Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Mystery of Buying Sheets

Sheets seem to be available everywhere.  Go to the Home Show, and there is a guy hawking 2000 TC Egyptian Cotton sheets for a ridiculously low price.  Go to Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl's, Kmart, Macy's, Dillard's, Mattress Stores or almost anywhere, you find sheets.  It seems every so often there is a story about sheets.  All any of us want are sheets that will feel good for the long haul and not pill, oh and we don't want to pay a high price for them. 

There are four things that will determine the quality of sheets. Let's take a moment to look at all four.

First, and this is what most people concentrate on, is thread count.  Thread count will tell you how tightly woven the sheet is as long as they are being truthful.  There is no standard for thread count, except it is the total amount of threads in a one inch square of the fabric.  Some manufactures define thread as all the ply's in the yarn that makes the sheet.  If he uses 6 ply yarn, and has 100 yarns then he claims he has 600 thread count sheets.  Most people if they looked at the sheet would see 100 thread count.  Then there is the physics of space.  There is only one square inch, there is a maximum number of threads that will fit.  In most cases that is a maximum of just under 600 thread count.  That tells us that anyone who has a higher count is fudging.  Or maybe worse, using a thinner thread than would be best for the sheet.  Any time someone stresses the thread count, they are either lazy, or that is their sheet claim to fame.  Buy from better stores, and know that most are competitively priced for the quality of their sheets, in other words you get what you pay for.

Second is the material that makes the sheets.  There are cottons, wools, synthetics like polyester and blended.  Depending on what you want out of the sheet the type of material is important.  Some of the best cottons in the world are grown in Egypt.  But not all Egyptian cotton is necessarily the same varietal.  Like anything else, there are quality strains and lesser strains.  The same cotton grown in the US may be branded as Supima. Supima is a self regulating association that makes sure the cotton is pima quality.  Always look for this key word when shopping cotton sheets:  Long Staple.  The staple is the length of individual fibers, and the longer the fiber the less likely it will pill.  The natural fibers like cotton or wool will allow more breathability in the sheets and help make the surface a little less warm.  Synthetics will perform the best coming out of the dryer with less wrinkles.


Next is the weave pattern of the fabric.  In sheets, the two most popular are sateen and percale.  Each weave imparts different qualities into the sheet material.  Sateen is the softest weave, but it is also the worse to come out of the dryer.  There is something to be said for the feel of the sateen weave!  Percale is a stiffer weave, less wrinkles and more crisp feel on the bed.  Mostly the weave is just personal preference, one is not better than the other.  When you find sheets that feel good to you, make note of the weave.

Lastly, it is the over all feel and durability of the sheets.  Assuming we found the best cotton, it is important how we feel as we lay on them.  Most of the time, better quality translates into better feel.  When you find a brand that feels good, go back to it over and over, unless they disappoint you.  Only time will tell durability, and how we maintain the sheets will impact the durability.  Most people will wash their sheets about once per week.  Sheets should be washed separately from other items to avoid pilling.  If you want, an iron can make them nice and smooth.  Keep in mind that some weavers treat their fabric with enhancers that will wash out after a few washes.

Hope that helps, to recap the four things to look for in sheets is: Thread Count, Weave pattern, Material, and feel.  With the internet there are many resources available from consumer reviews, to the BBB, to consumer organizations.  Use them and find a great sheet!  That way you will...

Sleep Well!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

How to Get a Great Pillow

Let's see a show of hands, who has a closet full of pillows that didn't quite work for you?  Pillows seem to be one of the hardest things in the world to find, that help you sleep well.  We see infomercials on TV touting the greatest pillow ever.  We see all kinds of stores that sell pillows.  There are many different fills, and covers.  But it's so darn hard to find one that works for us.  We believe there is a methodical way to help find the right pillow, follow along, let us know what you think.

In some ways, the art of finding the right pillow has been lost.  Consider a pillow as a wearable item, and we believe it will help.  A pillow is used to stabilize your head, and support your neck.  Like feet or waistline we all have different dimensions of head and neck.  Because of this it is important to determine fit.  Another consideration is the materials in the fill.  Fill materials are many, from down (feathers) to polyester, to memory foam, to latex foam, to even things like buckwheat.  Is that any different from different fabrics in clothes?  Or materials in shoes?  Perhaps the best way then to buy a pillow is somewhere at which you can "try it on."

Consider a department store that also sells mattresses, or even a mattress store.  Why there?  Because to try on a pillow you need to lay on it, which is hard to do in a store that doesn't have mattresses.  Also, discount stores tend to sell on price alone, so anything a vendor can do to lessen the price, the more likely he will get shelf space. That means lesser quality fill materials, lesser quality cover fabrics.  Lesser quality will not perform as long, or as well as higher quality materials.


So you are in the store, now what?  Ask for samples that you can test out in the store.  Find a mattress that is similar in feel and construction to the one at home.  Now just as you would go in to a changing room or sit on a stool to try out shoes, lay on the pillow.  To fit a pillow properly, the pillow should support your neck, and cushion your head.  As you lay on the pillow, in your preferred sleep position, a good fit will allow your head and neck to be in a good posture position.  If, for instance, you are a side sleeper, your head should not be cocked to the side, rather it should be in alignment with your spine.  If there is too much or too little fill in the pillow, it will stretch your neck, and over 8 hours you will not feel comfortable.  And it will cause neck pain in the long run.

That's where, now let's talk about fill material.  There are three main materials used today:  Down, Polyester, and Foam.  All of these are good choices.  All of them, if fit right will offer a good night's sleep.  The fill material comes down to what feels best to you.  So our advice is to try examples of all of them.  Down is a very natural material where the structure provides good support.  Polyester was originally used for those who were allergic to down, and are sometimes called down alternative.  Both can be adjusted to provide support to the neck by moving the materials around.  Foam comes in two basic forms:  Memory and latex.  These two have different feels and different support qualities.  Latex will work more like down or polyester pillows to provide support to the neck.  Memory foam reacts to body heat and weight to mold more automatically to the support you need.  Latex and memory foam will also retain heat more than the other styles of pillow, which is important to consider.

The cover material wouldn't seem to be important, but in a way it is.  The cover material should be as natural as possible.  There are many good cottons, some wools, and even bamboo materials that are very good choices.  These materials will help dissipate heat.  Other man made materials sometimes will retain heat, which is not good in a pillow.  So while it does not go toward support, it will go to the comfort of the pillow.

Last consider the size.  The four main sizes of sleeping pillows are travel, standard, queen, and king sizes.  Most people buy the pillow based on the size of their bed, so that it fills the area when the bed is made.  Frankly, standard and queen will both fit either full size or queen beds, so choose the size that feels the best.  King size pillows are much longer than standard, almost twice as long. Sometimes the standard size, or queen size are more comfortable to some people, if you have a king size bed, buy the standard size, but save the old pillow for when you make the bed, that way you get the best of both worlds.

We hope that this helps a little in your quest to find a great pillow!  A great pillow can help you to....

Sleep Well!