iStock
(CNN) —  

In a time when many are finding it harder to get quality sleep, the right bedding — including the perfect down comforter — can truly make a difference between a great night’s sleep and a tossy-turny night.

To find the best comforter that will give you that ideal night’s sleep, CNN Underscored tested 11 of the most popular, highly rated options. All comforters we tested had a similar fill power (basically a warmth rating, which you can read more about below in our buyer’s guide section) and either a sewn-through or baffle box construction (more on this below too). After a few frigid months of testing, evaluating everything from warmth to softness, we found three dreamworthy comforters that can upgrade anyone’s sleep:

Without question, the Brooklinen Down Comforter was our favorite comforter we tested. We truly felt like we were sleeping on a cloud and never wanted to get out of bed. Between the softness of the outer material and the fluffiness of the fill, it’s one of those comforters that make you want to stay in bed all day — 12 months a year. Best of all, there are three different weight options, so you can truly pick one that works best for your sleeping needs.

If you’re looking for a comforter to give you that extra warmth, The Company Store Legends Hotel Alberta Down Comforter is on the heavier end, giving you the extra weight needed during colder months. This well-constructed comforter also comes in many different color options, making it one of the more luxurious comforters on the list that doesn’t need a duvet cover to complete the look of your bedroom.

Not a fan of down and feathers in your comforter? If so, then the Buffy Cloud Comforter is the best down-alternative option. This company’s mission is to support the environment, so the comforter is made up of 100% recycled fibers. Aside from a mission that we should all get behind, this quality-made comforter will give you a great night’s sleep, thanks to its soft, lightweight build that provides plenty of warmth.

Best down comforter overall: Brooklinen Down Comforter (starting at $149; brooklinen.com)

Brooklinen

Have you ever wished you could sleep on the clouds? Well, the Brooklinen Down Comforter is the closest thing to that. From the moment we took it out of the packaging, we had a hunch that this would be a favorite. And we were right.

The comforter comes in three different weight options: lightweight, all-season and ultra warm. We tested the all-season comforter, and despite it being the middle of winter with temperatures dropping indoors and out, we found it to perfectly balance snuggly warmth with breathability. Though on the heavier end of the spectrum (it boasts a 700 fill power and baffle box design), we never found the comforter to trap too much heat or cause nighttime sweating. The comforter, whose shell is made of 100% cotton sateen, was one of the softest we tested — and the one we kept coming back to cuddle into most nights.

We also found this comforter to be one of the easiest to wash and dry. Since the comforter is lightweight, it fits into a washing machine better than some others and air-dries much quicker.

Brooklinen offers some of the best return policies. You have an incredibly long 365 days to return or exchange your item if you’re unhappy with it. On top of that, there’s an additional one-year warranty. Compared to all of the other comforters we tested, this is one of the best sleep trial periods we saw. With such an expensive purchase, you’ll want to love your comforter, so the fact that you have a full year to try it out with no strings attached is great.

If the budget allows, this is a comforter not to miss, especially if you want to snuggle up with the clouds.

Best down comforter for warmth: The Company Store Legends Hotel Alberta Down Comforter (starting at $299; thecompanystore.com)

The Company Store

When it comes to warmth and coziness, the Legends Hotel Alberta Down Comforter from The Company Store is unrivaled.

Full disclosure: This comforter is for truly frosty climates, or especially cold sleepers. Though available in three different weights — light, medium and extra, all of which sport a baffle box construction — we tested and recommend the extra warmth option (which has a 650 fill power). While our main tester, who tends to sleep hot, found this lofty comforter slightly too heavy to sleep with throughout the night, a cold-sleeping family member absolutely loved the warmth the Legends Hotel Alberta Down Comforter provided.

Aside from the weight, we found that the comforter didn’t crinkle at all when moving around in bed (an annoyance we found with others we tested). Since it’s made with a cotton sateen cover, it is incredibly soft — in fact, it was one of the comfiest of those we tested, in a way that might have you staying in bed for an added snooze cycle.

This comforter can also easily be used with or without a duvet cover. It comes in five colors — white, ivory, alabaster, cloud blue and platinum — and from a design element looks rich on its own. Most of the other comforters we tested were plain white and truly looked like an insert, requiring a duvet cover to up their aesthetic appeal. We still added a duvet cover to this comforter to make sure one would fit, and it worked perfectly.

The Company Store also offers a 90-day rest easy guarantee. This allows you to fully use the product — including sleeping with it and washing it — and if it doesn’t work for you, you can return it. On top of that, the company also offers a lifetime guarantee. This allows you to exchange or receive merchandise credit toward a new product if something happens to your comforter. This doesn’t allow you to simply one day decide you no longer like the comforter, but if the seams are coming undone or if the down feathers are clumping together, for example, you can return the product.

