their pillows to be flatter.


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            DANIELLE OCCHIOGROSSO DALY

            Which is better: A comforter or a duvet?

            For the bed you sleep on daily, I recommend a duvet and a duvet cover. The terms "comforter" and "duvet" are often used interchangeably, but in the long run it's easiest to use one with an outer cover that gets removed and washed on laundry day instead of cleaning the entire comforter on a regular basis. Plus, decorative comforters tend to be more style-driven, whereas duvet inserts are focused on quality construction and offer more choices for fill materials and warmth levels.

            Is there a difference between a mattress topper, pad and protector?

            Yes, and they each serve a distinct purpose. Mattress toppers are usually several inches thick and are used to make your bed more comfortable by adding firm support or pillowtop softness. Mattress pads aren't as thick and won't offer quite as much comfort, but they're less expensive and can help protect your mattress from stains or spills. Mattress protectors are solely there to keep your mattress safe from things like spills, dust, bedbugs and even wear and tear.

            Does cooling bedding really work?

            Your bedding can't magically stop your night sweats, and we've found that some brands go way overboard with their claims, especially ones that promise they can keep you cool all night. That being said, the right technology can help regulate your body temperature and prevent overheating.

            For the strongest effect, look for phase-change technology, gel or metal particles in bedding that can pull your body heat away from you. Also consider breathable or moisture-wicking fabrics to pull away sweat and keep you dry. Lastly, some materials have a cool-to-the-touch feel for an instant chilling effect, though these likely won't stay cool for long periods.

            Is it worth shopping for organic bedding?

            Yes. Though options are limited, organic bedding is a great choice if you're concerned about the materials for both your home and the environment. And while it's typically more expensive, we've found that the quality is top notch and you don't have to sacrifice performance by going green.

            It's important to note, however, that not all bedding that claims to be organic actually is. Some may use just a small component of organic materials — e.g., an organic cover over a synthetic mattress or pillow — while others may only use an organic resource as the raw material, which then gets chemically processed. Look for legitimate certifications like the Global Organic Textiles Standard (GOTS) and Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) to make sure the bedding follows standards throughout the entire production process.

            How often should I buy new bedding?

            There's no expiration date when it comes to bedding. Instead of following a strict timeline, look for visual warning signs or comfort red flags to know when it's time to replace the items on your bed. Here's how long you can expect your bedding to last, along with how to tell when it's time to let them go:

            • Mattresses can last 8 to 10 years. Replace yours when it's lumpy or you can see indents from where you sleep. If you wake up in pain or if you sleep better on another mattress (like in a hotel or someone else's home), it's a good indicator that your mattress isn't working well for you.
            • Sheets should last at least 2 to 3 years. Replace them when they're ripped, frayed, worn out, pilled or rough. The better you care for your sheets, the longer they'll last. Our Cleaning Lab recommends washing them every week, or every other week at least.
            • Pillows typically last up to 2 years. A good way to tell when it's no longer supportive is by folding it in half and placing a heavy object on top, like a book. When you take the weight off, it should immediately bounce back to shape. (Just note that this method won't work on solid foam.) You also want to make sure that your pillow is keeping your head, neck and spine aligned without tilting in any direction.