Fitted Sheets vs Flat Sheets: Do You Need Both?

Fitted Sheets vs Flat Sheets: Do You Need Both?

Australians are passionate about many things. Sport, sunshine, work-life balance, bed sheets and the correct name for water fountains.

While some of our passions are well-founded (sunshine is great, and work-life balance is a must), others divide the nation along clear lines.

One argument that continues unabated is about the best bed sheet arrangement. The big question that remains unanswered: should you use a flat sheet?

To get to the bottom of Australia’s bed sheet ponderings, we need to investigate what fitted sheets, flat sheets and duvet covers can do for a better night’s sleep.

The fitted sheet vs flat sheet debate

It has been called “the great top sheet debate” and discussed by international bloggers.

According to internet polls, most Australians use a flat sheet and a fitted sheet. However, other surveys suggest young people are less interested in top sheets.

And the thing is, there are great arguments for both sides.

So keep reading, whether you are firmly in the flat sheet camp or prefer sleeping with just a fitted sheet and duvet.

This debate has many layers.

What is a fitted sheet?

Also known as a bottom sheet, a fitted sheet has elastic corners that tuck neatly underneath a mattress.

Fitted sheets add a layer of soft comfort between your body and the top layer of bedding, whether the mattress itself, mattress topper or mattress protector.

There are several reasons to sleep on a snugly fitted sheet.

Protects the mattress

Fitted sheets are functional, protecting your mattress from sweat and dirt when you sleep.

Mattresses are much more challenging to clean than fitted sheets. So if you can protect your sleeping surface with a washable, cosy, eco-friendly fitted sheet, then why not?

Easy to clean

Elasticated corners make fitted sheets easy to remove when it’s time to wash the sheets.

Soft, even sleeping surface

Removable mattress protectors do an excellent job of protecting your sleeping surface. And they are easy to clean.

So why add a fitted sheet? That’s simple: comfort.

Unlike mattress protectors, which move around, fitted sheets stay in place so you can sleep through the night.

What is a flat sheet?

As the name suggests, a flat sheet is a rectangle of fabric designed to go on top of your bed. While opinions on fitted sheets are almost unanimously positive, the flat sheet does not enjoy such strong support.

Some Australians believe no bed is complete without a flat sheet, also called a top sheet. Others argue against a top sheet for reasons we will dive into shortly.

In fairness to the oft-debated flat sheet, let’s start by looking at what a top sheet is used for.

Temperature control

Sleeping under a duvet can quickly become uncomfortably hot and sweaty during the summer season. Being able to cool is essential for a good night’s sleep.

Without a duvet, you may cool too quickly as sweat evaporates into the air.

Top sheets, especially organic fabrics like bamboo, offer a thinner insulating layer that regulates body temperature on warm nights. Sweat can still evaporate thanks to bamboo’s exceptional moisture-wicking capabilities, but not so fast you wake up with a chill.

Plus, sleeping without a cover means there is no barrier between you and the dust mites, bacteria and allergens in the air.

And in cooler weather, a flat sheet provides an additional layer to keep you warm.

Australian winters are mild, so often adding a bamboo flat sheet can be a more effective alternative than a heavier winter duvet which may trap too much heat.

Protecting the duvet cover

Duvet cover hygiene is an enduring argument for using a top sheet. Without a flat sheet, you will need to wash your duvet cover at least every 7-10 days and keep an eye out for discolouration.

Thankfully, removing stains from bamboo fabric is not a painful task.

But it’s still a chore you can avoid by using a flat sheet. Flat sheets are lighter, easier to clean and faster to dry than duvet covers.

Snug comfort

Individual sleep style is just that: individual. Just like some people like cuddling and others can’t be touching while they sleep, some people enjoy the feeling of people snug beneath a tucked-in top sheet.

Luxury hotels often use a top sheet to create a cosy cocoon. The feeling of being swaddled in sumptuous bamboo sheets creates a sanctuary in the bedroom.

The real debate: Flat sheet vs duvet cover

Although we began this article with the “fitted sheet vs flat sheet” debate, the real question is whether you need a flat sheet, or if sleeping under a duvet cover will suffice.


What is a duvet cover?

Duvet covers envelop your duvet much like a pillowcase.

And like a pillowcase, the purpose of a duvet cover is to protect what’s inside from dirt, stains and allergens that accumulate as you sleep.

Do I need a duvet cover?

If you sleep with a duvet, then yes. A cover keeps your duvet clean and is significantly easier to wash.

Quilts and coverlets, two decorative duvet alternatives, may not need a protective cover. But these bedspreads are not designed for sleeping, so a duvet remains your best bet for a better night’s sleep.

Is it better to sleep under a flat sheet or duvet cover?

