Between The Sheets: The Basics Of Couples' Bedding

Between the Sheets: The Basics of Couples' Bedding

Scientific studies abound on how many hours we Americans spend in bed sleeping, having sex, or lying awake wondering when we’ll get to sleep or have sex. The level of scrutiny is somewhat mystifying, given the fairly obvious findings. (In round figures: not enough, not nearly enough, and is it any wonder Ambien sales have skyrocketed?) Bottom line: on average, we’re between the sheets for more than a third of our lives.Any place you spend that much time should make you happy, and never more so than when it’s 60 by 80 inches and there are two of you. Your bed should be supremely, beckoningly comfortable, so you can rest. And as cohabitable and conflict free as possible, to help you nest.

Sheet smarts
In the last couple of years, thread counts—the number of threads in one square inch of fabric—have crept into the four digits. But do higher numbers indicate softer sheets? Only to a point. After about 500, what you’re paying for are the salaries of those tricky folks in the marketing department who realized they could describe a 500-thread-count sheet as a 1,000— if it’s woven with two-ply thread.

Truth is, you’re likely to find 300- or 400- count sheets plenty luxurious (and easier on the checkbook). Guests staying in the presidential suite at the Four Seasons in New York City, one of the priciest hotel rooms in the country, pay $15,000 a night—and they’re resting their weary, wealthy bodies on 220-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets. Egyptian is key here—that variety is acknowledged to have the longest fiber, another contributor to softness.

Once you’ve selected sheets, of course, you have to share them. And there, the troubles too often begin. One couple we know disagrees on how to tuck in the top sheet. He likes to anchor a generous swath so his feet don’t poke out. She likes enough covers to form a turtleneck at the top. The solution is simple, though it took them a while to figure it out: they tuck in the sheet at an angle.

A more common cause for conflict is the side-to-side shortage, caused by a sleeper who rolls over … and over and over. On a queen bed, a king-size top sheet can ease the tussle. For hardcore cases, we suggest two top sheets overlapped in the middle. At bedtime, the illusion is that you’re cozily covered by the same sheet. Later, the roller winds up in his or her own little burrito without uncovering his bedmate.

Topper tips
In the bed-as-battleground department, second to sheet spats are temperature tantrums. One partner prefers to set the A/C on “cryogenic” while the other lies shivering in flannel pajamas—in August. Clearly, this is grounds for a blanket intervention.

The most heated arguments we’ve heard between partners with a body-temp differential are caused by down duvets, which have taken bedrooms by storm. Unfortunately, no matter how “summer weight” a duvet claims to be, it always seems to make someone sweat. And try throwing off a duvet when you feel a little steamy. It becomes a fabric-andfeathers snowbank threatening to avalanche.

So we’re fans of the sheet-and-blanket combo. The enormous variety of fabrics and weights lets you fine-tune your comfort level: cotton for summer, wool for warmth and pleasing heft in winter. The point is to layer independently: cover the entire bed with a lightweight cotton blanket, then on your side, add a cashmere throw. (Electric blankets are a retro, but remarkably effective alternative. Equipped with dual remotes—no wires—you each control the temp on your half of the bed.)

Mattress matters
But even the finest bedding can’t make up for a bed with bad ergonomics. Unfortunately, buying a mattress (you need a new one about every ten years) can be as confusing as selecting a cellular plan.

What you’re looking for is a mattress that conforms to your spine’s natural curves. It should be neither so firm that your body touches down only at three or four points, nor so soft that you sink into it like marshmallow cream.

That can be tough to determine in a quick test-drive at the mattress shop. One hint: you can change positions up to 40 times while you sleep, so shift, turn, and try out multiple arrangements of limbs. Still, the best way to avoid mattress remorse is to sleep on the one you’re considering—preferably for several nights in a row. That may explain the growing popularity of hotel mattress-purchase programs, which have cropped up in hotels from the Ritz-Carlton to La Quinta. You slept soundly every night of a weeklong trip? Bring the bliss home by buying the identical mattress. If that’s impractical, you should find a dealer with an exchange policy that gives you a week or more with a mattress before you commit (many do).

An easier question to answer than “how firm?” is “how big?” If you’re often joined in bed by kids, dogs, and his-and-her laptops, when a king-size bed (76 inches wide) might be right for you. But we’re fans of the 60-inchwide queen, because it better fosters a couple connection. Yes, each of you sacrifices eight inches of elbow room, but that means you’re always within snuggling distance. Remember, we’re talking a third of your lives. You shouldn’t be at each other’s throats. You should be in each other’s arms.

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