Cooling Sheets Buying Guide
One of the easiest bedding upgrades a person can make is new sheets, especially when you have heat issues. Overheating and night sweats are some of the most common issues causing restlessness in adults, and a set of cooling sheets can make a big difference.
But, finding the best sheets can feel like a quest for the holy grail: futile and exhausting. Researching reviews and product information, navigating multiple methods of purchase, and conquering the dreaded debate over Egyptian Cotton and thread count can become a personal Odyssey.
Luckily we're here to help you through this process. We have broken down the raw materials, construction, and technology that goes into the best cooling sheets. Skip to the end of each section to view our recommendations for the best cooling sheets.
Picking the right material for your sheets can be difficult, because there are so many. Below we will delve into the properties of some of the most common raw materials and fibers used in sheets, then we will present our raw material recommendations for the best cooling sheets.
Each fiber type is quite different in terms of performance, durability, comfort, appearance and creation. While this list is thorough it is not exhaustive; therefore, some fibers that aren’t mentioned in this guide are occasionally used in the construction of bed sheets.
Cotton is a natural seed fiber that is the most abundantly used apparel and bedding fiber in the world. Its implementation in fabric has been refined over the centuries and is now used in conjunction with many other fibers to take advantage of the properties of emerging technologies while maintaining the appearance, comfort and performance that cotton provides.
High quality cotton sheets tend to be the go-to bedding upgrade when hot sleep has become a problem. And for good reason. The variety of weaves and manufacturing methods available for this fiber make it an extremely versatile raw material, and its breathability, moisture retention, and durability solidify its position as an obvious choice when it comes to bedding.
Silk is a natural protein fiber harvested from the cocoons of silk worms. Silk is known for it’s beautiful luster, extreme durability, and luxuriously smooth feel. Because silk is a poor conductor of heat, thicker silk fabrics are known to be comfortably warm in the winter, while a thinner weight can be comfortable in hot conditions. While it does have a high absorbency rating, it is not quite as absorbent as a cellulose fiber such as cotton. Silk sheets are considered a luxury fabric mainly because of their high cost, beauty, and comfort.
Polyester is a purely synthetic fiber created through a chemical process that produces a very uniform texture and consistency. The production of polyester is not exactly eco-friendly, which can be a deterrent to its use. It is extremely durable and resists wrinkling in a variety of circumstances. Breathability and water absorption is very poor for this material, making it uncomfortable in hot or humid circumstances. Despite its drawbacks, polyester is sometimes used in conjunction with other fibers in order to increase durability and appearance.
Viscose is in a class of it’s own. This fiber is something called a manufactured regenerated fiber. Viscose fiber was originally just Rayon, but over the past century (since its inception and use in textiles) other forms of regenerated fiber have been created and the term Viscose was used to encapsulate many of them. Rayon, Lyocell, and Modal are all commonly used Viscose fibers. Often, goods that contain these fibers simply label the fabric as Viscose.
For the most part, the different forms of Viscose only differ in the way they are made. They are all highly absorbent, low heat retaining, and comfortable. Some manufacturers may claim that their patented processes help their fiber or fabric be softer or more durable, but often these are just marketing ploys to sway customers. Either way, many cooling sheets often use Viscose fabrics because of their comfort level.
Bamboo is a tricky one. There is such a thing as fabric which uses bamboo bast fiber like you would with hemp or jute in linen fabric. That said, those fabrics are not soft and not ideal for cooling sheets.
The vast majority of bamboo bedding products on the market in the past decade are actually Viscose (generally lyocell) fiber fabrics that use bamboo pulp as its cellulose source. Several studies have been conducted to evaluate the claims that bamboo viscose is more antimicrobial, anti-odor, and softer than other viscose fibers, all of which have discovered no conclusive evidence supporting these statements.
Furthermore, it seems that the main reason bamboo is used in these forms of lyocell is the fact that bamboo grows extremely quickly and extremely densely, making farming of this raw material extremely inexpensive.
In the end… Bamboo Sheets = Viscose
Natural vs. Synthetic
Fibers used in textile manufacturing do not simply fall under the labels of synthetic or natural. There are many different kinds of fibers with many different uses and production methods, two of which are natural and synthetic.
Natural cellulosic fibers can be found in varieties such as seed fibers (cotton), bast fibers (hemp), and leaf fibers (abaca), while natural protein fibers are often divided into varieties of wool and silk. Often these raw materials are simply thought of as “natural” and therefore better than synthetic fibers such as nylon, polyester or acrylic, but some fibers don’t quite fit into either of these categories.
Manufactured regenerated fibers are in a category of their own, because they originate from a natural fiber source but are then refined using chemical processes. These regenerated fibers essentially begin as a natural source of cellulose (such as wood pulp) and are broken down through chemical processing. Once broken down into pure viscous (liquefied) cellulose, this material is then forced through spinnerets (think shower head) or spun using a wet-spinning or solvent spinning process. The name most of the public is familiar with for these fibers is Rayon or Viscose.