To answer this question, we first need to revisit what a flat sheet and duvet cover are used for:

Protecting the duvet

Both flat sheets and duvet covers protect your duvet from sweat, oils and dirt.

Although a flat sheet is easier to clean than a duvet cover, the difference is negligible. Duvet covers still need regular cleaning, even with a top sheet.

Temperature control

Flat sheets can help you stay comfortably cool in summer or add a warm layer in winter.

Duvet covers also play a role in regulating body temperature. For example, bamboo duvet covers will function better than cotton to regulate body temperature year-round, regardless of your top sheet preference.


Your duvet cover is the first thing you (or anyone else) see in the bedroom. Therefore, it is worth finding a design-inspired and aesthetically pleasing duvet cover that integrates with your bedroom interiors.

On the other hand, top sheets can create a layered look in a modern bedroom. Tuck in the corners for a crisp hotel aesthetic, or leave them dangling for a more deconstructed, effortless bedroom look.


As well as temperature regulation, the right bedding plays an active role in comfort through the night:

  • Repelling dust mites
  • Reducing allergens
  • Allowing sweat to evaporate
  • Cosy weight

The only thing we can be sure of is that sleeping beneath a layer of bamboo bedding is better than going au-natural.

But whether you prefer a top sheet, duvet, or doubling up is ultimately up to you.

After all, this is your sleep sanctuary.

Flat sheet FAQs

Can you use a flat sheet as a bottom sheet?

Yes, you can tuck the corners of a flat sheet under your mattress for a makeshift fitted sheet.

Although elastic corners make a fitted sheet more secure and easier to apply, there is a trick to neatly tucked-in corners using a flat sheet.

Start by laying a large flat sheet over your bed and smoothing out any wrinkles. Next, lift the base of the mattress and tuck the overhanging fabric underneath, across the entire mattress width.

Take the untucked fabric from the side of the mattress and fold it into a triangular shape. Tuck that firmly under the corner and repeat on all four corners.

Now you have “hospital corners” that should stay tucked all night.

How often should you wash a flat sheet?

Washing bedding every 7-10 days keeps the fabric fresh and clean.

For bamboo bedding, regular washing has the advantage of refreshing bamboo’s natural antibacterial and hypoallergenic properties.

Of course, how often you wash your bedding depends on your lifestyle.

  • How many nights a week you spend in your bed
  • Whether you are a sweaty sleeper
  • If you use a duvet cover only, or a top sheet
  • Whether pets bring dirt and allergens into the bedroom

Weekly washing is a part of good sleep hygiene habits.

If you find your sheets frequently need more regular washing, consider getting another spare set to prevent the sheets from wearing out in the wash.

Do you need a duvet cover and a flat sheet?

Not everybody needs a layer between themselves and the doona cover. It comes down to what you are comfortable with and what helps you sleep soundly through the night.

It’s always a good idea to have a flat sheet on hand, even if you don’t use it regularly. On those particularly hot or cold nights, having a spare flat sheet in the linen cupboard is a relief for your body and mind.

How do you know whether you prefer sleeping under a flat sheet or duvet cover?

There’s a good chance that your adult sleep habits are a continuation of how you slept as a child. So the only way to know how you feel about the “flat sheet vs duvet cover” question is to experiment.

  • If you usually use a flat sheet, wait for a mild night to try going without
  • Try each sleeping style for a week
  • Keep a sleep journal to track your comfort levels and sleep quality

Paying attention to your mind and body is the most effective way to judge what works for you. For example, as the seasons change, you might add or remove a layer for comfort.

Do you still need to wash a duvet?

Although using a duvet cover can guard against daily detritus like sweat and dirt, it doesn’t hurt to wash your comforter every few months.

Aim to wash your duvet every four to six months. However it is more important for your health and sleep hygiene to keep your sheets and duvet cover clean with regular washing.

The bottom line on fitted sheets, flat sheets and duvet covers

The multi-layered debate over the best way to sleep may never be settled.

The more we discuss sleep, the more it becomes a priority for one-third of Australians who are not getting enough good-quality sleep.

So talk to your friends, family and partner about your new bed sheets. Ask your colleagues whether they sleep with or without a top sheet.

While you’re guaranteed to get some engaging (and no doubt passionate) answers, you will also get people talking about their sleep habits.

The best bed sheets for a better night’s sleep

Here at OLARA, we believe sleep should be a priority for every Australian. High-quality bed sheets are an integral part of high-quality sleep, wherever your preferences lie.

Browse our range of 100% organic bamboo fitted sheets, flat sheets, duvet covers and pillowcases.

Enveloping yourself in organic bamboo fabric is a feeling unlike any other. And with five naturally-inspired colours available across a range of sheet sizes, we’re sure to have the perfect bamboo sheet set for your sleep sanctuary.

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