We are a nation obsessed with a good night’s sleep. You may have tried tricks like a weighted blanket, wake up light alarm clock or earplugs to help you sleep more soundly, but have you got the basics sorted? Studies have shown that thermoregulation is one of the most important factors affecting our sleep, so bed linen that keeps you at a comfortable temperature could have a tangible impact on sleep quality. As well as a comfortable mattress and pillow, the right duvet cover or bedding set can help you drift off quicker and sleep better.
Plus, upgrading your bed linen is an easy route to an interior refresh that’s less commitment than painting a wall or buying a new piece of furniture.
What type of duvet cover is best?
The main materials used for pillow cases and duvet covers are cotton, polyester, linen or, if you’re feeling really decadent, silk. As the founding director of the MFA textiles programme at Parsons School of Design in New York, Preethi Gopinath is the foremost expert in their pros and cons.
Most bed linen is made from cotton or a cotton-polyester blend. Gopinath prefers bedding that’s made from natural fibres (ie. cotton or linen), but says it’s “a personal thing… The advantage of sheets that are synthetic or a cotton-polyester blend is that they don’t require ironing at all.” Gopinath personally opts for cotton sateen (often used in luxury hotels) or linen bedding, which has rapidly risen in popularity and has “almost a buttery texture and a softness to it that comes after several washes.”
What is the best duvet cover to keep you cool?
Both cotton and linen duvet covers are cooling, says Gopinath, but if you tend to get overly warm while sleeping then linen is likely the best choice for you. “Linen stays cool on your skin; it has an extra special capacity to stay at a lovely temperature.”
(We reviewed the bedding sets below in spring, so we focused on cool and breathable sets for summer sleeping. If you need a toasty bed, read our guide to the best electric blankets.)
What about the weave?
When shopping for a duvet cover, you may see the terms “percale” and “sateen,” which refer to the different ways the fabric is woven. Again, the choice comes down to personal preference. Classic percale cotton bedding feels crisper, whereas sateen fabric is smooth and silky-feeling.
“[Cotton] percale is a plain weave with the simplest structure,” says Gopinath. “If you look with a microscope, you’d get a chequered pattern. It’s basically as simple as every alternate yarn goes over and under.
“In contrast, satin or sateen fabrics are woven with cloth or yarns that with long “floats”, meaning the yarn is not bound down. The yarn goes over three or four [threads] before it’s locked, so it’s much smoother.”
What is the best quality bedding?
Thread count is traditionally the metric used to explain the quality of bedding, but as Gopinath explains, a very high thread count can’t always be trusted. There’s no reason to look above a 300-350 thread count for cotton percale or a 400-600 thread count for sateen bed sheets.
“What we’re really counting is the “fabric count” –the total number of warp yarns (vertical yarns) and weft yarns in a square inch of fabric,” she says. “If I have very fine yarns, I will pack more into one square inch, and if I have thick yarns, I will pack fewer. Based on that logic, more threads per inch means you have, by default, used a finer yarn. That’s the default assumption of quality – that a finer yarn is of a higher quality.
“But it’s also a marketing tool that cheaper manufacturers use – When people start saying it’s 1000 thread count and it’s cotton yarn, I’m suspicious. There’s a minimum thickness to cotton.” The reason Egyptian cotton is so popular is that it has a longer “staple length” (ie. fibre length) than other cottons, which means it feels smoother, she adds.
How we tested the best duvet covers and bedding sets
Each set of bed linen was hand-tested by a member of the Telegraph Recommended team over the past two months. The bedding sets were slept in and rated for looks, comfort, fabric feel and quality. We also paid attention to how easy they were to launder and keep crease-free.