The heavy filling does have a drawback; it was on the larger size for our washing machine. We have a top-loading washing machine, and in the directions it does state “for best wash and dry, use a front-loading commercial washer and dryer.” While this didn’t cause any damage to the comforter or to our machine, we did feel like our washing machine was working harder than normal. If you have a small washing machine, in which bulky items could damage the machine, you might want to steer away from this comforter — and, in fact, any other bulkier comforters.

While this comforter doesn’t come cheap, if you have the budget, we believe it’s worth it for the sheer warmth it provides.

Best down-alternative comforter: Buffy Cloud Comforter (startinf at $129; buffy.co)

Buffy

The Buffy Cloud Comforter was like no other comforter we tested. This down-alternative comforter was by far the best alternative version we tested — and the only one we’d recommend, as the other down alternatives we tested lacked in both quality of construction and comfort.

The Buffy comforter prides itself on being very environmentally friendly as well. The shell is made from 100% eucalyptus, and the fill is made from 100% recycled PET bottles (BPA-free). On the Buffy site, the brand states that “this keeps 50 plastic bottles out of landfills and protects 12 geese from live plucking.”

Although this was a new type of material for us — as we typically sleep with a down comforter in our nontesting days — we thought the fabric was very soft and lightweight but still heavy enough to keep us warm throughout the night. The comforter was also very quiet, emitting no crinkling sounds when shifting sleeping positions.

Buffy also offers a seven-day trial so you can fully test out the comforter before committing to such a large purchase. While this might be on the shorter side when compared to some of the other comforters, within seven days you should get a good sense as to whether or not this comforter works for you.

If you’re looking for a down alternative, then this is your best bet — especially since the price point is much more reasonable than some of the other luxury comforters on our list. The comforter is well made with quality stitching, is soft to sleep with and has the right warmth to it.

Everything you need to know about down comforters

The basics

A comforter (or duvet) is two pieces of fabric — a bottom layer and a top layer — sewn together with a certain type of filling material in the middle (most often down, feathers or synthetic materials, known as down alternative) to provide warmth while sleeping.

While the words “comforter” and “duvet insert” are typically used interchangeably, there are some differences between the two. Typically, a duvet is used with a duvet cover, adding a design element to your overall bedding, whereas a comforter is used on its own, providing both aesthetic appeal and comfort to your bed. Duvets usually have loops on all four corners (some offer even more loops on the sides), allowing you to tie the comforter to the duvet cover. This ensures all materials are secured easily to one another and that the insert won’t shift while you’re sleeping.

Fill power

A numerical representation of a comforter’s insulation abilities, fill power is the amount of space that 1 ounce of down occupies (in cubic inches). Therefore, the higher the number, the warmer the comforter. Fill power can range from around 500 (considered lightweight, and ideal for warmer climates) to more than 700 (usually the fluffiest, warmest comforters).

Pricing

We were sure to test a wide range of price points, with our testing pool spanning from $30 to upward of $300. After testing so many comforters, we realized that the inexpensive comforters are just that: cheap. They lacked in quality construction, were less effective at keeping us warm throughout the night and, perhaps most important, were mostly downright uncomfortable.

Therefore, when shopping for a down comforter, we think it’s important to invest in quality — so expect to pay more than $100.

Sewn-through versus baffle box

The way in which a comforter is constructed is another important aspect to consider when shopping. Two common terms you’ll see: baffle box and sewn-through. While similar — both work to hold the filling in place — there are minute differences. A baffle box design features thin strips of fabric that connect the top and bottom layers and form box shapes that keep the filing in place while also giving them a bit more room to stretch out. Therefore, comforters with a baffle box construction tend to be fluffier and trap more heat. With a sewn-through construction, the bottom and top layers are sewn together to form down-filled pockets. Though you won’t have any worry about down shifting around with a sewn-through design, it can lead to some increased airflow (and therefore less insulation than baffle box) between the seams.

How we tested

After scouring editorial and user reviews, we picked 11 of the most highly reviewed comforters to put to the test. To truly figure out which one was the best, we slept with each one for three nights. Similar to our duvet cover testing, we slept with the comforter right out of the packaging on the first night. The next day, we washed the comforter and then slept with it again for the next two nights. With so many different options, this meant we got some great sleeps along with some not-so-great shut-eye.

We compared everything from performance to quality, making notes on what we liked and disliked. We also tested comforters in every price bracket to see if price is actually a driving factor to getting a good night’s sleep. While a high-end price didn’t necessarily mean it was our favorite, we did find that the budget options fall into the “you get what you pay for” bracket.

