Why does my roommate enjoy such cold air in his bedroom?
January 2, 2010 6:03 AM   Subscribe

Why does my roommate enjoy his bedroom being so cold all the time?

My roommate is in his late 30s, and I've lived with him about six years. As long as we have lived together, he has had a personal air conditioner in his bedroom, and whenever he's in his room (which is often) he blasts the air conditioner.

Even in the Southern California winter, when our condo is naturally cool inside (around 60 - 65 F), he still insists on blasting the AC in his room. I estimate the AC brought the temperature in his room to around 55 - 60 F.

One explanation I've thought of is that he is a smoker, and perhaps the cold air soothes his lungs. But I have asked a few people for their opinion so far, and they don't think people with smokers' lungs necessarily enjoy cold air all the time. (By the way, he does NOT smoke inside his bedroom.)

I simply cannot understand how a person can enjoy being in a room that cold all the time. Is this just a case of personal preference, or is there a better (medical, biological) explanation for this?
posted by fac21 to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My parents, whom I love dearly, like their bedroom cold at night. In Massachusetts they sleep with the windows open in the winter. Their house is cold during the day and they have to turn up the heat when they have guests. As a kid, I thought that this was normal. I got used to it. Other people's houses seemed needlessly hot.

I like being in a warm bed when it is cold in the room, however, I'm not as extreme as my parents.

Medical reason? Not that I know of.

But you should make him pay for a larger fraction of the electricity bill.
posted by sciencegeek at 6:07 AM on January 2, 2010

Is he a heavier fellow? I've found that heavier people are more prone to liking cooler temperatures.

Other than that, I can't think of any reason beyond him just having an outlying personal preference. Does he like to wear a lot of clothes?
posted by gjc at 6:09 AM on January 2, 2010

gjc might have it - blood pressure, either high or low can mess with your internal thermostat. Higher blood pressure may make someone crank the AC to "cool off" internally. My Dad (a notorious AC cranker, even in the car) has recently been put on blood pressure meds and actually complained about feeling "cold" for the first time in his life.
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 6:15 AM on January 2, 2010

It's quite possible he's gotten used to the white noise it makes and has trouble sleeping without it. Especially if he's a light sleeper and there are outside noises the AC helps drown out. (I do this, but I run a small fan instead. It does the trick and uses less electricity.)

Why don't you ask him? It doesn't seem like a sensitive question or anything.
posted by nangar at 6:19 AM on January 2, 2010

I sleep better when it is cold in the room and I am toasty warm under a thick blanket. Given the choice between the room being warm (in which condition it can be difficult to get comfortable, because I like to sleep with something over me, but having something over me in a warm room makes me too hot to sleep) and being cold, I will choose cold every time, because in the cold, I can be comfortable and warm under a blanket.
posted by jayder at 6:20 AM on January 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Follow up: No, he is not a heavy person. I would say he is at the appropriate weight for his height.
posted by fac21 at 6:26 AM on January 2, 2010

Some people, like me, just prefer the cold. I live in Boston, and my general preference in winter is never to turn on the heat. When I was a kid in NYC, I turned off the radiator and opened the windows in the winter; when I woke up in the morning, I could see my breath in my room.

Of course, if you've lived with him for six years, you could just ask him...
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:32 AM on January 2, 2010

I keep my bedroom cold because I love to be under 2-3 blankets, nice and warm and the extra weight is comforting
posted by Mick at 6:35 AM on January 2, 2010

It's entirely possible that he has thyroid issues. Hypothyroidism often causes heat intolerance.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:46 AM on January 2, 2010

Ack. HYPERthyroidism causes heat intolerance.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:47 AM on January 2, 2010

"The more so, I say, because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more. But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm. For this reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich. For the height of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal."
posted by miniape at 6:53 AM on January 2, 2010 [32 favorites]

It's entirely possible that he has thyroid issues. Hypothyroidism often causes heat intolerance.

It's HYPERthyroidism that causes HEAT intolerance....hypothyroid, and he'd want the thermostat cranked up.
posted by availablelight at 7:06 AM on January 2, 2010

I came in to quote Moby Dick, as well.

The contrast is why I sleep in a cold room. Combined with the fact that I cannot sleep without a blanket on me, thus making warm rooms uncomfortable.
posted by Netzapper at 7:08 AM on January 2, 2010

Some people run hot. I don't. I run cold. I am always freezing, no matter what the ambient temperature may be. Others though, are always warm, and it's these people (the type who wear shorts around the house in New England in December, when the temperature of the house is a balmy 68F and the outside temperature is COLD AS BALLS) who prefer cold rooms.

