Down to a Science

Smart bedding choices can lead to sweet dreams.

"So tell me," asks Margie Steinberg, owner of Reverie, the Germantown luxury linen and bedding store, "just how important is sleep?"

In today's high-stress world, the answer for most people is an emphatic: "Very."

Since you spend (hopefully) at least a third of each day sleeping, it makes sense to take time perfecting your bed. In addition to a quality mattress, you want the fundamental elements that are going to make "a good night's sleep your gift to the next day," says Lynn Murff, owner of Legacy Linens.

Start with an essential: a mattress pad. Margie's husband and co-owner of Reverie, Harold Steinberg, recommends a wool one, covered in washable jersey-knit cotton. As an extra layer between your body and the mattress, the pad wicks away moisture, so that you're drier through the seasons, not warm and sticky in the summer, not cool and clammy in the winter. Another option for extra warmth and comfort when it gets cold is a feather mattress. Basically a giant pillow for your entire body, it makes beds cloud-like and gives them what Harold calls the "big and round" look.

Next come sheets, or more appropriately, luxury linens. When choosing, consider two things: how they're made and how they feel. A commonly held myth is that thread-count is the most important factor, and as linen experts will tell you, it isn't.

"Equally, if not more, important is the quality of the fiber used, where it's loomed and woven, and how it's made," Steinberg says. He and all the employees of Reverie favor a sheet made of Italian Beechwood fiber. A breathable wisp of a bed linen, its fiber is washable like cotton but wrinkles far less, and has a satin-like finish that reflects light and feels like silk.

Of course, the old standby and most popular fabric is cotton, and not just any cotton, as Murff explains. "What makes a difference is where it came from. Egyptian cotton is the very best."

There are two finishes to choose from among cotton sheets. Percale has a matte finish, while sateen has a satiny sheen. Whichever you choose, make sure to use a pH-balanced linen-wash with your sheets, and dry them on a low setting until they're barely finished. Also, while you're making the investment in luxury linens, consider making one more and get a matching pair, for a coordinated look and longer use.

Another crucial purchase is a down comforter. If you want that heavenly, luxurious, I-can't-wait-to-jump-in-my-bed-tonight feel, it's an absolute must.

"It's a waste of money to buy something that should last a lifetime and keep on replacing it because you didn't buy the right one in the first place," Margie Steinberg says. "Buy a quality down comforter once, and it will last you forever."

Quality means that it has clean, hypoallergenic federal-grade down inside and is made with a baffle-box construction. The baffle, a piece of fabric that runs along the inside stitch lines of the comforter, acts like a wall and allows the down to loft up inside, letting warmth travel between compartments. Warmth factor is key, and you also should consider just how much heat you're going to want. Because a well-made down comforter actually takes your body's heat and spreads it throughout the comforter, it can get quite toasty. And while that's perfect for winter months, you might consider using a lighter layer, like a blanket or matellase coverlet, for those Memphis summer nights.

Cover your comforter in a breathable, sheet-like duvet cover, and you've got the ultimate bedding accessory. Add to it some great down sleep-pillows, a few decorative shams, and a chenille throw, and get ready for the best sleep of your life. 

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