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A blue bed sheet

A bed sheet is a piece of cloth used to cover a mattress. It is this sheet that one typically lies on.

In many areas of the world, a second flat bed sheet is laid on top of the sheet covering the mattress. This is known as a “top sheet” and when a top sheet is used, the sheet covering the mattress is known as a “bottom sheet”. One sleeps between the two bed sheets. Blankets, comforters, and other bed covers are then placed on top of the second bed sheet.

Bed sheets come in two main varieties–flat or fitted. A flat bed sheet is simply a rectangular sheet of cloth, while a fitted bed sheet has its four corners, and sometimes two or four sides, fitted with elastic, to be used only as a bottom sheet. The purpose of a fitted bottom sheet is to keep it from slipping off the mattress while the bed is in use. A particular way of folding and tucking while making the bed, known as “hospital corners,” is sometimes used when the bottom sheet is flat rather than fitted.

Bed sheets were traditionally white, but now various colors and patterns are used. The quality of bed sheets is often conveyed by the thread count – the number of threads per square inch of material. In general, the higher the thread count, the softer the sheet, but the weave and type of thread may affect the “hand” of the material so that a sheet with a lower thread count may actually be softer than one with a higher count.

Changing James Garfield’s bedclothes after his shooting.

Common materials include cotton, linen, and blends of cotton and polyester. Other materials sometimes seen are silk, rayon, and bamboo fiber. New materials as nonwoven polypropylene fabric thanks to their low price allows the bed sheet to be disposabled. Once used in emergency shelters or hospitals this disposable bed sheet is now used as well in hotels.

Usually a flat bed sheet is overlocked around the edges to form four seams. One of the seams is wider than the other three and helps with orienting the sheet correctly on the mattress. The wider seam goes at the head end of the mattress. Sometimes the sides do not have seams, but are finished with the selvedge only.

When one makes a bed, the patterned or monogrammed side of the top sheet is placed facing down and then the top edge is folded towards the foot of the bed, exposing the design.

See also

Bed – standard sizes


v d e

Psychophysiology: Sleep (G47, 327)

Sleep stages

Rapid eye movement sleep  Non-rapid eye movement sleep  Slow-wave sleep

Brain waves

Alpha wave  Beta wave  Gamma wave  Delta wave  Theta rhythm  K-complex

Sleep disorders


Insomnia  Narcolepsy  Sleep apnea (Obesity hypoventilation syndrome, Ondine’s curse)  Hypersomnia  Circadian rhythm sleep disorder (Advanced sleep phase syndrome, Delayed sleep phase syndrome, Non-24-hour sleep-wake syndrome, Jet lag)


Night terror  Sleepwalking  Somniloquy


Night eating syndrome  Nocturia  Nocturnal myoclonus  Sleep deprivation

Benign phenomena

Dream  Exploding head syndrome  False awakening  Hypnagogia  Hypnic jerk  Lucid dream  Nightmare  Nocturnal emission  Nocturnal Penile Tumescence  Sleep paralysis  Somnolence

Related topics

Bed (Bunk bed, Four poster bed, Futon, Hammock, Mattress)  Bed bug  Bedding  Bedroom  Bedtime  Bedtime toy  Bedtime story  Caffeine nap  Chronotype  Dream journal  Hypnopompic state  Lullaby  Methods of falling asleep  Nap  Nightwear  Polyphasic sleep  Polysomnography  Power nap  Siesta  Sleep and creativity  Sleep and learning  Sleep debt  Sleep diary  Sleep inertia  Sleep medicine  Sleeping while on duty  Sleepover  Snoring  Excessive daytime sleepiness  (“Sleeping sickness”, which is not a sleep disorder.)

Categories: Bedding | Linens

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