That said, having grown up in a house with wood heat - I sleep best in a cold room. (Wood heat means that the room *with* the stove gets warm. The others? Well. Get "less cold.") Cold room + many, many blankets = bliss. Even in the winter, I can't sleep if the room is too warm for me to snuggle under my duvet.

Dude probably just runs warm.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:18 AM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your roommate enjoys keeping his room cold all the time so that you won't go in.

Seriously, though, cold makes it possible to sleep with blankets, and blankets are nice.

Finally, did your roommate grow up somewhere cold? He may be used to sleeping in a room kept at that temperature because it was cheaper to only heat the bedrooms to upper 50s.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:20 AM on January 2, 2010

Some people, me included, just like to sleep in cold rooms and find them more comfortable.

Nothing complicated, nothing medical, just personal preference for as long as I can remember. Why does there need to be an underlying reason?
posted by Nugget at 7:30 AM on January 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

I live in Canada and like a cool bedroom and plenty of bedclothes, but a major reason for me is that heating has a tendency to dry things out and, with heat on, I can wake up with dry skin and itchy eyes.
posted by zadcat at 7:31 AM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a (undiagnosed or self-diagnosed, whatever you want to call it) mild heat intolerance. When I feel too hot (which can be a perfectly normal temperature to other people), I literally get sick. I've stayed in other people's homes, trying to sleep at night (usually when people tend to crank up their heat if they like that sort of thing, I've noticed) and have actually become nauseated and vomited from the heat. This has happened my entire life; I try to keep my surroundings much cooler than is generally accepted for modern room temperature (75F is the top end of my "comfortable" zone; I prefer 60-65F roughly). I also suffer migraines, and nothing -- neither light nor sound nor smell -- make them worse than heat.

Anyway, that anecdotal ramble was really just to add to the chorus of reasons why the guy prefers to blast his A/C. If I had per-room A/C, I would too. Unfortunately, I have to stick to fans.
posted by asciident at 7:50 AM on January 2, 2010

I don't choose to keep my room cold, But I know I like being able to pile 4 blankets on and feel cozy as a result of the cold.
posted by OwlBoy at 8:12 AM on January 2, 2010

What was his reply when you asked him?
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:13 AM on January 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Echoing what some others have said. I typically hate the cold, but I love a hot shower or a warm bed in a cold room. The heat just feels that much better, probably from the contrast. The downside is not wanting to get out of the bed or shower.
posted by chndrcks at 8:14 AM on January 2, 2010

Anecdotally, and along the lines of what asciident said, I tend to feel a bit claustrophobic in a small (okay, any) room with the door closed; and if it's at all warm in there, the feeling of suffocation intensifies. Cold air really, really helps me to tolerate being in such a situation. So, if he's in there with the door shut for privacy (especially if the AC is on when he's not sleeping too), that could be one reason.

As I've aged, my tolerances for warmth-giving things have changed too - I can no longer bear turtlenecks or heavy winter coats or socks in certain materials or slippers that are too puffy... But I'm a woman of a certain age, and I attribute all that to other factors.

I also agree with the white noise theory - the sound might also be masking small noises that make him feel self-conscious, or blocking others that he doesn't want to hear, though that would account more for a fan setting, not the chill.

And um...if you do ask him, please post? I'm really curious.
posted by peagood at 8:29 AM on January 2, 2010

Another possibility occurs to me: could he have allergies and be using the A/C as an air filter? He might not even know he has them, but simply have discovered he's more comfortable with the A/C on.
posted by zadcat at 8:29 AM on January 2, 2010

My boyfriend's old roommate used to keep his room cool (not with an A/C unit but just by closing the vents and keeping his door shut). He's an avid camper, hiker and outdoorsy guy, and I always thought he was just used to it being a cooler temperature and liked the feeling. Maybe your roommate has similar hobbies, or did growing up?
posted by wundermint at 8:49 AM on January 2, 2010

I've never been a warm weather person. I'm wondering if it's partly because when I was five or six years old my Dad installed central air conditioning in our house (my Mom had been ill and humidity made it that much worse, so Dad spent several months wiring and ducting our house for A/C - an unusual luxury for 1965). Anyway, for most of my childhood I slept in climate-controlled comfort and didn't really appreciate it until I spent the night at a friend's un-air conditioned house. I felt like I was suffocating. As I've aged, my heat tolerance has lowered and even in the dead of Michigan winter I have to at least have the ceiling fan on when I sleep (I'm very lucky that Mr. Adams is tolerant and simply bundles up in extra blankets), otherwise I frequently wake up in a flop sweat, having dreamt that I was trapped in a turtleneck sweater I couldn't remove no matter how hard I tried (really!).
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:48 AM on January 2, 2010

I love sleeping in a cold room. I find that I breathe better, have a more sound sleep and wake up feeling refreshed. When I travel and stay in hotel rooms I often have trouble sleeping because they disable the A/C in the winter, prevent the windows from being opened and sometimes do not provide temperature controls at all.

My wife, on the other hand, has poor blood circulation, and is always cold. She'd have the house set to 80°F year-round, if she could.

I also like the white noise effect of an A/C unit and in the winters will clamp a small clip-on fan to the bed's headboard so I have some airflow and white noise. I find that the constant airflow on my face also helps me sleep better, especially in the summers.
posted by camworld at 11:03 AM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I keep my thermostat set around 62 degrees, though the living room is usually a few degrees warmer. Plenty warm enough! The house I grew up in had wood heat too so I think I'm just used to it being mildly cold all winter, wearing sweaters etc. I can't sleep at all if it's over about 68.
posted by fshgrl at 11:10 AM on January 2, 2010

Because it's what he's used to.

I grew up sleeping in the basement of an over-air-conditioned house. There was nothing I could do to get that room above about 60 (f) at night. So I piled on the blankets.

Now as an adult if I don't breathe cold air while under a pile of blankets I'm not comfortable and won't sleep well. If I move to Florida I'm doomed.
posted by Ookseer at 11:11 AM on January 2, 2010

Just another anecdata point... I like it that way, too. "Face cold; body warm" is the rule. Sound sleep and wake up fully refreshed.
posted by trip and a half at 12:28 PM on January 2, 2010

We sleep with two fans on us year round (with air-conditioning added in warmer weather.) There are several reasons, actually:

The cool, moving air feels fresher to breathe... warm air feels stifling, and hot air from the furnace dries out my nose and throat.

My temperature tends to vary widely during the night. If it's cool in the room I can stay toasty under many blankets and if I get too hot I can easily kick off the covers and quickly feel cooled off and refreshed. Then back under the covers when I get chilly...

Also, we've both gotten used to the white noise over the years. Even if our room is nice and cool without the fans, it's just too quiet.

We've taken to bringing our fans along whenever we go visit family overnight... nobody ever keeps their house cool enough to suit us.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:22 PM on January 2, 2010

I don't keep it cold, necessarily, but I always keep a powerful fan on me, and sometimes in the winter (North Texas) I keep the window open at night.

I just always have. It's how I sleep, though I can sleep without it if need be. Plus, I like to be kinda bundled up when I sleep. I suspect his answer would be along the lines of "I dunno that's how I sleep." Ask him. I can't imagine how it'd be sensitive, and people like talking about their quirks.
posted by cmoj at 4:16 PM on January 2, 2010

Given the choice I would always sleep in a cold room, window open. I have always assumed that this hails from when I was an infant and my parents would regularly wrap me up in my pram and leave me to sleep outside in the fresh air - even in the cold snow of a UK winter.

As I grew up into adulthood I have always found it easier to sleep with a cool room and cold breeze.
posted by Horatio72 at 4:23 PM on January 2, 2010

I find something luxurious about being in an over-air-conditioned room. Partly because I really enjoy wearing hoodies and long-sleeved shirts. Partly because, since the age of 19, I haven't lived anywhere with central AC for more than three months.

Also, is he physically active at all? Even a five-minute workout, no matter how cold I am before I start or how freezing it is outside, gets me warm enough to want to crack a window.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:03 PM on January 2, 2010

More follow up:

Thanks for all the input. This discussion has evolved towards sleeping habits, however I should elaborate that my roommate can be a total hermit. Sometimes when he's unemployed, he spends all day and night in his bedroom, rarely leaving the house. The entire time he sits in his room watching TV, he is blasting the AC.

That's why I initially suspected his smokers' lungs were the reason he wants cold air... but the hyperthyroid theory is sounding like a more logical explanation. I think he used to party with cocaine a lot, but he's slowed way down with that.

I don't want to ask him directly why he enjoys his room so cold, I guess because I don't want to sound like I'm picking on him. Knowing him, his reason(s) for it may or may not be embarrassing, and he may even lie about it. Or maybe he's not even aware of the reason. If he enjoys the AC, so be it, I'll let him enjoy it. I'm just curious as to why someone wants to be so cold 24 / 7.

@ Metroid Baby, he is not physically active, he's quite the opposite. He gets winded just walking up the stairs, despite being a skinny person. He's blessed with super metabolism... he eats probably 3000 calories a day, never exercises, but never gains weight.
posted by fac21 at 6:36 PM on January 2, 2010

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