The Great Debate: Top Sheet or No Top Sheet?

by Oliver Lee
September 7, 2022

Everyone knows a well-made bed consists of a fitted sheet, a top sheet (also called a flat sheet), and a comforter or doona—or does it?

For some, the traditional bed setup is ideal. But others are willing to argue another side, saying the top sheet is obsolete.

Which side of the bed wars are you on?

Here’s what you need to know about this surprisingly heated debate.

The Real Purpose of Using a Top Sheet

For clarity’s sake, the top sheet is the one that rests directly on top of the fitted sheet on a traditionally made bed. And contrary to popular belief, its intended purpose isn’t just about keeping you warm and cosy.

The top sheet actually serves as a hygienic buffer to protect your blankets, comforter, or doona from germs, bacteria, and perspiration. Yep, I’m sorry but everyone perspires at night, and unless you shower right before bed every night, you’re leaving behind the day’s grime every time you climb into your bed.

This is why most Australians still sleep with top sheets even though they agree that the tangled mess they create can be annoying.

Another argument has to do with comfort: when you have quality sheets, they feel smooth and dreamy against your skin. Some say top sheets are simply more comfortable, plus having that additional layer feels like extra security.

Last but not least, when you have that protective layer between the doona and your fitted sheet, you might be able to get away with washing your doona cover less often. Fewer washes mean less laundry and less hassle—a real win/win because doona covers can be stubborn to put back on.

Making a Case Against the Top Sheet

Every story has two sides, and the alleged hygiene purposes of a top sheet aren’t enough to win everyone over.

Many have made the case that when you use a doona, the top sheet is moot. The cover of the doona can 'easily' (we beg to differ) be removed for washing, then placed back onto the comforter.

This, of course, is not the case when you’re sleeping with hard-to-wash items like heavy comforters or large blankets. These items are often washed less frequently due to their size and heft, so a top sheet would make sense in these instances.

Others say their preference is seasonal. On warm summer nights, doonas are tucked into storage, and a top sheet does the trick. On colder nights, the doona provides all the warmth you need, and the top sheet disappears.

Still others find the top sheet to be too much of a hindrance to justify using one every night. It often ends up in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the bed, and it takes time to untangle and smooth it to restore order to your bed the next morning. Granted, it is quicker and easier to make the bed without it.

There’s also the fact that using a top sheet means one more piece of linen to wash and store. For many people, this isn’t an issue since a fitted sheet and top sheet can be washed together. But it can add time to your folding duties.

Top Sheet vs. No Top Sheet: Science Weighs In

Though the top sheet is a hot topic among consumers, scientists have something else to say about the matter. Ingrid Johnson, a microbiologist and pathologist at the New York University School of Medicine, gently reminds us that your bed is a literal “hotbed” of microscopic lifeforms. This is the main reason why we wash our sheets in the first place.

Bacteria, pollen, animal hair, lint, soil, chemicals from the sheets themselves, perspiration, and skin cells are teeming in your sheets. The longer you go between washes, the more these items multiply. According to Johnson, when left unchecked, these items can sink into your mattress and become impossible to get rid of.

Marylouise McLaws (Yes, our friendly COVID epidemiologist) had this to say to USA Today: “Change and wash the doona (quilt) cover weekly if you don’t use a top sheet; otherwise, change it less often based on smells and visual cleanliness.”

The hygiene angle of the “top sheet or no top sheet” debate clearly carries some weight in the science community.

However, if you’re still anti-top sheet because of the mess it makes in the morning, then perhaps an easier way to make your bed can solve two problems at once. Using bedsmade sheets simplifies and shortens the bed making process, leaving you with no excuse not to use a top sheet.

Putting the Top Sheet vs. No Top Sheet Contest to Bed

When you’re an adult, you can do just about anything you want, including choosing to sleep with or without a top sheet. No one is going to gaol over their decision, but if you’re looking for an actual winner of the great top sheet contest, it’s this:

Top sheets win the debate due to scientific evidence!

If you’re still not convinced, perhaps a change of sheets might change your mind. Discover how bedsmade is reinventing the way you make your bed for the better.