November 26, 2023 8 min read

A traditional bedding set typically comes with several components, including a fitted sheet and a flat sheet, also called a top sheet. But what is a top sheet, and what is its purpose? A top sheet goes on top of the fitted sheet to add an extra layer between you and your comforter, blanket, or duvet and duvet cover. There are several reasons why you might use this specific sheet when you sleep, and there are also some reasons why you might not. Either way, most manufacturers include a top sheet in their bedding sets, but we’re here to dive deeper into why, and what they’re used for. Read on to learn more about the top sheet or no top sheet debate and why you may or may not want to include it in your bed-making routine.

Purpose and Functionality of a Top Sheet

There are several reasons why you might want to use top sheet bedding. Here are some of the most common reasons why a top sheet on the bed is still used and included in most sheet sets today.

what is a top sheet what is the purpose of a top sheet

There are several reasons why you might want to use a top sheet on your bed. Here are some of the most common reasons why these sheets are still used and included in most sheet sets today.

Providing an additional layer of comfort

Top sheets made of soft, breathable material add another layer of comfort to your bed. This soft, thin layer might be a bit more comfortable on the skin than if you were coming into direct contact with a quilt, comforter, blanket, or duvet. Choose bed sheets made of a quality material to ensure that your top sheet is something you’ll want to continue using, especially if you have sensitive skin or allergies. The top sheet on your bed serves as a nice layer of comfort and also protects you against potentially irritating materials on the next layer.

Acting as a barrier between the sleeper and the duvet or comforter

This extra layer of fabric acts as a barrier between yourself and your comforter or duvet. The top sheet protects your body from coming into direct contact with the very top layer of your bed, which is the primary purpose of using a top sheet.

Temperature regulation and versatility

During the warmer months of the year, some people only use the top sheet in place of a heavier, bulkier comforter or blanket. This allows you to sleep much cooler and should improve your sleeping experience. Hot sleepers tend to use the top sheet alone in the summer to help them stay cool. On the other hand, in the winter, some people prefer to use the top sheet in addition to heavier blankets to help them stay warm.

Different Types of Top Sheets

Top sheet Flat Sheet

What is a top sheet on a bed? You may think that every top sheet is the same, but there are a few different types to consider when choosing the bedding option that’s right for you.

Flat top sheets

A flat top sheet goes between the fitted sheet and your outermost, very top layer of bedding. Do you need a top sheet with a duvet cover or a comforter? The choice is completely up to you in terms of which piece of bedding you want to touch your skin directly.

A flat top sheet is usually tucked into the foot of the bed and slightly into the sides under the mattress when performing your bed making routine.

Fitted top sheets

A fitted top sheet has elastic around the corners or on both ends of the sheet that fits around your bed to fit snugly over your mattress. This essential sheet is also called a bottom sheet. It’s the first part of the bed-making process, since it serves as the layer between the mattress and yourself. However, some people may also add a mattress pad or mattress cover protector that goes underneath the fitted sheet.

Top sheets with special features

Some top sheets may have additional special features, including an extra-long size if you prefer additional coverage, and it may also be called an oversized flat sheet. Other top sheets may include a blend of antimicrobial materials like small amounts of copper woven into the fabric. While they’re likely on the pricier side, they help to create another layer of protection against allergens, dust, and other airborne particles and debris.

Organic cotton top sheets

Benefits of Using a Top Sheet

Here are some of the main benefits of using top sheets when you’re pondering the great sheet debate.

Prolongs the lifespan of other bedding pieces

Comforters, duvets, and blankets are much bulkier bedding than sheets, which means they’re more time-consuming and difficult to wash. Using a top sheet means you’ll need to clean this top layer of bedding less often, which makes life easier in the long run. It’s much simpler to wash your top sheet since it’s much thinner and lighter than your top layer of bedding. Washing sheets is quicker than washing comforters or duvets because it uses less water and less laundry detergent while keeping your heavier bedding pieces cleaner for longer.

Customization and personalization

Top sheets can be sold separately from complete sheet sets to give you more control over how your bedroom looks. Consider purchasing a different, contrasting color from your fitted sheet to create a personalized aesthetic. You can also select different top sheet colors or patterns based on different seasons or your favorite style of bedroom decor. You can also purchase a top sheet based on the weather. For example, in warmer weather, choose one made of a thinner and lighter material than you’d use in the winter.

