Flannel vs Cotton Sheets: What’s the Difference?

Last Updated On January 26th, 2024
Flannel vs Cotton Sheets: What’s the Difference?

Key Takeaways

  • Comfort and Durability: Flannel is soft and cozy, suitable for colder months, while cotton offers a smooth and crisp feel, ideal for year-round use, and is known for its durability, especially Egyptian cotton.
  • Warmth and Seasonality: Flannel sheets provide instant warmth and comfort, suitable for colder climates, while cotton sheets, with their breathable nature, are ideal for warmer weather, ensuring a cool and comfortable sleep experience.
  • Material Composition: While 100% cotton is a classic choice, cotton blends with materials like polyester, rayon, or bamboo can provide added benefits such as enhanced softness, durability, and resistance to wrinkles, catering to individual preferences and needs.

Choosing the right bedding can make a big difference in your sleep quality and comfort. Two popular options are cotton and flannel sheets, but what are the differences between them? Are flannel sheets too warm for summer? Can they cause night sweats? We’ve got all the answers to help you make an informed decision.

Throughout this article, we’ll compare flannel and cotton sheets in terms of comfort, durability, warmth, moisture-wicking, thread count, and material composition. By the end, you’ll have a clear idea of which fabric is best suited for your needs and preferences.

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What Is Cotton?

Cotton is a natural fiber that comes from the cotton plant. It is composed of cellulose, an organic compound that gives cotton its soft, breathable, and absorbent qualities.

Cotton sheets are woven from cotton yarns or threads. The threads can come from different types of cotton fibers, including Egyptian cotton, Pima cotton, and American Upland cotton. Egyptian cotton is considered one of the highest-quality varieties, known for its durability, softness, and lustrous sheen. There are also two weave types, sateen and percale.

Cotton bed sheets are valued for their breathability, helping regulate body temperature during sleep. The fibers wick moisture away from the body, keeping skin dry and comfortable. Cotton also has hypoallergenic properties, making it ideal for those with sensitive skin.

While 100% cotton sheets are highly sought after, cotton blended with synthetics like polyester can provide wrinkle resistance and durability while retaining cotton’s natural comfort. High-quality cotton sheets properly cared for can last for years of comfortable sleep.

What Is Flannel?

Flannel is a soft woven fabric made from either wool, cotton, or synthetic polyester fibers. Cotton flannel is the most common type used for bed sheets. It is made from carded cotton, which has short fibers that create a soft nap and fuzzy texture.

Flannel sheets are brushed on one or both sides to raise this nap, enhancing their coziness and warmth. The brushed fibers create small air pockets that provide effective insulation against the cold. This makes flannel sheets a popular choice for winter bedding.

High-quality cotton flannel sheets are measured in ounces per square yard, with 5-6 ounces being ideal. Heavier flannels around this weight will be soft, warm, and durable. Lightweight flannels under 5 ounces may not be as insulating or long-lasting.

While flannel can feel overly warm in hot weather, breathable cotton flannel sheets can still allow airflow on milder nights. The cozy warmth of flannel makes it a classic choice for cooler seasons, perfect for curling up in bed as the temperatures drop.

Comfort and Durability

When it comes to choosing bedding, comfort, and durability are two of the most important factors to consider. Flannel and cotton sheets are both popular options that offer different levels of comfort and durability.


Flannel sheets are indeed known for their softness and coziness, making them a popular choice, particularly during colder months. The brushed surface of flannel sheets creates a fuzzy texture that feels warm and comforting against the skin.

In contrast, cotton sheets, made from 100% cotton, are recognized for their smoothness and crisp feel. They are widely used throughout the year and tend to feel cooler to the touch than most flannel sheets.

If you prefer a warm and fuzzy feel that embraces you in comfort, flannel sheets made from breathable fabrics may be the best option for you. On the other hand, if you favor a cooler and smoother sensation against your skin, 100% cotton sheets might be the way to go. If you seek to sleep cooler, the insulating nature of flannel may not be your best choice.


In terms of durability, cotton sheets, especially Egyptian cotton, are known for their long-lasting quality. Egyptian cotton is exceptionally strong and can endure repeated washing without showing wear.

On the other hand, flannel sheets, while soft and cozy, are more delicate and may not hold up as well over time.

When it comes to good flannel sheets, we don’t measure their quality by thread count like we do with cotton sheets. Instead, we look at how heavy they are in ounces per square yard.

Flannel sheets in the five- to six-ounce range are considered to be of good quality. These sheets are made from a blend of wool and other synthetic fibers, and they’re brushed with a fine wire to make them super soft.

Keep in mind that low-quality flannel can have fuzzy fibers that may feel rough against your skin. On the other hand, cotton sheets are usually more durable and last longer. When it comes to sheets made with different weaves, choosing higher thread counts can make them last longer and feel better.

