Putting the Top Sheet Debate to Bed

November 13, 2019 | Casper Editorial Team

There has been a great debate brewing on the internet for the past couple of years. It involves the flat sheet many people traditionally use to separate themselves from their comforter at night: the ever-controversial top sheet.
Proponents of the top sheet think it is absolutely disgusting not to use one. After all, it separates you from your comforter and blankets, allowing you to wash your bedding frequently while leaving your comforter for the occasional wash.
Those against the top sheet have described it as “archaic”. They argue that top sheets are restricting and only end up in a crumpled mess at the end of the bed.

41% of Older Americans Won’t Sleep Without a Top Sheet

While many people are blaming millennials for “killing” the top sheet along with chain restaurants and marriage, data shows a slow decline in popularity throughout the generations. We surveyed 1,000 Americans to find out where their bedding loyalties lie.
Survey question: How do you feel about the following statement: You should Use a Top Sheet on Your Bed. Survey results: 32.5% strongly agree, 25.7% agree, 24.8% neither agree or disagree, 7.4% disagree, and 9.6% strongly disagree.
Our main takeaways were as follows:

  • Overall, 58 percent of Americans agree or strongly agree that a top sheet is essential.
  • Two-thirds of Americans aged 55+ feel a top sheet is essential.
  • In fact, 18 percent of people aged 18-24 actually feel strongly against the use of a top sheet. That’s in contrast to only 3 percent of those aged 65+.

Nearly 3 in 5 Americans Agree or Strongly Agree That a Top Sheet Is Essential

On the surface, it appears that the majority of Americans prefer to use a top sheet.
However, when we look closer at the results, we find that the real difference in opinion comes out between respondents of different ages.
Older generations, in this case, Baby Boomers and older, are fiercely attached to their top sheets. The younger generations, from millennials to Gen Z, are not fans of the extra cover.
Americans' feelings on top sheets, aged 55 and up: 41% strongly agree, 26% agree, 20% neither agree nor disagree, and 13% disagree or strongly disagree.

67% of Americans Aged 55+ Feel a Top Sheet Is Essential

According to our survey results, Americans aged 55 and older feel top sheets should always be used. Over a quarter indicated that they “agree” a top sheet should be incorporated into the standard bed-making routine, while another 41 percent said they are strongly pro top sheet.
This is in striking difference to the younger generations, who have apparently been slowly abandoning the top sheet for years. In fact, the number of people who regularly use a top sheet appears to have been decreasing steadily from generation to generation.
Interest in top sheets diminishes in younger ages. 43% of people aged 55 and up use a top sheet, compared to 30% of 35-54 year olds and 26% of 18-34 year olds.

The Number of People Who Feel Strongly About the Top Sheet is Dwindling

While more than 40 percent of Boomers feel strongly about top sheet usage, less than a third of Gen X advocate for the extra layer of linen. Younger generations use a top sheet even less, at just over a quarter of respondents.
In fact, 18 percent of people aged 18-24 actually feel strongly against the use of a top sheet. That’s in contrast to only 3 percent of those aged 65+.
Only 3% of those 65 and older strongly disagree that you should use a top sheet.

Is Top Sheet Obsolescence a Bad Thing?

It appears the top sheet is falling out of style, but does that mean that younger Americans are sleeping on filthy linens? Well, that depends.
Top Sheets Keep Your Comforter Clean 
The purpose of a top sheet is to create a barrier between you and your comforter while you’re sleeping. This is handy because studies show bed sheets are the perfect breeding grounds for bacteria. In fact, 47 species of fungi have been found on used bedsheets.
In addition to that, the average human sweats up to 26 gallons a year and our beds have been found to be dirtier than chimpanzees! However, machine washing, even at low temperatures, has been shown to kill bacteria like staphylococcus, so any bedclothes that lie against the skin at night should be put through a machine cycle regularly.
Washing a bulky, heavy comforter can be tedious, which is why so many find the top sheet to be essential. Theoretically, with your top sheet as a barrier, you can avoid washing your comforter every week or two when you wash your sheets.
47 specied of fungi have been found on used beddsheets.
Enter: The Duvet Cover 
It’s a pillow-cover-like envelope for your comforter that can be easily removed and washed. With a duvet cover in place, bed residents can sleep soundly knowing they need not wash their comforter constantly — or use a top sheet — unless they want to.
While the duvet cover was invented centuries ago, it didn’t become widely used until the late 20th century. It grew in popularity in 1970s Europe, while the United States saw adoption even later. Could this be the reason younger generations find top sheets antiquated?
No matter what side of the argument you tend to support, one thing is clear—older Americans aren’t letting the top sheet go any time soon. The disparity between the number of older and younger Americans that feel strongly about the issue can’t be denied.
Although top sheets prevent your comforter from getting dirty, the widespread use of duvet covers has made them somewhat obsolete. Either way you choose to go, make sure your bedding is soft, comfortable, customized to your liking — and regularly washed.