Here’s how we evaluated each duvet cover to find our winners:

Performance

  • Sleep feel: We wanted to gauge how each comforter felt while sleeping. Was it soft or stiff? Light or heavy?
  • Initial feel: Immediately after taking each product out of the packaging, we wanted to see how the comforter felt. Is it super stiff and scratchy, or is it already soft and bouncy?
  • Warmth check: Does the comforter provide the right amount of warmth? Or is it too hot or cold while sleeping? We also wanted to determine if the comforter was breathable.
  • Weight: Is the comforter too heavy to maneuver, either while sleeping or storing?
  • Post-wash: After washing each duvet cover, we slept with the duvet cover again to see how it felt.
  • Noise: Even before getting in bed, we rolled the comforter around to see if the comforter was loud and crinkly. Then, when sleeping with the comforter, we noted when the comforter was noisy to sleep with.
  • Washing: We washed every single comforter to see how easy (or difficult) it was to wash each comforter.
  • Storability: After using each comforter, we folded each comforter to see how cumbersome it was to store. We also considered if each came with a bag for easy storage.

Build quality

  • Materials: We analyzed each comforter to see if it was made up of quality materials and workmanship.
  • Filling: After sleeping and washing each comforter, we noted whether or not the filling stayed in place.
  • Size options: We wanted to make sure that the comforter came in sizes for all bed types.
  • Replacement: Is there a generous return policy or warranty?

How we rated

Each comforter was evaluated using the metrics described above, then given a score. Individual metric scores added up to a total category score. Categories were then added together to get the final tally of points to determine the winner. Here’s how we broke down the scoring:

  • Performance had a maximum of 70 points: sleep feel (15 points), initial feel (10 points), warmth check (10 points), weight (10 points), post-wash (10 points), noise (5 points), washing (5 points) and storability (5 points).
  • Build quality had a maximum of 30 points: materials (10 points), filling (10 points), size options (5 points) and replacement (5 points).

Other down comforters we tested

Riley Goose Down Comforter (stargint at $299; rileyhome.com)

Riley

If we had to pick a fourth favorite, it would be the Riley Goose Down Comforter. The comforter offers two different weight options: all-season and extra warmth. We tested the all-season option and thought it was perfect for our sleep needs. The comforter is high-quality, with evenly distributed fill and no crinkling noise. It was also extremely comfortable to sleep with.

The comforter also came with a perfectly fitting plastic bag for storage purposes. And instead of opening up on the top, which would make it difficult to try to squish the comforter into, it opened on the side, giving you more space to fold up the comforter and just plop it in.

Although we preferred the Brooklinen, thanks to its slightly lighter build, for an all-purpose down comforter this one was a close second. In fact, if you prefer one with slightly more weight, the Riley might be a better option for you. You also have 60 days to try out the comforter and a five-year warranty.

Pottery Barn SleepSmart Temperature-Regulating Down-Alternative Duvet Insert (starting at $219; potterybarn.com)

Pottery Barn

This Pottery Barn duvet insert states that its Sleepsmart technology “continuously adjusts to help maintain a climate of personal comfort at the ideal 37.5 degrees Celsius all night long, so you can wake up rested and refreshed.” Even though we didn’t test this comforter during all four seasons — just the winter months — we felt like this comforter maintained the perfect temperature throughout the night, as we never got overheated.

With that being said, the comforter is loud and rigid. Sleeping with a comforter that crinkles all night is never ideal. There’s also no softness to the comforter, which didn’t give us that cozy feel while in bed.

Even though we like the technology behind the comforter, the lack of softness and the crinkles throughout the night were deal breakers for us. The comforter also only comes in two sizes: full/queen and king/Cal king.

The Company Store LaCrosse Down Comforter (starting at $170, originally starting at $189; thecompanystore.com)

The Company Store

This is the second comforter we tried from The Comforter Store. For this particular comforter, the LaCrosse Down Comforter, we tried the ultra warmth weight. This is the brand’s heaviest weight — of four different weight options — and, you guessed it, we found this one to be too heavy for our liking. And we even tested this in the middle of winter in the Northeast.

Although we did find this comforter to be a little noisy, especially compared to the other The Company Store comforter we tested, it by no means kept us up at night. But if crinkly noises are something you’re looking to avoid altogether, this is something you’ll want to be cautious of.

The comforter comes in a rainbow of color options — 17, to be exact. This allows you to use the comforter on its own without a duvet cover. Unlike many of the other comforters and duvet inserts we tested, this comforter looks complete on its own. It also comes in every size — twin, twin XL, full, queen, king/king Cal — so it’s a comforter you get for every bed in your house.

Casper Down Duvet (starting at $225, originally starting at $250; casper.com)

Casper

We really wanted to love the Casper duvet, especially since its duvet cover was our absolute favorite one we tested, but this product didn’t do it for us. First with the pros: It’s extremely well made with quality stitching. It also comes with smaller sewn-in boxes to keep the fill from shifting.

