5 On Your Side

Are pricey pillows, sheets worth the cost?

Posted May 26, 2010

Good sheets can make a big difference in how well you sleep.

Pillows and linens that claim to be luxurious, though, can be pricey, so Consumer Reports recently tested 23 sets of sheets to find out if they are worth it.

There are many choices among sheets and pillows. There are Egyptian, pima and combed cotton sheets – not to mention sateen and percale weaves and thread counts that run the gamut.

In tests for strength, many sheets ripped easily. Some seams came apart without much force.

Other sheets just did not fit onto beds; instead, they popped off the corners. Some flat sheets were so short that they wouldn't tuck in.

"We also found wrinkle-free sheets that weren't (wrinkle free), and we found sets where the colors were mismatched," said Celia Kuperszmid Lehman, with Consumer Reports.

Many sheets are treated with fabric enhancers and softeners to make them feel soft at the store, so testers judged softness only after the sheets were washed five times.

Testers found that higher thread counts that are often more expensive don't guarantee softer or stronger sheets. Consumer Reports recommends LL.Bean's Pima Cotton Percale for $100 and, among the softest tested, Target's Home 600 thread count for $70.

Consumer Reports also had dozens of panelists try out the type of pillow they normally sleep on, including feather-down, polyester and memory-foam pillows.

"Each person took home an expensive and an inexpensive pillow, not knowing which was which. And then we asked them to sleep on them for five consecutive nights," Lehman said.

In a feather-down face-off, testers compared a $100 Bed, Bath & Beyond pillow and a $30 JC Penney pillow. The polyester pillow showdown starred an $81 Company Store pillow pitted against a $10 Kmart pillow. In the memory foam match-up were a $99 Tempur-Pedic and a $35 Target pillow.

"It turns out (that) for the polyester and feather-down pillows, most staffers did find the more expensive pillows more comfortable," Adam Kaplan, with Consumer Reports said.

In the memory-foam pillow fight, however, both pillows earned similar comfort ratings, making the $35 Target pillow a much better deal.

The Better Sleep Council recommends that firm pillows are best for side sleepers, medium-firm pillows for back sleepers and soft pillows for those who sleep on their stomachs.

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  • Killian May 28, 2010

    I grew up not knowing the difference, but I will freely admit that there is no better feeling at the end of the day to slip down in between my 1200tc Egyptian cotton sheets. They get softer after washing without losing structural integrity. Good sheets are well worth the investment!!