At a glance – the best duvet covers and bedding sets
- Best cotton bedding set – The White Company Santorini Bed Linen
- Best silk bedding set - Ethical Bedding duvet and pillowcases
- Best bedding set to keep you cool – Simba Performance Bed Linen
- Best Egyptian cotton bedding set – Soak and Sleep 600tc Bedlinen
- Best textured bedding set – Marks & Spencer Iris Pure Cotton Spotty Dobby Bedding Set
- Best linen bedding set – Bedfolk Linen Bedding Bundle
The best duvet covers and bedding sets
1. The White Company Santorini Bed Linen
Best cotton bedding set
We liked: the chic details on the Oxford-edge design
The ladder stitched edge on this bedding adds interest to its otherwise minimalist design. It’s made from a smooth 200-thread count pure cotton percale with buttons to fasten the duvet cover. It drapes beautifully and gives my bedroom the feel of a luxury hotel.
2. Simba Performance Bed Linen
Best bedding set for temperature regulation
We liked: the smooth, breathable fabric
Like Simba’s mattress and pillows, their bed linen is obsessively engineered and took my basics to the next level. It has a crisp, 100 per cent cotton percale weave that feels good against your skin, featuring a special temperature-regulating technology (called “Stratos”) originally developed for astronauts' suits. The cotton used is from sustainable Better Cotton Initiative-certified sources.
3. Soak and Sleep 600tc Bedlinen
Best Egyptian cotton bedding set
We liked: the premium feel and fair pricing
This is the kind of bedding you would find in my fantasy five-star hotel. It’s made from a 600 thread count cotton sateen. The extra-long Egyptian Cotton fibres make it feel incredibly silky, smooth and luxurious.
4. Marks & Spencer Iris Pure Cotton Spotty Dobby Bedding Set
Best textured bedding set
We liked: the dobby cotton details
Smooth 200 thread count cotton, a reasonable price tag and a sweet textured design make this dobby-cotton set a winner if you want simple white bedding with a little added interest. It also comes in grey and duck egg blue.
5. Bedfolk Linen Bedding Bundle
Best linen bedding set
We liked: the softness of the fabric (and the fact that there’s no ironing required)
Famed for its butter-soft feel and temperature regulating properties, linen bedding is an excellent choice for the summer months (or indeed all year round). Bedfolk’s woven, Oeko-Tex certified linen is the best in the business –the tightly woven Belgian & French flax fabric is super soft from the very first use.
6. Piglet in Bed Bed Linen
Best range of colours
We liked: you can mix and match colours to build your own bundle
Piglet is the top pick of Telegraph interiors and design editor Jessica Doyle. Their stonewashed linen bedding has a lovely relaxed feel and gets softer with each wash. It keeps me cosy when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot. There is an excellent range of striped and solid colour options –I’m especially taken with the blue and sage green.
7. Ethical Bedding duvet and pillowcases
Best silk bedding
We liked: the silk material is better for hair and skin
This bedding set is made of sustainable eucalyptus silk, made by breaking down eucalyptus wood into ultra-soft fibres. It's the only bedding approved by the Vegan Society. Like silkworm silk, it helps retain the natural moisture in your skin (unlike cotton, which draws it out), and reduces the friction which can damage hair and cause 'bed head'. It's also naturally hypo-allergenic, non-irritating and temperature regulating.
I tried the duvet cover and pillowcases in pure white (they also come in grey or wheat) and I've never slept in bedding quite so soft. The texture is smooth and I slept like a baby. The set does have a shine to it, which might put some people off - personally I prefer a matte bedding - but for all the benefits of silk, I think it's worth the compromise.
It's low maintenance too, being naturally resistant to bacteria growth. So I don't need to change the bedsheets as often and when I do, it goes straight in the washing machine (though it's recommended to wash on cold).
8. Coco & Wolf Liberty print duvet set
Best luxury bedding
We liked: the magically floaty fabric
The price is awfully high, but the lovely light fabric used on this high-end set makes the duvet somehow feel weightless. It’s Tana Lawn, a particularly fine, cool cotton discovered by Liberty’s cotton buyer in the 1930s. It has a thread count of 240, feels silky to the touch and holds patterns particularly well, but to keep it that way it’s a good idea to wash this set at no more than 40 degrees. It also shouldn’t be tumble dried. So, not a practical choice — but an indulgent one.
