Today's bed linens have so much to offer.

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Today's sheet companies make a lot of claims, ranging from helping to achieve better skin to the ability to help you get a cooler night's rest. Despite the diverse selection on the market, most bed linens are made from cotton; the breathable material is optimal for sleeping. The many options on the market, however, can make selecting the correct brand or cotton style (from traditional linen to cotton-blend iterations, like jersey) difficult. After all, there are plenty of factors to take into consideration, may of which go beyond the conventional markers of color, size, and thread count. To help you find the best possible cotton sheets for your needs, we spoke to textile expert Leana Salamah, the Vice President of Marketing at The International Housewares Association.

neutral-colored master bedroom with wood accents
Credit: Andrea Calo

Think beyond thread count.

Surprisingly enough, Salamah notes that thread count isn't a major factor in sheet quality. "The textiles industry, and bedding specifically, is in a bit of a Renaissance. Certain features, including material and thread count, are not necessarily how you win with consumers," she explains. "You can differentiate by considering the benefits of the sheets at hand." In recent years, she adds, cotton bedding has improved drastically in terms of manufacturing, which is why there are so many wonderful contenders on the market today.

You don't have to spend a ton.

If price is your main focus, Salamah says that you can use thread count as a benchmark; it is a perfectly fine way to choose your bedding, but she adds that the average customer may not be able to notice count variations. When in doubt, she says to select a set with a mid-range thread count, which will give you the softness, durability, and high-end appearance most consumers crave. Ultimately (and thread count, aside), certain moderately-priced selections—we're partial to the Martha Stewart Collection Printed Egyptian Cotton Percale Sheets (from $23.99, macys.com)—check all the boxes, without breaking the bank.

Today's sheets pack some serious benefits.

Sheet sets have come a long way—according to Salamah, manufacturers have created iterations that offer a "cooler" sleeping environment, benefit skin, or encourage relaxation through "weighted" linens. "These are true benefits, rather than features, and manufacturers leaning on these types of messages are outpacing the rest of the industry," she says. "Moving forward, there are really fascinating advances in materials that can potentially be used in bedding—a material called Biocrystal Powder, when introduced into fabrics, creates a warming effect that enhances blood circulation and has been proven therapeutic for injuries in animals." Another up-and-coming option is called eSCENTIAL, which gives fabric a consistent fragrance (think lavender and chamomile, which are sleep-inducing scents) without being overpowering. Until these innovations hit market, don't be afraid to test out cooling, soothing, or skin-enhancing sets from lauded retailers—chances are, you'll reap their benefits thanks to existing technological advancements.

Before you buy, measure your mattress.

Mattresses have advanced alongside bed sheets—which means that buying bed linens is no longer a one-size-fits-all process. "We tend to buy sheets on good faith regarding size, because mattress sizes are supposedly standard," Salamah says, noting that conventional twin, full, queen, and king labels might now be moot. These days, it doesn't have so much to do with the length and width of your bed, but the depth. "Measure the depth of your mattress with any added pieces (like pads or toppers) and note the depth measurements in any sheet purchase," she says. At the end of the day, Salamah believes that the best way to buy your sheets is by first deciding what you want from them. "Look for benefits—how they feel, how they impact your sleep—not features (read: organic, thread count, and so on)," she says.

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