It's like my own personal climate change
February 7, 2019 6:49 PM   Subscribe

My body is terrible at regulating temperature. What can I do to not constantly be caught between heat waves and polar vortexes?

Two things are true:

1) I have dysautonomia so I sweat 50% less than I'm supposed to
2) I have POTS so my blood circulation is terrible

Because of this, I have problems with both overheating and being too cold. I'm looking for hacks/suggestions for a variety of temperature related scenarios.

1) Plain old overheating. This happens a lot in the middle of the night. I sleep in underwear only, with a weighted blanket (no comforter), 100% cotton percale sheets, and the AC on 62. But if it's too hot out for the AC to keep up, or if neighboring apartments have the heat up (a horrible problem when it gets down to 40-50 degrees--it's actually worse than the summer months), I'll wake up in the middle of the night overheating. I can't sleep without a weighted blanket, and I hate the feeling of a fan on my skin. I can get up and get an ice pack, but because standing up increases my heart rate it makes it that much harder to get back to sleep.

2) Freezing feet pretty much constantly in winter. They're sometimes warm when I wake up but almost immediately lose heat. Doesn't matter if I'm walking around a bunch or not, still always cold. I suspect the compression stockings contribute to this a lot, but they're a necessity to keep me from fainting. Sometimes warming my feet up with a heat pack helps, but other times it doesn't seem to "last" in that I can have the heat pack on until it gets cold, and once the heat pack goes cold so do my feet. It's also a huge ordeal, because I'm cold from the bottoms of my feet to a few inches past my ankles. I have to constantly move the heat pack around to warm up this cold patch, then this one, then that one, etc. Heat on my ankles doesn't seem to transfer to my feet, heat on the bottoms of my feet doesn't transfer to the tops, and so on. Plus, can't do this when I'm at school/running errands. I have those disposable warmers to put in your shoes, but I only use them on especially cold occasions because otherwise I'd be going through multiples a day (and they don't solve the problem of being freezing over more than my toes)...

3) More specifically, freezing feet before bed. I frequently find myself unable to sleep because my feet are so cold. Taking my stockings off a couple of hours before bed seems to help, but this isn't always feasible (e.g. if I'm out all evening). Sometimes I can get them warmed up with the heat pack, but again: huge ordeal. Also, sometimes my feet will lose heat before I can fall asleep. If I wear socks, this usually doesn't happen. Buuuut... if I wear socks, I invariably wake up in the middle of the night overheating! Which is related to...

4) The worst of all cases: freezing feet while the rest of me is overheating. Right now, I am sitting here, in a light t-shirt, sweatpants, compression stockings, and socks. My face and chest area are warm to the point of being flush. My feet and ankles are freezing. It happens less frequently than straight freezing or overheating, but probably at least once or twice a week and I never know what to do. Put an ice pack on my neck? Well that's a pulse point and will lower my overall body temperature, including my feet. And then the reverse if I put a heat pack on my feet. I guess I could try to use both at the same time to try and counteract each other, but that's highly cumbersome and also this frequently happens in class or other situations where I can't sit in a way where I could keep both things in place.

Please suggest me anything other than wool socks and ice packs. I have the woolliest of socks, even Mukluks, but it seems like my feet both don't generate their own heat and also often won't even absorb outside heat sources and thus there is nothing to insulate. Similarly, I have ice packs, but I can't exactly keep them cold next to my bed or in my school bag, which seem to be the two places I end up needing them the most.
posted by brook horse to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I can't sleep if my feet are cold. Sometimes I take a hot shower before bed. If I'm lazy, I just fill a basin with hot water and soak them and then pull on a pair of very loose wool socks, like a size too big. This works better for me than the electric heating pad at the foot of the bed I used previously.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:08 PM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, this sounds so frustrating. For your feet, how about electric heated socks? I don't have any specific recommendations, but it looks like there are a lot of options.

How the nighttime overheating - first piece would be to step up your airconditioning game. Can you buy an upgraded a/c and make sure you're well insulated (blowing foam into the walls etc. etc. to decrease how much the heat is coming through the walls.

Second, I haven't tried them myself but I've heard interesting things about the Chinese beaded sleeping mats. I can't quite find what I'm thinking of on amazon, but these bamboo mats are close. They're supposed to sleep extremely cool.
posted by arnicae at 7:11 PM on February 7, 2019

I see that you're saying chemical heat packs are often inadequate or impractical but a simpler, less-expensive substitute you might try is a hot water bottle. They make rubber purpose-built ones you can buy but I actually find 16-ounce and 2-liter soda bottles to be the most effective and leak-proof.

You just fill them up with hot tap water and screw the cap on. Toss a 2-liter bottle in your bed before you brush your teeth and it'll be toasty warm when you climb in. (Possibly causing an overheating problem, but I guess you could go with a cold water bottle or room-temperature water bottle to deal with that?)