9. Sophie Conran Scalloped Bedding Set
Best percale bedding
We liked: the graphic simplicity
The 200 thread-count Indian percale cotton favoured by designer Sophie Conran (daughter of Habitat legend Terry) has a lovely crisp, clean feel, but the scalloped edge is the major appeal here. It’s like something you’d see in a 1920s illustration of a girl’s boudoir, yet simple enough to appeal to men as well. The embroidered edges come in five colours and you get a cotton envelope to keep it in.
10. Brook + Wilde Sandringham Bed Linen Set
Best sateen bedding
We liked: the silky feel and crisp appearance
When we reviewed the best mattresses this year, online bedding specialists Brook + Wilde very nearly took the top spot, and their bedding is equally luxurious. They use 800 thread count sateen, which has a softer, smoother feel than standard cotton or percale (but isn’t quite as breathable). The Sandringham set, with a straight blue border, really belongs in a sun-drenched seaside villa with billowing white curtains.
11. John Lewis & Partners Mother Of Pearl Organic Cotton Duvet Set
Best printed bedding set
We liked: the cottagecore vibe, carried through to the little ties on the pillowcases
Mother of Pearl are a British sustainable design label and the lovely wildflower print on this set is by their creative director Amy Powney. The ivory-coloured unbleached cotton is certified organic and feels soft and comfortingly crumpled, so you don’t feel the desire to iron too thoroughly. The double duvet set comes packaged in a square pillow case of the same fabric so you can make a matching cushion for the bed, which is a nice homely touch.
12. H&M flounce-trimmed duvet cover set
Best flounced bedding set
We liked: the light and airy weave, perfect for summer
The wide flounces all round this bright white H&M set break up the outline, so that it feels like a giant pile of softness to fall into and get lost in. The flounces can’t really be ironed, but you can wash the 150 thread-count cotton at 60 and tumble dry it, which is not the case with some posh bedding. H&M’s range this year also includes some lovely textured sets with bobbles and raised stripes which feel strangely reassuring against the skin and are well worth checking out.
If you're looking for more ways to improve your sleep, read our guide to the best mattresses for back pain.
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Down duvets: Down is the best natural insulator providing approximately three times more warmth than synthetic materials. Soft and fluffy, down is very durable and provides the highest levels of warmth in a duvet.What bedding is best for sleep? ›
“Using materials and fabrics that aren't very breathable can cause a person to overheat during the night, which may negatively affect their sleep quality — and, consequently, health,” Savy says. He advises opting for any kind of natural fabric (cotton, bamboo, viscose, linen, Tencel, natural silk, etc.)What is better than a duvet? ›
While duvets can look more fluffy, comforters are usually larger than duvets. They hang over the side of the bed whereas duvets usually fit the exact size of the mattress.How can you tell a quality duvet? ›
A duvet's tog rating is important as it relates to its warmth (but not its weight, which depends on filling). The higher the tog rating, the warmer the duvet, with 2.5 – 7 tog perfect for spring and summer and 10.5 – 13.5 ideal for autumn and winter.What material do hotels use for duvet covers? ›
Hotel blankets are typically woven or fleece with options for 100% cotton, cotton-poly blends, and 100% polyester. Comforter –Filled products that can be used as a duvet insert or in triple sheeting.What is the coolest fabric for duvet cover? ›
Duvet covers are made from a variety of materials. Cotton and linen are popular for their breathability, while warmer options like flannel and microfiber are better for colder climates.Is a polyester duvet better than cotton? ›
Polyester is a cheaper, synthetic alternative to cotton. It's relatively smooth, soft to the touch, durable and longer-lasting than cotton.What is better microfiber or cotton duvet? ›
Microfiber traps heat more easily than cotton. The material is better suited for colder climates and people who tend to sleep cold. Cotton's natural fibers assist in regulating temperature for a cool and dry sleep. They are ideal for sleepers who run hot at night.What type of duvet is best for all year round? ›
A medium tog value is around 10.5, and these are generally considered to be spring or autumn duvets, however depending on climate and central heating, they can be used all year round. The highest tog value is 15, with most agreeing that 13.5 is the ideal value for a cosy, winter duvet.