"Unless you keep your thermostat at the same temperature as your refrigerator, forget silk and synthetic bed sheets. They might look and feel luxurious, but will leave you feeling overheated and sticky."
- Our friends at SleepAddicts.com
We recommend looking for sheets with a blend of cotton and viscose. This will not only enhance the feel and appearance of your cooling sheets, but also the performance. In terms of breathability and the capability of it to utilize cooling technologies such as Outlast®, cotton and viscose blends make the best cooling sheets.
Check out the Essential Sheet Set for this exact combination.
Outside of creating the fiber itself, many processes can go into constructing the fabric used for sheets. For a consumer, one of the most important parts to understand is the weave. The way a fiber is woven can change the properties of the fabric drastically, and as such should be paid close attention.
Percale fabric is the standard plain weave for most inexpensive sheets. It breathes well, holds up over time and multiple washes, and has a crisp, cool feeling against the skin. The most common sheet type is 100% cotton percale weave sheets.
Sateen fabric is a bit more luxurious. It has a very smooth and cool feeling on skin, but can be prone to pilling and losing its softness and color. Sateen doesn’t breathe quite as well as Percale, but it’s softness and cool feel make it a top choice for cooling sheets.
Jersey Knit fabric is often likened to T-Shirts. This knit fabric has got the same softness and pliability as a soft t-shirt, making it a popular choice for college dorms. Pilling and damage can easily occur in a thin jersey knit, and they are not the best at wicking sweat and heat away from the body.
Satin fabric should not be confused with Sateen as they have a slightly different look and feel. Satin is generally made using synthetic fibers, and the close weave of these fibers makes the fabric look very lustrous and feel extremely smooth and sometimes even slick. Satin weaves are prone to snagging and are not breathable. Stay away if you are looking for the best cooling sheets.
Many people have heard that, when shopping for sheets, the higher the thread-count, the better. This is both true and false. Thread-count of a fabric is calculated by adding up the number of vertical and horizontal yarns (threads) woven together in a square inch of fabric. While this may seem straight forward, it’s important to note that companies have been falsifying these numbers for decades.
Basically a company will take several low-quality fiber threads and braid or twist them together into a single thread then weave them together like normal. Not only does this method decrease breathability and durability of the fabric, it allows the manufacturer to claim each strand in the yarn as a thread. In the end, what is actually a 250 thread-count sheet can be labeled as 750 thread-count.
What you should actually be looking for are sheets made of single-ply yarns of a high quality fiber. This will make the thread-count lower, but the fabric will be much higher quality. Aim for something between 300 and 450 thread-count.
Look for sheets with a sateen weave. These will give you the best performance and feel in terms of keeping you cool at night. For those who aren’t trying to impress, sateen performs just as well as the slightly more expensive damask sheets. But if you want to go high class, spring for something like this Stratus-Damask Striped Sheet Set. You won’t regret it.
When you are looking for the best possible cooling sheets you are going to want something that is more than just a thin layer of cotton. While that might be better than plastic, it’s not going to have the same effect as something with a bit of technology behind it.
Temperature Regulation Technologies
In the cooling bedding market there are really only two widely used technologies implemented to achieve heat reduction.
Temperature regulating technology implements a number of methods to help fabrics absorb and disperse heat to keep you from having to push and pull at the covers all night. Another popular technology employs the use of moisture wicking fabrics. These fabrics work by wicking moisture away from skin through the fabric itself, in order to evaporate more easily, thereby lowering body temperatures.
These technologies each have their own qualities that make them unique in the use of bedding materials.
Temperature Regulating Technology:
- Works through Thermal Conduction
- Multiple Implementations
Moisture Wicking Technology:
- Works through Evaporation
- Fiber and Weave/Knit Exclusive
Temperature regulating technology is a proactive approach compared to moisture wicking in that it works directly to absorb excess heat and pull those temperatures away from the body. Moisture wicking only cools the body once it has begun to sweat, allowing moisture to be pulled away from the skin for evaporation.
Most people want to avoid sweating through their sheets, especially those who are looking for relief from night sweats.
Moisture wicking technology achieves its wicking quality through the use of specific raw materials and weave or knit patterns, limiting the construction method and characteristics it can produce. Temperature regulating technology (like Outlast®) can be infused directly into raw fiber or yarn, making it easy to implement without limiting materials or patterns.
Temperature regulating technology is superior to moisture wicking when used in cooling sheets, because it absorbs and disperses heat while you sleep. Consider sheets with Outlast® Technology.
It’s rare that a person can examine a fabric and have the knowledge and experience to recognize its specific fiber and weave, but you can just look at the labels. If this information isn’t readily available then you will most likely want to avoid the purchase. When you are going to spend the money on the best cooling sheets you can find, this information can mean the difference between another night of restless sleep and a cool, comfortable slumber.