Linen Vs Cotton Sheets — Which Are Actually Best for Sleep, Comfort and Style?

Both natural materials, but what are the key differences and which will help to achieve the best night's sleep? We ask the experts

close up image of the head of a bed with two grey rectangular cushions on white sheets
(Image credit: Lisa Staton)

There’s nothing better than the feeling of climbing into bed at the end of a long hard day — but this feeling of utter bliss can be interrupted by the wrong bed linen.

The goal is to choose the best bedding set for you, achieving maximum comfort when you do so. However, there are often big, differing opinions when it comes to the type of textile you choose, and it's a particularly fierce debate around cotton vs linen sheets.

To get to the bottom of which is really better for our bedrooms, we asked the experts for their advice.

What are the pros and cons of linen sheets?

bedroom with a bed with light blue linen sheets and tartan throw over the top

(Image credit: Piglet in bed)

Linen is one of the lightest and most breathable fabrics on the market, meaning it keeps cool air circulating through its loosely woven fibers to prevent warm air from being trapped.

And this is just one benefit of linen bedding sets. ‘Linen is twice as durable as cotton,’ reassures Genevieve Rosen Biller, founder of Bed Threads, meaning your linen bedding will last longer, sometimes decades when cared for properly. It also gets softer with age, washing and use.

‘From a sustainability point of view, linen is the more eco-friendly option. It is fully biodegradable, and the flax plant that linen is created from requires fewer pesticides and less water than cotton to thrive. Plus, the entire plant is utilized, from the seeds right through to the stalks, meaning much less waste than cotton,’ Genevieve adds.

If you are a hot sleeper or are based in a warmer climate, linen bedding will be better suited to keep you more comfortable.

Don't forget to also consider style, Jessica Hanley, founder of Piglet in Bed suggests ‘Linen’s natural and crumpled texture adds a rustic look and feel to bedding, which is undeniably inviting.’, so if you’re not keen on ironing, these may be your preferable choice.

However, there are some downsides, too. 'Linen sheets often feel a little rougher than cotton to start with,' says's editor Hugh Metcalf, who has tested plenty of bedsheets in his career. 'They take a little time to wear in, after which you'll find them softer and more yielding.'

'I also find that linen sheets sometimes don't "stay put",' Hugh says. 'They can seem to stretch out, so after a week's worth of sleeping in them, it almost feels like your linen doesn't fit your duvet anymore.' If you're good at keeping on top of your sheet washing, this will be less of a problem, as they quickly return back to normal, and the good thing is that linen will hold up to regular washing better than cotton.

What are the pros and cons of Cotton bedding?

A bedroom with a cream bed centred next to a window

(Image credit: Justin Thomason Photography. Design: West of Main)

It's a bit of a myth that high threadcount sheets are better than low threadcounts. It’s often recommended to opt for a high thread count to achieve better quality sheets, however a high thread count can compromise the breathability as the air can’t move through the sheets as easily and heat can become trapped. In fact, it’s the quality of the thread matters more than the number. ‘A higher quality thread with a lower thread count will actually feel more comfortable than a lower quality fiber,’ says Jack Dell'Accio, sleep expert and founder of Essentia Mattress.

As mentioned before, cotton can be seen as less eco-friendly, unless you're careful when shopping and look out the best cotton bedding sets. ‘My biggest concern when shopping for new sheets is the fiber itself and how it has been treated. I recommend avoiding all chemically-treated sheets and choosing a certified organic option to ensure that you are avoiding synthetics or harmful chemicals. Generally speaking if you are prioritizing softness, then organic cotton will be the best choice over organic linen.’

Cotton does often have a satin-like texture, so it’s potentially better suited to those who prefer a less textured fabric. The smooth, crisp finish of cotton can also help to create a more tailored, finished look in a bedroom, a good choice to recreate a hotel-style space, in case this is something that’s important to you.

For extra softness, look for $ Egyptian cotton sheets$ — these use fibers grown exclusively in rich, fertile Egyptian soil alongside the river Nile, which are super fine and handpicked, rather than harvested by machine, to preserve the quality.

3. Conclusion

A blue bedroom with cotton turquoise sheets

(Image credit: Piglet in bed)

There are a few key differences between linen and cotton sheets, but ultimately it seems the final choice comes down to personal preference. Both are naturally strong, durable and breathable fabrics but depending on the climate you live in and your own personal sleeping habits, realistically you should have a strong idea as to what suits your lifestyle best.

Consider the desired style of your bedroom too to create the best finish for you, aiming for the ideal scenario of pulling back those sheets and climbing into the pure personal luxury.

Portia Carroll

Portia Carroll is an interior stylist, writer, and design consultant. With a background in interior architecture and design, she has a plethora of creative experience in the industry working with high end interior brands to capture beautiful spaces and products and enhance their qualities.