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How To Choose The Best Type of Bedding for your Bed

Choose the right bed linen with our bedding buying guide

Linda Holmes
By Linda Holmes, Interiors Director

The condition of our bedrooms and, most importantly our beds and bed linen, is a major contributor to the quality of sleep we get each night.

Studies show that bedmakers are happier, more productive, stick to budgets and have a more restful sleep than non-bedmakers (you know who you are). There are even sleep doctors whose sole purpose it is to teach us this basic principle.

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Talk to any interior designer and they’ll tell you the same thing – no expense should be spared when it comes to choosing a bed and bed linens. It’s the equivalent of dressing yourself in ill-fitting, scratchy or worn-out clothing for around 8 hours a day and expecting to be on top form. An unlikely scenario.

That being said, the world of bedding is pretty vast and replete with so much terminology and jargon that it can be slightly confusing to the untrained among us.

If you’ve ever found yourself perplexed by understand what exactly thread count means or what the best types of materials for bed sheets are, read on—our resident expert Sue Smart is on hand to banish the question marks.

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1. How To Choose The Right Duvet & Pillows For Your Bedding

Before you start with the more luxurious bed linens and accessories, think about the foundations of your bed. A bed is not a bed without a cloud-like duvet (and by cloud-like we mean those fluffy cotton wool types) or some perfectly suited pillows. “After about 10 years use, your duvet may need replacing,” advises Sue, a one-time Harrods buyer for over 30 years. “Select a duvet suitable for your bedroom. Think about if it is heated, etc. and how warm or cold you and your partner feel in bed.”

For duvets, one of the most important characteristics is its tog rating. If you are wondering what tog rating means, this is a measure of warmth and will ensure that you enjoy sleep at the optimum temperature for the season. For summer, use a 2.5 to 4.5 tog; spring, autumn and general use, use a 9 to 10 tog; and for winter, a 12 to 13.5 tog. All season duvets are the ideal scenario, Sue tells us, with “two duvets (of light and medium weights) which can used separately during spring, summer and autumn and then buttoned together to make a very warm one for winter.”

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Duvet construction and casing are two other factors which are important to consider. Quilting and baffle walls (walls of fabric which create separate chambers in the duvet) are the best way to retain the duvet shape and heat whilst “a high-quality, down-proof casing will improve the weight and handle (feel) of the duvet.”

Pillows should be soft enough to be comfortable but firm enough to give the appropriate support to your head, neck and shoulders. A test to know if it’s time to replace your pillow is to place it over your arm—if it droops, it’s time for a new one.

Your choice of pillow filling will be determined by personal preferences, of course, but we know expert advice when we hear it. Sue claims that “down fillings are the lightest and most comfortable duvets to sleep under”, but if you’re in the market for something a little more sensitive, Gingerlily’s silk duvets are hypoallergenic. For the finest down duvets, turn your thoughts to our cooler cousins in Poland and Hungary or (for the very best) Iceland for its Eider down—“a rare raw material, difficult to collect and that needs lots of TLC to process it.”

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2. How To Choose The Best Thread Count For Your Bedding

It might be second on the list but thread count is probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about bedding. Truth be told though, most of us probably don’t know why we should be so preoccupied with it in the first place or why higher is apparently better. So what does thread count mean in regards to bed linen?

“Thread count measures the fineness of the fabric by counting the number of threads per square inch,” Sue explains, “It’s often used as a measure of quality but it can be misleading as high thread counts can include twisted threads of double yarn.” Got it. And what’s percale then? “Percale’s simply a fabric with a thread count generally over 180 threads per square inch.” Ok, this is getting easier.

Sue reveals that “the quality of the bed linen will depend on the fineness of the yarn as well as the quality of the weaving and finishing processes.” As always, it’s more about quality than quantity.

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3. How To Choose The Best Material For Bed Sheets

Most bed linen materials usually fall within the categories of cotton, silk or linen and, luckily, Sue tells us that “all are natural fibres which are breathable, thus helping to regulate body temperature.” But they do have specific functions which can be decided by your personal preference.

The classic, freshly-made bed material is undoubtedly one dressed in a cloud of pure cotton sheets. And not just any cotton, of course. “Egyptian cotton is one of the finest,” Sue reveals, “Being made from a long staple fibre, it gives a smooth, crisp finish.”

If you want super glossy hair and hydrated skin—meaning less wrinkles (and, honestly, who doesn’t?)—then opt for bedding made of a silk material. The protein-infused structure of the silk strands in this bedding material is naturally equipped to tame locks and keep moisture close to the skin resulting in an improved morning face and less sightly bed head. And don’t worry if you’re not a fan of the glossy finish—as with most bedding, silk-filled pillows and duvets also come with cotton material covers.

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For fans of the relaxed, lived-in look most commonly see in breezy beach-side villas, pure linen would be the best bedding material to choose. Don’t be nervous—it’s less upkeep than you’d think. Sue explains, "As with wearing a linen material, you just need to accept a less ironed look, but after several washings it will get softer and softer and feel wonderful.”

As for satin and sateen materials—“two fabrics characterised by a glossy, smooth surface”—they are not one and the same. “Generally a fabric is called satin if it’s made of silk, or sateen if it’s made of cotton,” Sue informs.

It might seem like a lot to take in but, trust us, it’s worth it. They say you’ve got to make your bed and lie in it so now that we’ve sorted our downs from our togs, we don’t mind if we do!