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Do You Need A Top Sheet For Your Bed?

Everything you need to know about top sheets, so you can decide if you need one.

You might think that, given how easy it is to wash your bedsheets properly, your duvet is pretty much safe from harm when it comes to dirt and stains. But unless you’re willing to lump your duvet cover in with your actual wash each week, it can get very dirty very quickly.

Fortunately, there is a way to make sure your duvet is protected while also providing you with an added level of comfort – getting hold of a high-quality top sheet perfectly fitted to your bed!

But if you’ve never bought this sort of bedding before, don’t worry, we’ll walk you through exactly what a top sheet is, the benefits of a top sheet, and compare using a top sheet vs duvet covers on your bed.

Image of a messy white bed with sunlight coming through a window.

What is a top sheet?

First things first, let’s define what a top sheet is, and how it differs from other kinds of duvet protection or mattress toppers.

Essentially, a top sheet (also called a flat sheet) is a sheet that goes between you and the duvet or blankets you’re sleeping with. Its purpose is to keep your covers from touching your body as you sleep, ensuring they stay cleaner for longer.

Top sheets usually come as part of a set of bedding, which is typically why you see them in hotels. In the average bedding pack, you can expect to get one flat sheet alongside a bottom or fitted sheet and one or two pillowcases.

You can buy top sheets individually as well, and they’re not restricted to any one size of bed. From single mattresses to double mattresses and king-sized beds, there are top sheets to suit all bed sizes.

What are top sheets made from?

In most cases, high-quality top sheets can be made out of almost any material, from brushed cotton that’s warm in the winter, to cool, fresh linen, and even luxurious Egyptian cotton that’s cool and comfortable in the summer.

Generally speaking, it’s always a good idea to have ‘seasonal’ sets of bedding to suit the change in temperatures throughout the year, ensuring you can sleep comfortably each and every night.

When should you use a top sheet?

So, now you know what a top sheet is, when should you be using one? The simple answer is that it’s entirely up to you whether you use one or not. If sleeping with just a duvet is more comfortable, then you can just store your top sheet away in case you need it later.

However, there are a few advantages that come with using a top sheet regularly:

The benefits of a top sheet

When it comes to the benefits of a top sheet vs a duvet cover, the core reason to use this sort of bedding is to keep your duvet covers cleaner for longer. Humans sweat and shed a lot in bed, as the following stats show:

  • The average person perspires around 26 gallons (yes, gallons!) of sweat into their sheets every year, hence why regular washing is essential.
  • The average person is constantly shedding dead skin cells every night, which will build up over time and can be a key trigger for allergies.

In other words, if you’re not using a top sheet, you’re going to be sleeping in a lot of grime. But there are more advantages besides cleanliness to using a top sheet vs duvet covers on their own, such as:

  • Washing a top sheet every week is a lot easier than washing your duvet cover
  • A top sheet gives you an extra layer of warmth in the winter
  • Top sheets can be used on their own on hot nights in the summer for a cooler sleeping experience
  • This additional sheet gives you an extra layer of softness between you and your duvet, minimising potential irritation

At the end of the day, you can’t really go wrong by including a top sheet in your bedding arrangements! Top sheets are often used in hotels, as we've mentioned, so using one can make your own bed have that hotel-style luxury feeling.

Are there any drawbacks to using a top sheet?

While there is a lot to love about using a top sheet in your bed, there are a couple of downsides that are worth being aware of before you go bedding shopping.

Some reasons not to use a top sheet are:

  • Making additional washing for yourself on laundry day
  • Needing to remember an extra step when making your bed
  • Accidental heat-trapping in summer, which may actually make you sweat more if you decide to use a top sheet with your duvet

As you can see, these sorts of problems are pretty minor, and avoidable when planned around. But if you want to avoid any additional faff when changing your bedding, then a top sheet may not be for you and you should just stick to a duvet.

Close up of female hands fixing a white bed sheet.

Is it worth getting a top sheet?

So, now that we’ve covered most of what you need to know about top sheets, that just leaves one simple question – are they worth it?

It really is up to you whether you use a top sheet or if you keep it as a spare ‘bottom sheet’ to use directly on top of your mattress. And if you don’t want to use a top sheet, there are other protective bedding items you can choose from:

Mattress toppers

As their name suggests, mattress toppers sit on the top of your mattress, giving you an additional layer of comfort and softness to relax into. They’re ideal if you want to prolong the lifespan of a mattress or need a little additional cushioning on top of a firm mattress.

Much like a top sheet, they can easily be washed, and they also hold heat incredibly well, giving you that warm, snuggly sensation when the weather’s colder and you just want to snuggle up in bed with a good book or film. If you prefer a cold bed, you can opt for a cooling mattress topper instead.

Mattress protectors

If a mattress topper is a little thick for you, then a mattress protector is certainly a great alternative. These are thinner than toppers and are just as easy to wash.

Like all good bedding, they’re usually made from natural materials, such as cotton, so they feel cool and fresh, and they even come in anti-allergy ranges, which are ideal if you find allergies or respiratory conditions interrupt your sleep!

Treat your bed to some new bedding

At the end of the day, if you've been enjoying your bed just fine with a duvet cover and no top sheet, then there's no need to rush out and buy one. In the summer, you can simply swap for a thinner, lower tog duvet that allows air to pass through and cool you down. If you are interested in a top sheet or other bedding items, take a look at our huge range of bed products.

For more helpful guides like this one, browse our Buying Guides section for information on cooling bedding for hot sleepers, the best mattresses for heavy people, and more!