Flat Sheets vs Fitted Sheets - What's the Difference?

Flat Sheets vs Fitted Sheets - What's the Difference?

It might be a surprise to you to find out that there is a debate raging on whether it is best to use a fitted sheet, or to just use a flat one. If you’ve even had this debate, wondered about it – or are just hearing about this for the first time – read on to find out the pros and cons of each type of bedding, and to know which is the best one for you.

What are Flat Sheets and Fitted Sheets?

Flat sheets are a rectangular shape, finished at the edges, but without any kind of elastic or three-dimensional shape to them. Fitted sheets, on the other hand, have corners sewn into them and most often have elastic sewn in on two or four sides as well. This additional structure allows them to wrap around a mattress, covering it in the same way a car cover, or grill cover works.

Why would you choose each type?

Fitted sheets are usually used as a cover for the mattress, and the sleeper gets into bed on top of the fitted sheets.

Some people just use a flat sheet for this, folding it under the mattress to keep it in place for the night (this often has to be redone each day, as a flat sheet used in this way shifts and comes loose in the night).

Some use a fitted sheet for the under layer, and add a flat sheet overtop, between the sleeper and the duvet or blanket used for warmth.

So how do you decide?

There are several parts to this debate. For those who don’t like fitted sheets at all, it usually comes down to the fact that they are difficult to fold, and so they add additional work and look untidy in a linen cupboard or stack. No one debates that they fit and look great once on the mattress though.

For those who prefer to use the fitted sheet without the flat sheet (also called the top sheet), the argument centres around the flat sheet being an extra. Since duvet covers protect the duvet itself, there is no need for this additional sheet, it’s just more work and cost.

Those who prefer both fitted and flat sheets think otherwise. They maintain that the additional sheet makes the bed more comfortable and inviting, and that it protects the cleanliness of the duvet cover. Since a flat sheet is much easier to clean than a duvet cover, it is actually less work, as the duvet cover need not be laundered as often as it would without a flat sheet to keep it clean.

The bottom line is that it is up to you. Cooler sleepers might prefer the additional layer of the flat sheet (perfect for the winter); hotter sleepers might prefer to leave it out (especially in the summer), or might appreciate the option to wash the sweat off of it more often and more easily than repeatedly changing the duvet cover!

In the end, it is up to your personal choice.

How to Shop for Flat or Fitted Bed Sheets

Once you’ve decided which position in the debate is your position, it’s time to choose the right sheets. Here are a few tips – for both fitted and flat sheets – to help you get the items that are right for you.

The first consideration for fitted sheets is that you get the correct size.

Unlike flat sheets, that can be folded under and are adaptable to a bed size that is smaller (or even very slightly larger) than they were designed for, fitted sheets much fit exactly, or they will come off, have uncomfortable folds under you while you sleep, and they will look very untidy.

Part of this correct measurement is the depth of the sheet design. The length and width of the fitted sheet will be standard (single, double, king, super king) and then it will have a measurement for how thick a mattress it is designed to cover. If you use a mattress cover, pillow-top, or other additional layer over your mattress, take these into account as well.

For flat sheets, simply choose the size that matches your bed size. Some people prefer a size larger than the bed, for additional length on the borders or to cover a thick (tall) mattress – these can always be tucked in when the bed is made.

Once you’ve determined the size you need, it comes down to the quality you can afford. Your skin will come into contact with both the fitted and the top sheet, so buying a good quality sheet set will ensure the best sleep.

100% cotton is a great choice, and choosing a high thread count like our 400 thread count sheets adds to this. Linen is also a good choice, but read up on it a bit to make sure it is right for you, before spending the extra money. We recommend you avoid synthetic materials for sheets, as they do not breathe well and are not as comfortable.

As for colour, white and cream are excellent choices because they can be easily matched with many different colours in your room and bedding accents. If you do want a brighter colour for your sheets, we recommend buying sets, from the same manufacturer, as you are most likely to get good colour matches that way – one manufacturer’s ‘navy blue’ will not be quite the same as another’s.