Little beats the comfort of natural cotton, but if you prefer the softness of microfiber, it may be the better bed sheet choice for you. A comparison between microfiber and cotton isn't a fair one, because you're comparing apples to oranges -- a man-made fiber to material created by nature. The results are uneven because the fibers in the sheets just don't perform the same way. In the end, choose what feels best against your skin.
Microfiber fabrics and sheets are soft because of their polyamide and polyester strands, which are made from petrochemicals, and are thinner than human hair -- 100 times thinner. While the microfiber manufacturing process converts petrochemical waste into microfiber strands for sheets and other fabrics, the plants emit fumes that can have a harmful effect on the environment. Microfiber fabrics don't biodegrade, and only microfiber strands made from polypropylene can be recycled. While these fabrics may be good for cleaning glassy or shiny surfaces, they may not help promote a good night's sleep, especially if you're already prone to kicking off the blankets at night.
Moisture Absorption -- Microfiber
Microfiber sheets don't absorb moisture well or breathe, which can make for an uncomfortable experience in bed regardless of how soft they are. If you are prone to night sweats or get overly hot at night, microfiber sheets are only going to increase that effect. Microfiber sheets also generate static shock in dry climate conditions. They are stain resistant, but once a stain gets in, it's hard to get out. Microfiber sheets, unlike other bedding, hold their colors well with use and time, unless you don't maintain them correctly.
At the center of the debate between man-made and cotton fabrics is the amount of resources it takes to grow cotton and then manufacture it into fibers used in clothing and sheets. Cotton sheets that perform the best are woven from fibers from Egyptian or pima cottons -- plants that produce extra-long and soft fibers. Consumer Reports textile expert Pat Slavin says that if you have a choice, select 100 percent cotton sheets compared with jersey, microfiber and cotton-polyester sheet blends.
For a decent sleep that doesn't wake you at night hot and sweaty, go with 100 percent cotton. It wicks moisture away from the body and won't shock you when you get into bed at night during the winter or dry weather. But for people who have circulation problems or other health concerns that keep them cold, microfiber sheets may be just what the doctor ordered.