Why I Hate Some Hotel Beds

We let out a synchronised groan – “Sheets.”

It had been a long, hard day’s hiking and we were ready to fall into bed. But we couldn’t. We couldn’t because the chambermaid had created a barrier which prevented us from doing so. It was one of those hotels which still used blankets and sheets – not fitted ones. Sheets which were crisp, clean and tucked in so tightly that we had to call room service to ask them to send up a crowbar so we could prise them loose.

By the time we’d worked our way around the mattress, the bed looked as though a whirlwind had swept through the room. The local authorities would have declared a disaster scene if they had seen it. To make things worse our ‘double’ bed was, as it so often is, two singles put together… and the sheets were tucked in under both beds where they meet. Untucking those bits is especially awkward, requiring beds to be pulled apart so you can get at the sheets without risking serious back injury.

Hospital corners, hotel room
Crowbar required.

By the time the bed had been loosened up to the point we could actually slip under the (now loose) covers, it was an utter mess. By morning it looked as though we’d spent the night working our way through the Kama Sutra, instead of tossing and turning our way through the dark hours because the sheets were uncomfortably crumpled.

Half an hour after wanting to be embraced by a soft and loving mattress, we could actually make first contact with it. Tucked in sheets are simply not guest friendly.

So why do some hotels think beds should be like straitjackets?

Maybe it makes the room look all nice and neat, but you can have neat without tucking in. Hotel meet Mrs fitted sheet and Mr duvet.

Comfortable hotel bed, hotel
One look and you can see it’s more comfortable.

Yahoo answers is a good ‘go to’ when I want a ridiculous reply to help prove a point as well as adding fuel to the idea that a lot of online advice is nonsensical rubbish. It didn’t let me down.

“Because that’s the way you make a bed” was one of the only two answers. Who says? Their mother apparently, which gives a clue to a problem which stretches beyond tucked in sheets.

There are a whole load of articles devoted to ‘how to make a bed properly’. But again I ask who’s the authority who has laid down the rules?

The answer is the ghosts of the past.

People do things because that’s the way the people who came before them done them. We’ve experienced it, and questioned it, in every industry we’ve been connected with.

Antique beds
These beds might actually be from the 1850s

People follow on from the examples of others without stopping to question why. Sometimes that’s not a bad thing, but often the reasons for doing it will have been forgotten. I bet most people can think of plenty of times when someone has insisted red wine should be served at room temperature. They’re repeating what they know to be true… in the past. They haven’t stopped to think that room temperature in the 21st century isn’t quite the same as the average room temperature might have been in the 19th century.

Another answer about why tucked in sheets were good was ‘I move a lot when I sleep and it helps keep the sheet somewhat in place.’

There are some people who actually like being trussed up. Not me. I like to bounce around like a seal flopping across a beach. I remember years ago on a lads’ holiday to Magaluf (cliché alert) when I woke up to find a bulldozer had run over my bed but had left my friend and his bed untouched. He was in exactly the same position as he’d been when I’d slurred ‘good night.’ It was like he just died for nine hours.

But these people aren’t the norm, surely? So why cater for them and not us exuberant sleepers of the world who want to roam free?

Tucked twin beds, hotel room
Tucked and twins – double the trouble.

Apparently it’s all the fault of Florence Nightingale. Tucking in sheets was a practice which began in hospital tents during the Crimean War (1853-1856) when what is known as ‘hospital corners’ kept sheets firmly in place. They also kept injured soldiers firmly in place. The technique also made it easy to change sheets without too much discomfort to the patient. It was a good and hygienic practice… for a hospital.

Over time it became considered a posh way to make beds and so was taken up by the top hotels as well as hotels with aspirations of being considered upmarket. I’m willing to bet if you ask the chambermaid tucking the corners of sheets tightly under the mattress why she’s doing it the reply will be along the lines of ‘it’s how you make beds properly.’

Newsflash – hotel guests aren’t hospital patients and times and bed linen have changed beyond recognition since the 1850s.

Stop tucking.


Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+

About Jack 799 Articles
Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a Slow Travel consultant and a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Facebook for more travel photos and snippets.


  1. You’d probably enjoy the bed and sheet arrangement that I experienced at the Trianflor in Puerto de la Cruz on my last visit, Jack. There was a double mattress – which was nice – I’ve had hotels that happily remove one of the two single beds when there is but one guest. What made this nice (or bloody awful if you were me) is that they used single sheets both top and bottom. The sheets were overlapped slightly but, of course, there wasn’t a hope that they’d ever stay put. By morning, you’d be lying on the mattress with various parts entangled in sheets and/or being scratched by the woolly blanket.

    Eventually, I begged the maid to give me a double sheet. She spoke no English; I speak almost no Spanish, but I managed to convey the idea. When I got back to my room that day, she had done as I asked. She gave me a double sheet. One. I couldn’t bring myself to ask her for a second but at least one side stayed put for the rest of my stay!

  2. And then, of course, there’s the question of pillows. Not only are my budget-oriented hotels stingy with pillows, it’s almost an insult to pillows to call what they provide that. Put your head on and, thunk, you’re all the all the way through to the mattress.

    • Now you’re talking. I might have written this one about tucked in sheets, but pillows are my real bugbear. My heart sinks when I see one flaccid excuse for a pillow on a bed… and no spares in the wardrobe. Cushions, spare blankets, all sorts have been used to try to give my head a bit of height and the hope of at least some sleep. I hate flat pillows.

  3. In hot weather a duvet can be unbearable in a hotel or inn because you can’t control your degree of covering. With sheets and blanket you can.

    • I guess it’s down to personal preferences. With a duvet I kick it off when I’m hot, and pull it over me again when I cool down. I wake up in the morning without the war zone look that I tend to get with sheets and blankets 🙂

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