The Link Between Hospital Bed Sheets & Patient Comfort

Many things can affect a patient’s comfort, but it’s important to remember that their bed is often where they will spend the majority of their stay in a hospital. If their sheets or any other aspect of their bed is uncomfortable, it can affect their experience tremendously. It can often make what is already an anxious process even worse for them.

Do Patients Care About Their Sheets?

When a patient is in a hospital, it’s reasonable to assume that they aren’t likely to be actively thinking about their sheets. Unless they’re cold or the material is irritating, the patient probably has other things on their mind. 

However, that doesn’t mean a patient’s sheets can’t affect their experience a great deal. In an unfamiliar environment where one is experiencing anxiety and might already be in pain or discomfort, sleeping is hard. It’s even harder if someone is regularly entering your room to check on you and the machines hooked onto your body. If sheets can ease some of a patient’s discomfort, that’s truly valuable in contributing to a better patient experience, even if the patient doesn’t realize the comfort boost their sheets provide.

Choosing the Right Material

The standard material used for bed sheets by most businesses, including hospitals, is cotton. This isn’t the only option (microfiber, linen and even bamboo sheets also exist), but cotton sheets tend to be highly affordable, long-lasting, soft and breathable. Cotton sheets are widely available and in many colors. Some hospitals may consider luxury options for some services, but even then, many luxury sheet materials are made from a type of cotton, such as Egyptian or Pima. 

With this said, the sheets a hospital chooses should be based on its needs. Hospitals in colder environments may need to prioritize warmth more than hospitals in warmer climates. Cost is also likely a major factor because a hospital may need to equip dozens (or even hundreds) of rooms with bed sheets. It shouldn’t be the only factor, because cheap sheets can be of lower quality, but it’s worth noting that suitable sheet options are usually available at an affordable rate.

What Part Does Maintenance Play?

Cleaning and maintenance are hugely important in a hospital setting. Sick people often carry dangerous germs and those germs have the potential to reach other patients with compromised immune systems. Hospital sheets can quickly become dirty and need to be cleaned more regularly and thoroughly than sheets in most other settings. Patients are safer and more comfortable with well-cleaned, well-maintained sheets. 

Cotton and other materials also deteriorate over time. In addition, sheets wear faster with regular, thorough cleaning. It’s important that a hospital quickly catches fraying or torn sheets and either repairs or replaces them to maximize patient comfort. 

Part of quality maintenance is keeping staff aware of its importance. Train staff about why cleaning and bed maintenance are so important as well as what issues they need to look out for. If patients are particularly likely to dirty or damage their sheets (such as those who may struggle with heavy sweating or vomiting), their beds should be checked more often to make sure they’re comfortable and clean.

Providing Alternative Options

Cotton is a common bed sheet material for a reason. It’s affordable, soft, fairly durable and relatively easy to clean. When properly maintained, cotton sheets can typically provide at least a neutral experience, if not a positive one. However, cotton sheets aren’t the only option that should be made available to patients. Some patients may have unique needs that make cotton sheets a bad choice.

For example, it's possible to have an allergy to cotton. In such cases, a hospital will want to provide the patient with a hypoallergenic alternative (or at least a non-cotton alternative). Some people may also be sensitive to certain types of textures.   

What Else May Affect Comfort?

Sheets also need to be appropriately sized for a patient and their bed. A small sheet can slip from the edges of the mattress, causing a patient discomfort and exposing the mattress underneath, which can cause it to get dirty. Larger sheets may be a manageable problem, but excessively large sheets clump. In either scenario, improperly selected sheets can cause a bed to be uncomfortable and unsightly. We’ve written more on properly fitting hospital sheets in this article.


Many different factors go into delivering a quality experience to a patient. Understandably, comfort cannot always take priority because a patient’s health and safety are paramount in a medical setting. At the same time, if details like quality bed sheets can help make the experience in a hospital easier, comfort is still worth thinking about. 

At Alsco, our linen rental services might simplify the process of keeping your hospital rooms equipped with quality, comfortable sheets with our rental services. Our company has vast experience working with businesses in the medical industry and we can handle the entire laundering and stocking process for you. 

Even if you already have your own sheets, we offer complete laundering services, so you don’t have to manage that process in-house. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your hospital improve patient comfort while easing the burden on you.

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