Flat Sheet Vs. Fitted Sheet – What’s the Difference?

Choosing the right bedsheet is an essential step in creating an ideal sleep space–in addition to the mattress, of course. When shopping for bed sheets, you’ll often see the terms “fitted sheet” and “flat sheet,” but it can be hard to determine which may be the better choice for you. In this post, we will discuss the differences between both types of bed sheets and their pros and cons.

Fitted sheets, as their name suggests, fit snugly and securely over the corners of a mattress because their perimeter contains elastic and stitched corners. On the other hand, flat sheets are simply flat rectangular bedsheets that lay flat over a bed (or any surface) and are usually tucked beneath the mattress at the foot and sides of the bed.

Both fitted and flat sheets serve the same purpose, to provide a comfortable layer of fabric between you and your mattress (or mattress cover). Deciding whether to use fitted sheets vs. flat sheets is really a matter of personal preference, which tends to be determined by the type of bed sheets you are most familiar with. Let’s discuss the benefits of both types of sheets.

A collage of flat sheet and fitted sheet of a bed, Flat Sheet Vs. Fitted Sheet - What's the Difference?

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Why Use Fitted Sheets?

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Striped and snowy white bed linen, neatly folded sheets on blue background

Easier bed-making

Today it’s almost become trendy to sleep with only a fitted sheet and a comforter, as many people choose to ditch traditional flat sheets for more convenience. If you are someone who doesn’t like making your up bed or who finds folding and tucking in a flat sheet to be much too cumbersome, a fitted sheet may be better for you. With fitted sheets, you simply need to pull your duvet over the bed, and then you can quickly head out the door.

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More protection

Fitted sheets provide more protection for your mattress from stains and spills, as they are securely tucked beneath it. Flat sheets can become untucked overnight, leaving your mattress exposed. Also, fitted sheets can create an effective barrier preventing your skin from being exposed to any allergy-causing triggers such as pet dander and dust mites.

Smooth Sleeping

One of the biggest complaints of people who use flat sheets is that they can often become untucked during the night and bunch up toward the bed’s bottom end. If you prefer a snug fit over one that is wrinkled, then fitted sheets may be the best option for you. They are also best if you tend to move around a lot in your sleep–which can easily cause flat sheets to become undone.

Fitted Sheet Disadvantages

  • Can be challenging to fold
  • Require a bit more labor to place on the mattress
  • Fitted sheets do not lay flat
  • Are typically about 20% more expensive than flat sheets
  • Can be challenging to iron
  • Can be difficult to remove from the mattress

Why Use Flat Sheets?

More flexibility

Flat sheets allow you more wiggle room to be creative. You can also use a bigger sheet to give you more coverage on your mattress and more room to tuck it beneath it. With fitted sheets, it’s important to buy the correct size, or it will be difficult to place them on the mattress (smaller sheets simply won’t fit, and larger sheets won’t lay flat and will bunch up–which can be annoying).

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Most people tend to wash their bed sheets more than their comforters or duvets. And when this is the case, flat sheets can offer added cleanliness, as you’ll be regularly washing them along with your other bedsheets. However, if you are someone who washes your duvet or comforter often, you can simply skip the extra step of the flat sheet and stick with the fitted sheet.

Easier to fold

The “foldability” of flat sheets is one of their biggest benefits. These sheets do not contain elastic bands in their stitched corners as fitted sheets do, which allows them to lay flat across your bed or in the linen closet. Fitted sheets can be a bit tricky to fold after you wash them, requiring specific tucking of the edges to fold them neatly–sometimes even requiring an additional person to make folding them easier.

Flat Sheet Disadvantages

  • They can become undone, wrinkled, and tangled up during the middle of the night
  • Can be challenging to secure beneath the mattress
  • When undone, they can easily expose you to allergens such as pet dander and dust mites

How to size a flat sheet?

Picking the right size sheets for your mattress can be the difference between a good night’s sleep and a bad night’s sleep. Flat sheets that are too small can expose you to the rough surface of your mattress, while flat sheets that are too large can easily become undone bunch up at night. If you aren’t sure what type of bed you have, you can find this information on the tag on the bottom of the mattress.

If for some reason the tag is no longer there, you can simply measure the bed with measuring tape. The measurements that you need to get for your mattress are width, length, and height.