How to Properly Use and Make a Bed with a Top Sheet

Here are some tips to help you properly use and make a bed with the top sheet.

Step-by-step guide for bed-making

  • If you’re using a bed skirt, start here first. Remove the mattress from the bed frame, then add the skirt, making sure it covers all sides of your bed evenly. Once it’s in place, you can put your mattress back on top of the bed frame.
  • Add a mattress pad or protector next (if you desire), ensuring all four corners align perfectly with your mattress. Tuck the edges of the pad or cover between the mattress and box spring or bed frame to get a secure, snug fit.
  • Next, add the fitted sheet to your bed, ensuring that it’s placed correctly, then tuck all four corners under the mattress or mattress cover. Check to ensure that the corner seams match the corners of your mattress for a perfect fit.
  • The top sheet goes directly over the fitted sheet. Lay this sheet across the bed in the same orientation, ensuring there’s enough material remaining to fold underneath the end of the bed and the sides. Be sure to tuck the foot and sides of the top sheet in tightly for a crisp, smooth fit.
  • Now it’s time to add your comforter or duvet. Make sure there’s an equal amount of material on both sides, allowing some extra material to drape over the foot of the bed. You can fold the top edge of the duvet or comforter down just a bit to expose the sheets underneath, or you may leave it smooth and flat so it goes all the way to the edge of the headboard.
  • Add your pillows as the final step, placing each pillow inside of a matching pillowcase. Lay the pillows near the head of your bed, and put any decorative pillows inside shams, layering them in front of your traditional sleeping pillows.

Tucking techniques for a polished look

Try “hospital corners” to give your bed a beautiful, crisp, and polished look. First, fold the top sheet under the end of the mattress with the sides hanging loose. Next, grab part of the top sheet around two feet from the end of the bed and lift it up at a 45-degree angle. Lay this section on top of the mattress, so it makes a triangular shape at the foot of the bed. Holding this section in place, tuck the excess fabric under the mattress. Bring the triangle-shaped area down and tuck in any edges that are still hanging under the bed and mattress.

Tips for keeping the top sheet in place

The best way to keep your top sheet in place and prevent it from getting tangled is by making sure you’re using the appropriate size. Restless sleepers may want to upgrade to one size up so that there’s more material tucked under the mattress while you sleep. You can also try “sheet suspenders” that use clips and pieces of elastic to hold it in place.

Percale top sheet

Top Sheet vs. No Top Sheet Debate

So, do you prefer to use a top sheet or no top sheet on your bed? Some people like to use a top sheet, while others may prefer to have one less layer of bedding. Here are some reasons that people might choose one over the other.

Exploring the preferences of top sheet users

  • An extra layer of warmth may be preferred by cold sleepers.
  • Those with sensitive skin or allergies often love the additional layer of protection.
  • Using a top sheet helps you wash your bulkier bedding less often, saving money and time.
  • Top sheets can be customized in a variety of different colors and styles.

Why some people choose to skip the top sheet

  • Using a top sheet can cause some hot sleepers to overheat.
  • Your personal preference may come down to age. Many older people tend to prefer to use a top sheet, while younger people typically avoid using one.
  • It should cost less to purchase a single fitted sheet every time rather than buying a brand-new, complete sheet set that includes items you may not use.

Dispelling common myths and misconceptions

The main purpose of using a top sheet is to provide you with a protective barrier. Bed sheets can be a breeding ground for things like fungus and bacteria. A top sheet protects your top layer from sweat as well while making washing your bedding much easier in the long run.

Choosing the Right Top Sheet Material

Here are some tips to help you choose the right top sheet material:

  • Look for sheets crafted of eco-friendly fabrics like cotton or linen so that your top sheet is breathable, hypoallergenic, and moisture-wicking.
  • Consider which materials will keep you the warmest if you’re a cold sleeper, and which will keep you coolest if you’re a hot sleeper.
  • Shop for items made of organic and eco-friendly materials to reduce your carbon footprint while also selecting a healthier option.

Final thoughts on what is a top sheet

Keep these top sheet tips in mind to help you get a good night’s sleep. Whether you use a top sheet or not, these simple tips should make it easier to select the option that works for you. At Or & Zon, we carry a plethora of quality bedding options to enhance your life. Explore the selection from our bedding company to ensure you get the right bedding for for your sleeping needs.