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January 05, 2023 6 min read

A Guide to Understanding Bed Sheets

Whether you prefer cotton sheets, sateen sheets, jersey sheets, or bamboo viscose sheets, you will need to know the difference between a fitted sheet and a flat sheet

If these terms are confusing, the Fig Linens and Home team is here to help! Demystifying the language around bed sheets will get you one step closer to making your perfect bed no matter your price point.

Lulu DK Matouk patterned blue Sheets Fitted Sheet vs Flat Sheet Fig Linens and HOme
Fig Linens and Home: Nikita Blue Sheets by LuLu DK for Matouk​​
Matouk Sierra Percale sheets fitted sheet vs. flat sheet fig linens and home
Fig Linens and Home: Sierra Percale Sheets by Matouk​​

What is a Fitted Sheet?

A fitted sheet, also known as a "bottom sheet," is the tailored, elasticated bed sheet that fits around your mattress. A fitted sheet is the bed sheet placed over your mattress topper and feather bed. It is meant to help keep you cool and give a soft, relaxing feel against your skin.

Unless it is made from a patterned fabric, a fitted bed sheet does not usually have any design elements. Details like embroidery and hemstitch are generally reserved for the flat bed sheet and pillowcases.

A fitted sheet is measured using three dimensions: Length, Width and Depth. Length fits along the short side of the bed, length fits along the long side of the bed, and depth fits around the height of the bed. Each dimension correlates with the length, width, and height of a mattress, but with added inches for easy use. The standard sizes for fitted sheets from top-selling bedding brand Matouk are as follows. Most fitted sheets will be within a few inches of these dimensions.

Fitted Sheet Dimensions:

  • Twin Fitted Sheet: 75" L x 39" W x 17" D
  • Full Fitted Sheet: 75" L x 54" W x 17" D 
  • Queen Fitted Sheet: 60" L x 80" W x 17" D
  • King Fitted Sheet: 76" L x 80" W x 17" D
  • California King Fitted Sheet: 72" L x 84" W x 17" D 

How to Put a Fitted Sheet on Your Bed:

To most easily stretch a fitted bed sheet around your mattress, the Fig Linens and Home team recommends starting with the most difficult to reach corner. This is usually the corner of the bed that is against the wall or against the headboard. From there, you can pull the tailored corners of the fitted bed sheet around the rest of your mattress. 

If the fitted bed sheet is properly sized, it should fit snugly around the mattress, but not be especially difficult to stretch around the bed. If you are having extreme difficulty with putting your fitted bed sheet on the bed, consider checking that the length and width of the fitted sheet are aligned with the length and width of the mattress. If you are still having difficulty, check the size of your fitted bed sheet.

Fig Linens and Home Peacock Alley Boutique White Fitted Sheets Flat Sheets Comparison Fig linens and home
Fig Linens and Home: Boutique White Fitted Sheets by Peacock Alley​​

What is a flat sheet?

A flat sheet, sometimes referred to as a "top sheet," is much more straightforward. This type of bed sheet has no tailoring, and has four flat corners. A flat bed sheet is placed over the fitted sheet, but under the comforter, duvet cover, and blankets.

A flat sheet often has design details like embroidery or hemstitch on the top edge. 

A flat sheet is measured in only two dimensions. The length describes the long side of the bed sheet, and the width describes the short side of the bed sheet. These bed sheet sides align with the long side of the mattress, and the short side of the mattress. The bed sheet dimensions for flat sheets from bestselling cotton bedding brand Matouk are as follows.

Flat Bed Sheet Dimensions:

  • Twin Flat Sheet: 112" L x 72" W 
  • Queen Flat Sheet: 112" L x 94" W
  • King Flat Sheet: 112" L x 112" W

Do I need a Flat Sheet?

Some people swear by sleeping with a flat bed sheet while others prefer the feel of a comforter to sleeping with this extra layer. 

Pros of Sleeping with a Flat Sheet: Sleeping with a flat sheet can have several benefits. First, a flat sheet can help with temperature regulation for hot sleepers. Second, if you have sensitive skin, you may prefer the feel of a very fine cotton bed sheet to the feel of your duvet. Finally, the design detail usually on a flat sheet can add an aesthetic touch to a made bed.

Cons of Sleeping with a Flat Sheet: As an additional piece of bedding, the flat sheet creates more steps when it comes to making the bed and washing your bed sheets. Very restless sleepers may find that the flat sheet becomes tangled beneath the covers overnight, which may be uncomfortable for some.

At the end of the day, choosing whether to sleep with or without a flat bed sheet comes down to personal preference.

Pom pom at home parker navy linen sheet sets fitted sheet vs flat sheet
Fig Linens and Home: Parker Navy Linen Sheet Sets by Pom Pom at Home​​

Bed Sheets 101: What is The Difference Between a Fitted Sheet and A Flat Sheet?

Aside from the individual characteristics of a fitted and  flat sheet, there are differences between these types of bed sheets that require further explanation. 

The most significant of these bed sheet differences is the variations in sizing between fitted sheets and flat sheets. 

Because fitted sheets are designed to fit tightly around the mattress, their sizing is much more specialized. It is possible to buy twin fitted sheets, full fitted sheets, queen fitted sheets, king fitted sheets, and California king fitted sheets to go around your mattress.

On the other hand, since flat sheets drape loosely over the bed (like a blanket) they do not need to be fitted as closely. Therefore, flat bed sheets are only available in twin flat sheet, queen flat sheet, and king flat sheet sizes. If you are buying flat sheets for a full sized bed, you will choose a queen flat sheet, and if you are buying flat sheets for a California king sized bed you will choose king sized sheets.

If you would prefer a more tailored fit for the flat bed sheet for your California King or full sized bed, you will need to place a custom order. Email us at to see how we can help!

The chart below outlines the basic differences between flat and fitted bed sheets, and the size differences between the two styles. Use this comparison chart to help choose the best bed sheets for your needs.

the difference between a fitted sheet and a flat sheet fig linens and home

What is a Sheet Set?

Though some brands sell their sheeting as separate pieces (fitted sheet, flat sheet, pillowcase, pillow sham, etc.), others sell bed sheets as "sheet sets."

Though this term may seem confusing, a "sheet set" is merely one package that includes all of the bed sheet pieces for one bed. Shopping bed sheet sets may be a good option for those furnishing several rooms to keep organized. 

Generally, a classic sheet set includes: 

  • 1 fitted sheet
  • 1 flat sheet
  • 2 pillowcases. 

The only complication comes in sizing. As described above, flat bed sheets are not made in full or California king sizes, so these sheet sets will include flat sheets in the closest size (queen and king, respectively). 

Furthermore, the different bed sheet set sizes include different sizes of pillowcases. A twin sheet set, full sheet set, and queen sheet set come with 2 standard sized pillowcases. On the other hand, a king sheet set comes usually comes with two king pillowcases.If you are looking for more information on pillowcases, be sure to read our blog post on the subject.

Just like individual sheets, sheet sets are available in a range of patterns and colors. Potential bed sheet set materials include cotton, silk, linen, and tencel. Careful research and consideration of your needs will allow you to choose the right sheets for your best night's sleep.

Shop some of the best sheet sets at Fig Linens and Home below.

sophie edwards content writer for fig linens and home

Sophie Edwards

Sophie is the head content writer at Fig Linens and Home. She is a bedding, linens, and luxury homeware expert with an interest is the intersection of interior design with fashion, travel and culture. She has a BA in creative writing and sociology from Sarah Lawrence and an MSc from the Oxford University Department of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography.

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