But now the cons: It’s extremely crinkly, and by far the worst we experienced. It was incredibly noisy not only while sleeping with it but also while laying it out and putting on the duvet cover, to the point where it didn’t allow us to get a good night’s sleep. The entire night we were too focused on not moving so the comforter wouldn’t wake up ourselves or our sleeping partner. And even after washing this comforter, it didn’t get better. We also found this comforter to be very heavy; thus, we were quite warm throughout the night.

This duvet did come in the nicest bag of the bunch, allowing it to be stored quite easily. Instead of a plastic bag (which was the case for the others, if the comforter even came with a bag), the Casper comforter came in an extremely durable cloth bag. There was no plastic smell after taking the comforter out of the bag — if stored for a long time — and no chance of the bag breaking.

If you do want to try it out, Casper does offer a 30-night risk-free trial. So if you end up not loving it, you can always return it for a full refund.

Lands’ End Essential Down Comforter (starting at $189.95; landsend.com)

Lands Ends

The Lands’ End Essential Down Comforter is perfect for most seasons, although we’d probably steer away from it during those warm summer nights. We tested this comforter in the middle of winter and appreciated the weight it provided. The downside is that it’s slightly crinkly and noisy, but nowhere near as bad as what we experienced with the Casper comforter, and it didn’t impact our sleep. The comforter is filled with 75% down and 25% feathers, which made the comforter nice and fluffy.

One component that really set this comforter apart is the eight “corner” tabs. Instead of loops on just the four corners — as with most of the comforters we tested — this one offers four additional ones in the middle of each side of the comforter. This means on the top and bottom, along with the right and left side, there are additional loops to keep your duvet insert even more secure. While this is great in theory, when we tested a dozen popular duvet covers, none of them offered these extra ties to secure everything together.

Egyptian Bedding Luxurious Siberian Goose Down Comforter (starting at $109.95; amazon.com)

Amazon

The Egyptian Bedding Luxurious Siberian Goose Down Comforter arrived in a vacuum-sealed bag. While this was perfect for shipping purposes, it meant we had to let the comforter sit out for a few hours to revert back to its normal fluffiness. If you have an immediate usage, keep this in mind. And even though the packaging came airtight, it came with a larger bag big enough to store the comforter for storage.

This comforter is very lightweight in feel and quite thin. If you’re looking for a comforter during the summer months, then this will do, but if you’re looking for something for those cold winter nights, this one most likely won’t give you the warmth you’re looking for.

The comforter was also very lumpy compared to others. The fill within each box bunched up quite a bit and left some areas with absolutely no fill at all.

Similar to the Lands’ End comforter, there are four extra ties to keep your duvet cover secure, although these ties were much smaller loops, which would make it difficult to use.

Utopia Bedding Comforter Duvet Insert (starting at $24.99, originally starting at $34.99; amazon.com)

Amazon

This hypoallergenic comforter is made from 100% microfiber on the face and 100% polyester in the filling. Like most of the down alternatives we tested, this comforter didn’t really make you want to snuggle up with it and didn’t have the same soft and fluffy feel that many of the other comforters provided.

The comforter came in a vacuum-sealed bag, and it was impossible to get it back in after it was taken out. So even though it arrived in a small package on our front door, there’s no bag for storage purposes.

The biggest con with this comforter were the corner loops. They were the smallest out of all of the comforters we tested, which caused frustration when trying to tie the duvet cover to the insert.

This comforter comes in nine solid colors, so while we would definitely recommend using a duvet cover with the white color option, if purchasing one of the other color options, you might not need a cover from an aesthetic perspective — just keep in mind that the material is sheen.

Linenspa All-Season Alternative Quilted Comforter (starting at $29.99; amazon.com)

Amazon

As the most budget comforter of the bunch, the quality unfortunately shows. This comforter is a down alternative and is 100% polyester. And similar to the Utopia comforter that we tested, we really don’t love the feel of polyester for sleeping purposes.

This comforter also has very small loop holes at all four corners, making it very difficult to secure the duvet cover ties together. And while the holes are slightly bigger than the Utopia comforter, it was still too small and caused frustration. With that being said, the brand did offer extra ties on each side of the comforter, but those were also small too — and truthfully unnecessary.

One of the pros to this comforter is that it folds extremely compact. It comes with a smaller-size plastic bag, which makes storing the comforter very easy and takes up less space in your closet.

The comforter also comes in sizes that the other comforters on this list don’t offer: twin, twin XL, full, queen, oversized queen, king, California king and oversized king. This means if you have a unique bed size, this comforter could provide you with the necessary solution. There are also 12 different color options, many with reversible designs.

Read more from CNN Underscored’s hands-on testing: