You know the expression ‘cold hands, warm heart’?
I must have the heart of Mother Teresa, because my mittens are always freezing. Don’t get me started on the feet — my long-suffering husband has accepted his role as human hot water bottle, and knows better than to complain about ice-cold toes on the back on his legs at night.
So why is it some of us feel like we’re living in Antarctica, while others are constantly having to fan themselves? Turns out, there are a few reasons.
Our brains are largely responsible for regulating our body temperature. To be more precise, the 'hypothalamus' produces the hormones we require to set our internal body temperature, and works with the receptors on our skin to let us know how cold we feel in our environment.
Just like everything else in life, our brains and receptors are all going to be different. Therefore, some of us will naturally feel colder or warmer than others. (Post continues after gallery.)
Women typically feel the cold more than men, and this is for several reasons. Firstly, women have less body fat and muscle mass, both of which work to keep the body insulated and warm.
A 2011 study published in the International Journal of Indoor Environment and Health also found women are more likely to be sensitive to surrounding temperatures, while 1998 research suggests women tend to have colder extremities than men. Feel free to use that argument next time your partner hogs the doona at night.
As mentioned, the brain has a lot to do with how cold we perceive it to be — but it seems psychology also plays a part. As we all differ in relation to our stress levels, our emotions and our bodies, some of us feel it to be much colder than the temperature gauge indicates.
Yep, feeling cold is yet another phenomenon we can attribute to stress — in part, at least. This is due to the hormones released during times of stress and the impact they have on our bodies.
When an individual is under pressure, the body's automatic nervous system kicks in, along with the good ol' fight or flight response we all learned about in high school Biology. Part of this response is blood being pushed around the body to the major organs, therefore raising the internal body temperature — yet drawing the heat away from your extremities.
Some people find meditation helps them deal with stress. If you're intrigued, watch this video from Paper Tiger. (Post continues after video)
The amount of additional weight we carry on our bodies can also impact our feelings of being hot or cold.
For example, when I'm pregnant — like I am now — I perceive it to be much warmer than it actually is, and spend winter nights kicking off the blankets (much to the annoyance of my freezing hubby). This is due to the additional layer of fat on my body, which acts as insulation and keeps me warmer. People who don't have a whole lot of additional fat layers often complain of being cold.
Underlying illness can contribute to feeling temperature more acutely. Fever is your body's way of fighting infection; in doing so, it raises the body's core temperature, which in turn makes us feel unusually hot or cold. If your perception of it being hot or cold is way out of the norm, and accompanied by other symptoms, it might be worth a trip to the GP to check everything is in order.
It's not only what you eat, but how much you eat which can turn you into a 'hot' or 'cold' person.
Skipping meals, for example, is one way to throw out the natural balance of your body — and your metabolic rate. As humans, we rely on fuel — in the form of food — to keep our bodies going. By skipping meals and eating a diet lacking in carbohydrates and natural energy, you may find your body temperature suffers because your body senses it lacks the energy to keep you warm, and goes into 'fight or flight' mode. (Post continues after gallery.)
Hair is one of the body's natural layers of insulation, and is another reason why some people — mainly women — are more sensitive to the cold. Our societal fascination with smooth, hair-free skin has likely contributed to many of us experiencing the chills. In fact, it's often observed in individuals with particularly low body weights, such as those living with anorexia, that a thicker layer of hair begins to develop on the arms and legs as the body's way of retaining heat.
Are you a hot or cold person?