Warmth and Seasonality

One common question about cotton flannel sheets is whether they’ll be too warm for a summer bedroom makeover. It’s true that flannel, made with cotton fibers, is a heavier fabric designed to provide instant warmth and coziness during cold weather.

However, it’s important to note that high-quality flannel sheets can be used during the summer months without making you feel too warm, rather than being reserved for a winter bedroom makeover. These sheets, thanks to their breathable cotton flannel material, can help ensure you stay comfortable even when the temperatures rise.

If you live in a cooler climate, you might find that the best flannel sheets can keep you warm and comfortable year-round. The napped texture of flannel sheets creates tiny air pockets that trap heat effectively, ensuring you have warm sheets that provide instant warmth whenever you need it.

In warmer places or when sleeping during a heat wave, people often switch to lighter bedding for the summer. Cotton is a popular choice because it’s good at letting warm air out and keeping your body cool. It does this because of its simple weave pattern, which helps air flow through and lets your body heat escape.

So, in hot weather, using cotton sheets can help you sleep comfortably. You can also try to cool down your room with simple life hacks, such as sheets left in the freezer a couple of hours before bed.

Choosing the Right Fabric for Your Climate

Choosing the right bedding is vital for a good night’s sleep. If you get hot and sweaty, pick a breathable, moisture-wicking fabric. If you get cold, go for something like a flannel with fine fibers and insulating air pockets to stay warm. Consider your climate and personal preference when choosing bedding.

Night Sweats and Moisture-Wicking

Micro flannel sheets, similar to traditional flannel, can indeed make some people feel warmer than cotton sheets, especially on winter days. A flannel sheet helps you not feel cold at night, especially on winter days.

Night sweats, if they occur, are often due to various factors such as health conditions, medications, or hormonal changes. The woven fabric provided by flannel sheets should not be confused with causing night sweats in men or in women.

Cotton sheets, with their plain weave, excel at absorbing moisture and keeping you cool. They’re breathable, leaving you feeling dry.

In contrast, micro flannel, a brushed cotton base fabric, can retain moisture and make you feel damp. While this material can’t cause night sweats it likely won’t help with your comfort if you experience them.

To ensure a cooler and drier night’s sleep, consider buying 100% cotton sheets with a thread count of 300 or higher. These sheets are breathable, lightweight, and soft to the touch.

Thread Count

The thread count of flannel and cotton sheets can greatly affect their feel and quality. While a higher thread count may indicate a softer and more durable sheet, it may also mean less breathability.

For flannel sheets, a thread count of 170-180 is considered the sweet spot for softness and warmth. Higher thread count flannel sheets may feel too heavy and trap in heat. On the other hand, cotton sheets typically have a higher thread count, with 200-800 being the standard range. A thread count of 400-600 is recommended for the best balance of durability, softness, and breathability.

It’s important to note that thread count is just one factor to consider when you buy flannel sheets or regular sheets. Other factors, such as material composition and weave, can also impact the quality and feel of your bedding.

Material Composition

When selecting bedsheets, the material they’re made of plays a big role in their quality, feel, and durability. While cotton is the most popular choice for sheets, they don’t have to be 100% cotton.

A mix of cotton with other materials like polyester, rayon, or bamboo can bring advantages such as extra softness, added durability, less shrinkage, and resistance to wrinkles.

Furthermore, these cotton blends can be more budget-friendly compared to 100% cotton sheets while still providing similar comfort and breathability. Weave also affects the feel, with percale cotton sheets overall feeling crisper to silky sateen cotton sheets.

Your choice of material depends on your bedroom style and personal preferences, and there are various weaves and a certain napping process used to create different woven fabrics to suit your needs.

Other Sheet Materials

Flannel and cotton aren’t your only choice of sheet fabrics. There are pros and cons to each material, so consider factors like affordability, durability, breathability and your own textural preferences when choosing sheets. A blend of materials can also optimize different benefits.


Microfiber sheets are made from extremely fine synthetic fibers, often a polyester-polyamide blend. Microfiber sheets are valued for their soft, silky smooth texture and affordability. They are also quite durable and wrinkle-resistant.

However, microfiber does not offer the same breathability as natural fibers. Microfiber fleece and flannel are both used for warmth, but as flannel is made with natural cotton it tends to be more breathable, as one example.

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Linen sheets are woven from the fibers of the flax plant. They are admired for their cool, crisp feel and exceptional durability. Linen has moisture-wicking properties to help regulate body temperature. However, linen can be prone to wrinkling.

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Bamboo rayon sheets are made from bamboo cellulose. Bamboo sheets are prized for their softness, breathability, and moisture-wicking abilities. They help keep sleepers cool and comfortable. Bamboo also has antimicrobial properties.

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Tencel, also known as lyocell, is a fabric made from wood cellulose. Tencel sheets are smooth, breathable, and eco-friendly. They regulate temperature well. However, they can be more expensive than cotton.