I also wonder if you could get the sort of giant beer mugs that are designed to have a high thermal mass (and to normally be placed in a freezer so as to be frosty at the point of drinking beer) and immerse it in hot water for a few minutes. Then as much of your feet as you can fit inside will be warmed from all directions for a little while. Maybe wrapping blankets around the outside would let the warmth last longer.
posted by XMLicious at 7:14 PM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Another thought: any chance you could become a yoga master and get your legs into the lotus position or something similar? Maybe when you have the torso overheating / feet freezing situation then doing that and placing a blanket on your lap might transfer the heat from your torso to your feet.
posted by XMLicious at 7:25 PM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Raising the head of your bed to approx a 5% incline has been shown to help with POTS symptoms. Gradually raising if you can.
posted by fshgrl at 7:26 PM on February 7, 2019

My wife has a similar problem with her feet being cold in bed. We eventually had some success with a hot water pad (similar to XMLicious' suggestion), and I suggest:

(1) Get a hot water pad like this or anything similar. Also get a thermometer like this or anything similar. The details of either don't matter much. As cheap as possible is fine.
(2) In any pot, heat a few cups of water to 140F (checking with the meat thermometer) on your stove. Don't bring the water to a boil (it would hurt you), but we found the hottest setting for our tap water was just not hot enough in our house.
(3) Fill the heating pad with the hot water, seal, and place it on the mattress where your feet will be. On top of that, put a pillow. On top of that, put the comforter. Leave the upper part of the bed uncovered (just covering where your feet will be). Let the temperature equilibrate for a few minutes before you go to bed.
(4) When you get in bed, remove the bottle and put your feet between the mattress and pillow, still under the blanket.

Toasty feet guaranteed*, and your feet will be warmer than the rest of you. You can add/remove blanket from the rest of your body (if you're overheating) while keeping your feet warm. It's a bit of hassle to heat the water to 140 (about 3 min on my stove, 10-15 min total time), but it's at least low cost!

For the heat issue, my father works at a state park in Texas in the summer. It is very, very hot. He carries a cooler to work with a reusable icepack (like this, but you could use anything). In the cooler, he puts his lunch as well as a few clean moistened dishtowels. The towels will not freeze, but will stay cold. When he gets overheated, he grabs a towel and wraps it around his neck. He reports it will be delightfully refreshing for a few minutes, and you'll be able to keep working.

* if feet still not toasty, increase the water temperature by a few degrees and try again tomorrow.
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 8:55 PM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

For the overheating in the night issue, can you keep a small cooler next to your bed and transfer a couple ice packs there when it’s bedtime? That way if you wake up overheated you only have to rwach down or at most sit up rather than standing and walking.
posted by epj at 10:01 PM on February 7, 2019

Here's an envelope-style electric foot-of-the-bed warmer at; have a look at their bootie slippers and heated socks, too. Overnight, keep a cooling towel (frogg toggs is one brand) in a metal bowl of water on the nightstand, so you can wipe down overheated skin without having to get up.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:28 PM on February 7, 2019

A proper rubber hot water bottle filled with 1.5 litres of actually boiling water in complete defiance of common sense and manufacturer warnings, inside its fluffy cover so it doesn't burn you, under a half decent blanket and snuggled up with your feet, will still be comfortingly warm in the morning.

The heat capacity of water is amazing. Wheat, not so much.
posted by flabdablet at 3:44 AM on February 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

For the overheating at night, I think ac that is better at keeping a consistent temperature is the answer. You might find it helpful to have a room thermometer you can see, so that if you do wake up in the middle of the night much too hot you can confirm whether it's the ambient temperature causing the problem.

With the cold feet in general, you need to get your feet warm with an external heat source, and then keep them warm with insulation. Can you wear things on top of your compression stockings? If you're at home, then loose woollen socks, or ankleboot furry slippers (or both). If you're out, then reasonably loose warm socks, and/or lined boots.

I imagine the simultaneous too hot, with too cold feet, is related to your poor circulation. But that suggests that you actually would be able to get away with cooling your neck and warming your feet at the same time without one affecting the other too much.

The other question I had was whether your compression stockings are the right size and compressiveness. You might be better off overall with a pair that doesn't compress as much. If there might be any flexibility in the level that you need to prevent your other symptoms, you could see about experimenting.
posted by plonkee at 5:31 AM on February 8, 2019

I used to go to bed cold and wake up baking hot and have to get up and walk around to cool off and then be freezing again in the morning. I got. 100 percent wool mattress (wool cover and stuffed with wool) and now I’m cool in the summer and warm in the winter and it solved my problem completely. I also have a wool duvet but I don’t use that in the summer. But wool is temperature regulating and the mattress is never too hot or too cold. I love love love it! Oh- and a hot water bottle at my feet and if it’s too warm I just kick it away.
posted by catspajammies at 5:46 AM on February 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have POTS and I have all the same problems. When my symptoms are really acting up I keep frozen water bottles in an insulated lunch bag next to my bed. And I keep a yeti cup filled with ice water next to my bed since it will stay ice water all night long. And I have a little hand held fan on my nightstand. Sometimes putting cold water on my face and using the little fan cools me down faster than an ice pack.

Cold Feet: right now I am wearing tall heavy wool socks that are made for outdoor adventures and wool ugg boots that go over my ankles. It’s the combo of the wool socks plus the ugg boots that I found keep my feet warm.

Free feel to memail me if you wanna complain about POTS. It’s the worst.
posted by ilovewinter at 8:11 AM on February 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

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