The Great Bedding Debate: Do You Really Need a Top Sheet?

It's time to put the controversy to rest.

Some people appreciate the top sheet as a layer of bedding that keeps their duvet cover clean, while others see it as an unnecessary expense that just ends up tangled at the end of the bed. The choice of top sheet or no top sheet may seem inconsequential. (I mean, don't we have more important topics to discuss?) But, we quickly learned that people have strong opinions on this matter. To find out if there really is a "right way" to make the bed, we dug into the little-known history of bed linens and asked some bedding experts for their stance on the issue.

For traditional European-style bedding, a duvet and a fitted bottom sheet are all a well-made bed needs, while American-style bedding adds a flat sheet (the "top sheet") in between. At one time, all sheets were flat sheets, which people simply wrapped around a mattress. In 1959, Bertha Berman patented a design for a fitted sheet with elastic pockets that tucked around the edges of the mattress. Berman's design took off and can now be found on beds around the world.

Traditionally, a duvet is the preferred topper when only a fitted sheet is used, because the cover can be easily washed. You can sleep under harder-to-clean bedding like blankets and comforters when a top sheet is added, because the middle sheet serves as a hygienic buffer. Ultimately, the decision comes down to personal preference, what you're used to, and how often you're willing to wash your bedding.

Still curious how experts in the bedding and design world feel about the matter? We reached out to a few key players to find out.

You May Be Too Low-Maintenance for a Top Sheet

"I love a top-sheet visually, but typically find them kicked to the bottom of the bed or strangling ankles. It's like decorative pillows on the bed—they look pretty, but ultimately I'm too lazy and low-maintenance to deal with making the bed, so they cause me more stress than comfort."Emily Henderson, interior designer, and stylist. Check out her beautiful L.A. home to see her stunning, laid-back style in action.

Your Partner Could Influence the Decision

"I run hot and my husband is always shivering, swathed in cashmere socks with a hot water bottle nearby. We need a top sheet to help us regulate our temperature disparities. I can be burning up under just the top sheet while he's arctic under every blanket in the house. This way, we're both equally miserable!"—Jonathan Adler, potter, designer, and author

Why Pay for Something You Don’t Want?

"At Parachute, we consider the top sheet a personal option—there for the taking, but only if you want it. And I personally don't. It feels like an unnecessary extra layer, and when I sleep with a top sheet, it usually ends up tangled at the foot of my bed! Because 40 percent of Americans sleep without a top sheet, we offer this item separate from our sheet sets. Why pay for something you might not use?"—Ariel Kaye, founder and CEO of Parachute. The home brand is known for its modern bedding (pictured above), and its percale, sateen, and linen sheet sets all come sans top sheet.

Your Choice May Change With the Seasons

"There's no right and wrong when it comes to the top sheet—it's just a matter of preference! Top sheets can be especially nice in the summertime when you want to use a light blanket and top sheet combination instead of a comforter or duvet cover, but in the winter, you may opt out of using the top sheet all together! People have all kinds of preferences when it comes to their sleep, so we try to accommodate whatever they may be."—Vicki Fulop, co-founder and CCO of Brooklinen. If you're deciding to ditch the top sheet, choose a Starter Sheet Set ($95) that comes with two pillowcases and a fitted sheet, or if you're pro-top sheet, opt for the Classic Core Sheet Set ($129).

It Defeats the Point of a Duvet

"A duvet floats over your body. A top sheet ruins the lightness of the duvet if you tuck it in, or it drapes messily over the bed if you don't. Either way, it complicates bed-making, which could otherwise be as simple as standing at the foot of the bed and flicking the duvet back into place. The final insult is waking in the night with the sheet wound around your legs. A top sheet is necessary with blankets, and fine by itself on hot nights (though I prefer a summer cover) but downright counterproductive with a European-style, loose-covered duvet."—Tricia Rose, founder of Rough Linen

Sometimes It’s Extra-Cozy

"We both love a top sheet! It's part of the multi-layer approach that we have for everything and there is nothing like getting into a well-made bed that has all the necessary parts to make it a cozy retreat at day's end."—Tami Ramsay and Krista Nye Nicholas, principal interior designers at Cloth & Kind Interiors

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