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Silk sheets are luxurious bedding options made from natural silk fibers, typically derived from silkworms. Known for their smooth and soft texture, they offer a comfortable and opulent sleeping experience. They are highly valued for their hypoallergenic properties and ability to regulate temperature, but can be quite expensive.

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Factors to Consider

Regardless of the type of sheet you’re looking at, there are a few universal considerations:

Breathability: Look for fabrics that are breathable and allow air circulation to promote a comfortable sleeping environment. 100% cotton sheets are usually the most breathable, but cotton blends that include natural fibers like bamboo can also provide good breathability.

Durability: The material composition plays a significant role in determining the durability and longevity of the sheets. Generally, cotton blends tend to be more durable and less prone to sheets pilling and tearing than 100% cotton sheets. Look for high-quality blends that are made with a high percentage of cotton and a low percentage of synthetic materials like polyester.

Comfort: The choice of material composition ultimately comes down to personal comfort preferences. 100% cotton sheets are known for their softness and natural feel, while cotton blends can offer enhanced softness and improved moisture-wicking abilities. Consider factors such as thread count, fiber type, and weave pattern when choosing a material composition that feels comfortable to your skin.

Overall, while 100% cotton sheets are a classic choice, it is not necessary for bedsheets to be 100% cotton. Cotton blends can offer the same level of comfort and breathability while providing additional benefits such as enhanced durability and affordability.

It’s important to consider your personal preferences and needs when selecting the material composition for your bedsheets.


Is flannel better than cotton?

Both flannel and cotton have their advantages, and the right choice depends on personal preferences and needs. Flannel is known for its warmth and softness, making it a popular choice for colder seasons. Cotton, on the other hand, is more versatile, as it can be breathable and suitable for various climates.

Are flannel sheets too warm for summer?

Flannel sheets are generally designed to provide warmth and coziness, which can make them feel too hot for summer use, particularly in warmer climates. However, some individuals may find flannel sheets comfortable throughout the year, even during mild summer nights.

Consider your personal comfort levels and the temperature of your bedroom when choosing sheets for the summer.

What is the coolest fabric for sheets?

Bamboo, linen, and cotton percale are some of the coolest fabrics for sheets. Bamboo sheets are known for their breathability and moisture-wicking properties, making them an excellent option for hot sleepers. Linen sheets are also highly breathable and promote airflow, keeping you cool during warm nights. Cotton percale sheets are lightweight, crisp, and provide excellent ventilation, ensuring a cool and comfortable sleep experience.

Can flannel sheets cause night sweats?

Flannel sheets are designed to provide warmth and insulation, which can lead to increased heat retention. In some cases, this extra warmth may cause discomfort and potentially contribute to night sweats for individuals who naturally sleep hot.

If you tend to experience night sweats, you may consider using lighter, more breathable sheets such as cotton or bamboo to help regulate your body temperature during sleep.

What is the best thread count for flannel or cotton sheets?

For flannel sheets, the thread count is not as critical as it is for other types of sheets. Generally, flannel sheets are measured in ounces, with higher ounce weights indicating a thicker and more durable material. Look for flannel sheets with an ounce weight of 5 to 6 ounces for a balance between softness and durability.

For cotton sheets, the thread count is an essential factor in determining the quality and feel of the sheets. A thread count ranging between 200 and 800 can provide a comfortable and durable option. However, it’s crucial to consider other factors, such as the type of cotton used, to ensure you’re getting the best quality sheets for your needs.

Should bedsheets be 100% cotton?

While 100% cotton sheets are popular, other materials can also offer comfort and durability. They are known for their breathability, softness, and natural cooling properties, making them a top choice for many. However, some may find that blends with other fabrics, such as bamboo or polyester, offer benefits such as increased durability and wrinkle resistance.


Those looking for a cozy and warm option should consider flannel sheets, while those who prefer a smoother and cooler feel should opt for cotton sheets. It’s also important to note that flannel sheets may not be suitable for warmer climates, but there are other fabrics that are considered cooler for summer bedding.

In terms of durability, both flannel and cotton sheets can last a long time with proper care, but the thread count and material composition are important factors that influence their quality and feel.

Ultimately, the decision between flannel vs cotton sheets comes down to personal preference and comfort needs. Consider the climate you live in, your preferred level of softness, and the longevity you desire when making your choice. We hope this article has provided you with the information you need to make an informed decision.

About the author

Mitchell Tollsen is a graduate student and a freelance writer who’s contributed to the Early Bird blog for three years. Mitchell’s always been fascinated by the science of sleep and the restorative processes our bodies undergo when at rest. The self-titled “Sleep Expert” is always looking for ways to improve his shut-eye, and throughout the years has implemented numerous lifestyle changes and tried dozens of sleep-promoting gadgets to determine the best ways to truly get better rest.

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