How to choose the best bedding for better sleep

From mattress layers and duvet togs to sheet thread counts, creating a comfortable environment is critical for quality shut-eye

Take into account the type of sleeper you are and the temperature of the bedroom when selecting mattresses, pillows, duvets and sheets. Photo: Deconovo / Unsplash
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While you may know how to make your bed each morning, how much do you know about creating the perfect environment for the best night’s sleep?

Your mattress, bed sheets, duvet and pillows all impact the quality of your sleep. Choosing the ideal bedding means taking into account everything from the temperature of your room to the type of sleeper you are, and any joint problems or allergies you may have.

From the duvet tog system to pillow fillings, here's how to always get up on the right side of the bed.

Choosing a mattress

“Your comfort is always number one on the list, so reflect on how your current bed is treating you and what you are lacking,” says Magdalena Rejman, global training lead at bed and mattress manufacturer Hastens.

“Your sleeping position, height and weight play a role in the decision, so look for a comfort level that makes you feel 'weightless' in bed, takes away any pressure points and, at the same time, keeps your spine aligned and muscles relaxed.”

There are three main types of mattress — innerspring, hybrid and foam — and each come in variations, such as latex, polyfoam and gel-infused foam.

Innerspring is the most common mattress and is filled with steel coils that compress with body weight. The coils, too, differ, with variations such as Bonnell, encased, offset and continuous, that offer different kinds of support.

Innerspring mattresses are usually cheaper than foam options — however, they may become squeaky as they age.

Foam mattresses, specifically the popular memory foam options, are made from a type of polyurethane foam that contours around the sleeper’s body, providing extra cushioning.

Hybrid beds are an increasingly popular choice, combining foam and coils, with the coils on the bottom and layers of foam or latex on the top.

“Many people shopping for a bed only focus on firmness and price,” says Rejman. “Since we spend half of our lives sleeping and we now know that our bodies and minds repair and heal themselves during sleep, buying a mattress should be one of the most important purchases we make. Focus on materials inside the bed that will let your body breathe without overheating, which will disturb the sleep.”

Duvet decisions: from togs to microfibre

The question most people have when it comes to duvets is: what exactly is the tog rating? The tog is a measure of thermal insulation of a unit area, or basically the level of warmth it provides, so the higher the tog rating, the warmer a duvet will be.

Tog ratings range from 1.0 to 2.5 for minimal warmth, 3.0 to 4.5 for a standard summer covering, 7.5 to 10.5 for cooler months and 12.0 to 13.5 for cold winter months.

When deciding on the level of warmth you prefer, take into account the climate, as well as factors such as air conditioning and changes in season.

“Normally a change of beddings and duvets are necessary for regions that experience multiple seasons or a drastic change of climate,” says Maria Stepchenkova, regional activity leader at Al-Futtaim Ikea — UAE, Qatar, Oman and Egypt. “However, in our region, we experience a more static climate throughout the year in comparison, therefore, alternating duvets is not required.”

Duvet filling is another important aspect to consider. There are two types to choose from, natural or synthetic, and many options within those categories such as down, feather, silk and wool in the former, and microfibre and hollowfibre in the latter.

Natural fillings tend to be softer and fluffier, and are more breathable. Down and feather are the most common natural fillings, and they tend to provide more insulation than synthetic, providing a lighter duvet for the same tog rating as a heavier synthetic option.

Synthetic duvets are filled with polyester variants. They are not as breathable, tend to be cheaper than natural options, and are better for those with allergies because they are hypoallergenic.

“The more down, the softer, warmer and lighter the duvet, while feathers draw away moisture to keep you nice and dry,” says Stepchenkova. “The down and feather duvets are machine washable and come in various warmth levels. Due to their easy-care feature, [synthetic] fabrics are great for users who experience any form of allergy as they can be washed multiple times while maintaining the original fabric quality.”

Pillows: how filling affects support

There are all manner of pillows on the market designed for all types of sleepers. Some of the most common filling options are down, feather, memory foam, latex and cotton. There are also bamboo, buckwheat and gel.

When choosing the right pillow, consider your preferred sleeping position, as well as any neck, shoulder, back or spine issues, which a good pillow should help alleviate.

“The type of pillow you use can significantly impact the alignment of your neck and spine,” says Adriana Kostic, head of marketing at Pan Emirates. “A pillow that is too high or too low can cause neck pain, stiffness, and discomfort. On the other hand, a pillow that is designed to provide proper neck support can help reduce these issues, allowing you to sleep more soundly.”

Pillow firmness is a major factor to consider, with synthetic fillings such as polyfoam, memory foam, down alternatives and latex tending to be firmer options than natural fillings. As with duvet fillings, breathable natural options such as cotton will ensure you stay cooler, while memory foam traps heat.

“Down filling pillows are a popular choice for a restful sleep due to their softness, loft and warmth,” says Kostic. “They conform to the shape of your head and neck, providing gentle support that can help relieve pressure points. They also provide excellent insulation, which can help keep you warm and cosy during colder months.”

Another natural alternative is a buckwheat pillow, which is filled with the hulls of buckwheat seeds. The seeds are resilient to flattening, and firmness can be adjusted by adding or removing hulls.

Bedsheets: does thread count matter?

Layers of sheets and blankets used to be a frequent sight on beds before the advent of duvets, which largely replaced both. While fitted bottom sheets are a must, a top sheet acts as a thinner layer in place of a duvet if the room is warm, or as an extra layer for when the AC is turned up.

Sheets are rated on their thread count. The higher the count, the higher the quality and durability of the bedsheet. While higher thread counts are usually softer than their lower and cheaper counterparts, a good quality fibre at a lower count can also provide softness.

“Good sheets range from 200 to 800 thread count, although you'll occasionally see counts that are more than 1,000,” says Stepchenkova. “Depending on your needs, consider points such as natural or man-made fibres, thread count and of course, the mattress size — especially the height of the mattress — when shopping for bedsheets.”

Cotton is the most popular material, with cotton-polyester blends usually available a cheaper price point. There are also bamboo, linen, silk, microfibre and satin options available.

“Natural fibres are softer and lighters on the skin, and draw away moisture to keep you dry,” says Stepchenkova. “Man-made fabrics have good strength, which allows you to wash them multiple times with confidence that their quality will hold.”

Updated: April 11, 2023, 4:05 AM