What is a Flat Sheet / Top Sheet and What is it Used for?

Posted by Minh Ha on

What Is A Flat Sheet In A Sheet Set? 

Before discussing what are flat bed sheets for, we must understand their concepts in the first place. 

Flat sheets (also called "top sheets") have no elastic material on the edges. They serve as the extra layers between the comforter / duvet cover and your body. 

People often put it at the top of their fitted sheets during bed-making. It would help if you used hospital corners to keep the sheets firm in their spots - without slipping or getting tangled.

It's feasible to purchase these items individually; however, in most cases, they often come included in a bedding set (which also feature shams, pillow cases, and bottom sheets). 

One interesting fact: top sheets thrive best among old sleepers. Younger ones, on the other hand, often forgo them altogether. European customers also avoid them for unknown reasons.

Whether to use them or not has still been a heated debate in certain areas. To assist you in your final decisions, we are delighted to present some of their notable benefits in the next section.

What Is A Top Sheet ? 

A top sheet is an oversized flat sheet that rests between you and your blanket or comforter while you sleep. Its primary purpose is hygienic, protecting the duvet from the dirt and bacteria our bodies shed during the night. A top sheet keeps the blanket clean longer, so you don’t have to wash it as often as you do your bedsheets. With fewer washings, your insulating layer will last longer.

Hot sleepers and those who live in warmer climates often use a top bed sheet as their only upper bedding layer. Top sheets also provide an extra soft layer between a sleeper and their duvet cover.

Top sheets come in many fabrics such as cotton, percale, sateen, linen or a blend of multiple materials. Materials are a key consideration when choosing top sheets, especially if you plan on using them only seasonally. 

Linen is light, airy and breathable, making it a staple in summer design. A linen top sheet can be the perfect bedlinen cover choice during warmer months. Percale top sheets, on the other hand, are thicker, so if you need an extra layer in the winter, percale makes an excellent addition to your bed-making routine. If you prefer a year-round option, brushed cotton is your best bet.

What are the Pros and Cons of Sleeping With a Top Sheet?

There are several benefits to sleeping with top sheets — or keeping a few in your bed linen closet to use occasionally.

First, top sheets regulate temperature. When sleeping with a duvet is too much in the summer, a single top sheet provides a breathable cover without trapping heat or moisture. In fact, it can let air circulate, keeping you cool and refreshed during the night. That’s why some people prefer to sleep with top sheets only.

In the winter, if you need an extra-cozy layer, adding a comforter atop the sheet creates an air-trapping effect to keep you toastier.

Another benefit to top sheets is preventing bacteria and fungi from building up on your comforter or blanket over time. The human body sheds millions of dead skin cells every night that end up in our bed linen. That’s where a top sheet can be helpful. It protects bulkier bedding from accumulating dirt and other contaminants inside. These items are costly and more difficult to clean. So by keeping them clean, you save both time and money. 

If your duvet cover is made from a material that feels less-than-comfy against your skin, a soft top sheet will keep you cozy all night long.

Finally, a top sheet will prolong the life of your duvet cover, which tends to be a costly piece of bedding. So by investing in a high-quality top sheet, you’ll save the money and time that typically go into choosing a new duvet cover.

On the flip side, sleeping with a top sheet gives you an extra layer of bedding to make and style in the morning, which can be inconvenient. It also means you have to invest time and money into purchasing quality top sheets. If you do decide to opt in to having a top sheet, you’ll want to wash and dry your sheets every four to seven days. 

What are the Pros and Cons of Sleeping Without a Top Sheet?

Detractors of top sheets claim this bed linen item is no longer serving a meaningful purpose. Their main argument is that top sheets never stay put and usually end up tangled or crumpled at the foot of the bed. Because of that, the sheets don’t really protect the duvet cover. Instead, they slow you down in the morning when you have to make the bed. In this context, opting out of a top sheet can provide a more convenient and streamlined bed-making process.

Unraveling the inevitably tangled fabric from the foot of the bed seems so unnecessary when you could just pull forward the duvet and be out the door.

Another benefit to ditching the top sheet is that it can encourage you to clean and care better for your duvet cover and blankets. In a way, it serves as motivation to wash your top-of-bed layers more often. 

However, not using a top sheet in a guest bedroom is a different story. If you host many people, your mattress and bedding need to be cared for more often. That takes time, especially when it comes to bulkier top-of-bedding layers. That’s why keeping a few top sheets in your guest room is a good idea. It also makes you a better host, since your guests may feel more comfortable sleeping with a top sheet.

Another reason not to use a top sheet is if you love the feel of your duvet. If you’ve invested in a soft cotton duvet cover, you may not see a lot of benefit to adding extra bedding that prevents you from experiencing its coziness.

And finally, if you live in a place with a mild climate, an extra bedding item can make the difference between a good night’s sleep and a restless night of sweating — or trying to untangle and adjust the top sheet.

Top Sheet vs Flat Sheet

So what’s the difference between the different types of flat sheets that go on your bed? We usually refer to a bottom sheet as a “flat sheet.” This is the bedsheet that you sleep on and that covers the mattress or the mattress topper. Its purpose is to protect the mattress. There are two types of bottom sheets — a flat sheet and a fitted sheet. The former is a simple oversized bed sheet that you tuck under the mattress. The latter has an elastic hemline that envelops the mattress, preventing the sheet from coming off during the night.

A top sheet covers the sleepers legs and torso, and its main purpose is to protect your duvet or blanket. There is also a type of top sheet that’s a hybrid between a fitted sheet and a regular flat sheet. It’s essentially a semi-fitted top sheet that has elastic bands on one end only. That part should be tucked at the foot of the bed to prevent the top sheet from slipping or moving during the night. It’s convenient and keeps the bed looking neat, with no undone edges showing at the sides.

Each one of these bed sheets serves a specific purpose. Their design, material and size may vary, so you shouldn’t really use only a top sheet when you make your bed.

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