Woman placing a top sheet on a bed.
Bedroom Design

What Is a Top Sheet (+ Should You Use One)?

    Last Updated
    November 8, 2023
    min read

    A top sheet is a bed sheet that goes on top of a fitted sheet but underneath blankets and duvets.

    What used to be a guaranteed component in any bedding setup has become somewhat of a controversial debate in recent years: top sheets. In fact, nearly one-third of Americans have ditched top sheets completely.

    You either hate them or you can’t live without them, but what exactly is their purpose? 

    Read along to learn the pros and cons of using a top sheet, the difference between types of bed sheets, and options for top sheet materials.

    All Purple sheet sets include a fitted sheet, top sheet, and pillowcases. This way you get the choice to embrace the benefits of a top sheet or forgo it, all in one package.

    Purple Bed Sheets

    From soft to cool bed sheets, Purple has sheets for all types of sleepers.

    What Is a Top Sheet?

    A top sheet, sometimes called a flat sheet, is a type of bed sheet that’s placed on top of a fitted sheet but underneath blankets or a duvet. It provides an additional protective layer to keep your bedding clean. 

    Graphic defining a top sheet and demonstrating each bedding component.

    Top sheets are often considered a standard part of any bed setup, although some people may choose not to use them. Here are some pros and cons of using a top sheet at a glance.



    More hygienic

    More time-consuming to make the bed

    Easier to clean than heavy bedding

    Sometimes an additional bedding cost

    Allows for temperature control

    May become tangled during the night

    Extends the lifespan of your bedding

    Additional laundry

    Can act as an allergen barrier

    May not be necessary with a removable duvet cover


    A top sheet isn’t something included in a sheet set just for kicks. There are several benefits of this bedding addition. A top sheet:

    • Keeps bedding more hygienic: A top sheet acts as a barrier between you and your heavier bedding, which can accumulate body oils, sweat, and dirt over time. 
    • Is easier to wash: A top sheet is much less bulky than heavy blankets or duvets, making it easier to wash.
    • Helps bedding last longer: Since a top sheet protects the rest of your bedding, duvets and blankets are likely to last longer than if you were washing them regularly. 
    • Allows for temperature control: Keep cool on hot nights by using just the top sheet, and easily layer bedding on cooler nights.
    • Adds a comfortable layer: There’s nothing like the feeling of a soft bed sheet, especially if your heavier layers of bedding aren’t as comfortable.
    • Acts as an allergen barrier: A top sheet also creates a protective layer that prevents direct contact with potential allergens like dust mites, pet dander, and pollen. This is especially true if you buy specific sheets for allergies, like cotton, silk, or bamboo.


    On the other hand, there are sound reasons why people dislike top sheets. For instance, a top sheet:

    • Creates extra work: Although it’s only one extra step, some people may find making the bed with a top sheet more time-consuming.
    • Adds more laundry: A top sheet needs to be washed often for cleanliness and allergy protection. 
    • Increases bedding costs: Buying a top sheet can increase the overall cost of bedding, especially for higher thread count or quality materials. It may be less expensive to purchase as part of a bedding set rather than separately.
    • Can be uncomfortable: Sheets can get twisted and tangled if you’re a restless sleeper. Some people just end up kicking it to the bottom of the bed throughout the night. 
    • Isn’t as critical with duvet covers: Removable duvet covers like the PerfectStay™ Duvet Cover Set make the bedding less bulky for easier washing. While you still may want to use a top sheet for its other benefits, removable duvet covers can make washing bedding simpler.
    Flowchart determining if a top sheet is right for a sleeper.

    Top Sheet vs. Fitted Sheet

    A top sheet and a fitted sheet are two bedding components that serve unique purposes.

    A fitted sheet has elastic corners designed to snugly cover the mattress and keep it from slipping off. It protects the mattress and provides a smooth, soft surface for you to sleep on. 

    A top sheet, also called a flat sheet, is placed on top of the fitted sheet and under any blankets or duvets. It acts as an additional layer of comfort and warmth. Top sheets also serve as a barrier between you and your blankets, which keeps them cleaner for longer.

    Top Sheet Materials

    When it comes to choosing bed sheets, the type of sheet material you select makes a big difference in comfort, quality, and how long your sheets will last. Different materials offer unique benefits, catering to the various preferences and needs of every kind of sleeper. Choose from materials like: 

    • Cotton: Known for breathability and durability, cotton sheets like the Complete Comfort Sheet Set are soft and suitable for all-season use. 
    • Bamboo: If you’re a hot sleeper, bamboo sheets like the Purple SoftStretch® Sheet Set prevent overheating at night. They have moisture-wicking properties and a silky texture to keep you comfortable all night long.
    • Linen: Similar to cotton sheets, linen sheets are strong but thicker. Their thickness makes them extra durable and long-lasting.
    • Flannel: With a brushed, soft texture, flannel sheets are great for cold winter nights. This is the warmest type of sheet.
    • Silk: This type of sheet material is unmatched in terms of smoothness and luxurious feel. Silk sheets are best for people with sensitive skin; however, they might require extra care and may be too slippery for restless sleepers.
    Graphic showing different types of top sheet materials and who they’re best for.

    Should You Use a Top Sheet?

    To use or not to use a top sheet really comes down to personal preference and your bedding setup. It’s worth noting that a top sheet usually comes standard with the purchase of a sheet set, giving you the freedom to pick and choose whether you want to incorporate it.

    If you’re ready to ditch the top sheet, you'll need to figure out what to do with your old sheets. But if you’re pro-top sheet, check out our selection of high-quality sheets that are made to last and improve your sleeping comfort.


    Have a few more questions before you make up your mind on the top sheet debate? Check out the answers to these common bedding questions.

    The original purpose of a top sheet was to provide an additional layer of bedding to protect the sleeper from dirt, pests, and other elements, as beds were often less clean and exposed to various environmental factors. 

    Whether or not you use a top sheet is purely personal preference, but many people still use top sheets as part of their bedding. However, there’s a growing trend toward eliminating the top sheet and only using a fitted sheet and duvet.

    The main benefit of a top sheet is its ability to add an extra layer of comfort and cleanliness to a bed. It acts as a barrier between the sleeper and the blankets or duvet, helping to keep these heavier items cleaner for longer and keep allergens at bay. A top sheet can also provide extra warmth or be used alone to adapt to warmer temperatures.

    Yes, the top sheet typically goes face up when making a bed. The printed or finished side of the top sheet — usually more decorative — faces upward.

    However, you may choose to place the plainer or unprinted side facing upward so the softer part of the sheet is placed against your body when you sleep.

    About the authors

    Cecilia Gillen

    Cecilia brings over five years of writing experience primarily centered around lifestyle and health topics. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Media and Journalism from the University of South Dakota. She’s both an advocate for sleep and a night owl at heart.

    Tasha Martin
    Manager, Product & Merchandising (Bedding)

    Tasha Martin specializes in bedding products. With over half a decade of product management experience,  Tasha finds joy in delivering products that improve the lives of others.