Measure the Mattress

1. Take a tape measure and stretch it across the width of your mattress. Start at the top right corner and pull the tape across the mattress until it reaches the top left corner. Jot down the measurement on a sheet of paper.

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2. Next, take the tape measure and place it at the top of the mattress near the headboard. Stretch it across the length of the bed until it reaches the bottom of the mattress. Note the measurement and jot them down on a piece of paper.

3. Now, it’s time to measure the height of the mattress. To do so, take your tape measure and place it on the top edge of the mattress. Next, extended vertically until you reach the bottom edge of the mattress. Jot down the height of the mattress on a piece of paper.

Flat Sheet Sizes

American bed sheets typically come in standard sizes, so after you get the measurements for your mattress, you should easily be able to find sheets and comforters to fit.

Here are the standard bed sheeting sizes for flat sheets:

  • Twin 73”x 100”
  • Full 90”x 110”
  • Queen 90”x 110”
  • King 108”x 110”
  • Cal King 108”x 110”

Can you use a flat sheet instead of fitted?

Stacks of colorful bed linen textiles clothing on stool

Yes, you can absolutely use a flat sheet instead of a fitted sheet. The biggest difference between the two is the flat sheet’s potential to become undone and tangled during the night.

Do you need a fitted sheet with a mattress protector?

You don’t necessarily need a fitted sheet with a mattress protector. However, it can make for a more comfortable bed sheeting option, as the fitted sheet is more likely to stay put during the night.

This is important because even the most expensive and softest mattress protectors can be a bit rougher than everyday bed sheets. Mattress protectors are made of spun bamboo or cotton, but their outside layers are typically made of polyurethane, making their sleeping surface feel less supple and a bit stiff. Mattress protectors aren’t designed to be slept on directly, as they’ll likely feel itchy or rough against your skin.

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Also, they aren’t designed to be washed as often as bed linens (i.e., weekly or bi-weekly), so sleeping directly on them can lead to the protector becoming riddled with skin flakes, pet dander, dust mites, and other microscopic things that can cause allergy symptoms to flare up (particularly if they aren’t washed regularly). And if you wash them, it can quickly cause the quality of the material to diminish.

It can also be challenging to properly fit the flat sheet over the mattress protector when making the bed.

Do you sleep under a top sheet?

Interestingly, sleeping directly under a top sheet versus sleeping under a comforter tends to create a bit of online debate. However, it’s really a matter of personal preference. There can be some advantages of sleeping under a top sheet and advantages to sleeping without one. Let’s take a look at both.

Benefits of sleeping beneath a top sheet

Sleeping under a top sheet prevents you from having to wash your comforter as frequently. This can also be financially beneficial if your comforter is on the larger side and requires dry cleaning or a bigger washer machine at the laundromat.

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Top sheet as a summer cover

Sometimes you just need something laying over you to get a restful night’s sleep–at least, this isn’t the case for some people. If you’re someone who prefers to have some sheet over you while you’re sleeping, a top sheet can be a great option in the warmer months of the year when you don’t really need comforters (and cotton top sheets can keep you cooler as they are more breathable).

Added comfort

If you have a heavy comforter made from rougher materials such as wool, fleece, or cashmere, a soft and comfortable top sheet can make quite the difference by providing you with a less-scratchy top cover.

Sleeping without a top sheet

Easier bed-making

Sleeping without a top sheet means that you have one less layer to worry about when it comes to making up your bed in the morning.

Freedom of movement while asleep

Top sheets can often become tangled up during the night, especially if you’re someone who moves around a lot during your sleep. Also, many people prefer not to sleep under too many layers, as they can feel heavy and a bit suffocating at night. Sleeping without a top sheet allows you to roam freely in your bed, without having to readjust tangled up sheets constantly.

While you may find that top sheets are typically included with the average American bed set, it is fairly common for people to keep them in the linen closet as opposed to placing them on their bed. Many people argue that top sheets simply don’t add any value to bed sheeting and believe that a good comforter is all you need to stay warm at night. But again, it all comes down to personal preference.

Wrapping Things Up

When deciding to use a fitted sheet versus a flat sheet, it’s best to consider the most important things: easy bed making, cleanliness, and comfort.

Before you go, be sure to check out our other posts:

How Long Do Bed Sheets Take To Dry?

How To Remove Body Massage Oil From Sheets?

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