Does a Higher Thread Count Really Make a Difference?

Most folks don’t put a lot of thought into choosing sheets beyond what looks good or looks comfortable. Who can blame them? Between material types, thread counts, ‘patented cooling technology’, brand loyalty, and far more patterns than one would think would be available for something that goes on your bed, finding the right fit can be overwhelming.

However, one near-universal consideration when purchasing sheets is the thread count. Common wisdom goes that the higher the thread count, the better the sheets. Is that the case? Let’s take a closer look.

What Does Thread Count Mean?

Thread count, as the name would suggest, is the number of threads woven into a square inch of the fabric. Average sheet thread counts run between 200 and 500.

So, Bigger Is Better, Right?

If you’ve ever gone browsing for sheets, you’ve likely seen sheets advertising thread counts over 500 and thought that they had to be amazing quality. They have a bigger thread count, so they have to be comfier, right?

Not necessarily. For starters, thread count affects the weight of the sheet. Lower thread counts tend to sleep cooler, feel lighter and breezier. That’s helpful, especially if you sleep hot.

By contrast, the highest thread counts create denser, heavier sheets. Those will retain heat more, feel cozier. This makes them a fantastic choice for winter bedsheets but will make you miserable if you sleep hot.

Not only that; any thread counts you see over 500 have been inflated by some creative math. Creative as in “counting the multi-ply yarns, then multiplying by the ply”. AKA cheating.

Does Thread Count Matter?

So, if thread count can be fabricated, does it matter?

Yes and no. As mentioned above, the thread count of the sheet affects how warm it sleeps, which will affect your comfort levels. However, the real star player in your comfort is the material.

Some companies, like, use a polyester sateen blend for their sheets. Other companies use pure cotton, pure polyester, or a blend of the two.

Egyptian cotton tends to be the holy grail of sheet fabrics, but be wary when companies claim to use it. Deceptive marketing may be at play.

What About the Weave?

Unfortunately for consumers, sheets don’t tend to be marketed by their component materials, unless they’re claiming the Egyptian cotton moniker. You’ll see them described in terms like ‘percale’, ‘jersey knit’, ‘sateen’, and other confusing material descriptions.

These terms refer to the weave of the fabric, which can also affect your comfort levels. Common weave types include:

  • Sateen– mentioned above, sateen is a loose, satin-like weave with high softness and luster
  • Jersey knit– a comfortable blend that feels like worn T-shirt fabric
  • Percale– by far the most common sheet weave; a crisp and plain weave that’s still fairly durable
  • Combed cotton– only has the long fibers of the cotton remaining with the short ones combed out, creating softer sheets

Before You Sleep On It

Thread counts can be a helpful metric for measuring the coolness of the fabric, but they are not the be-all, end-all of sheet comfort. The material and weave play far more important roles in your sleeping comfort. Keep that in mind when you go shopping for sheets!

If you enjoyed this educational article about bedding and would like to read more home improvement content, check out our blog daily for the latest information and trends!

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