Why are my toes so cold (only some of the time)?
October 24, 2006 9:44 AM   Subscribe

How do my toes know how cold it is--outside?

My family keeps our house pretty close to the same temperature year 'round (about 66 in the cold of winter up to 73 in summer, but usually closer to 70-72), and there are times when it's 66 at night in the summer, and I freakin' love it.

But why do my feet (especially my toes) get so darn cold when I go to bed on nights when it's especially cold outside but my idea of perfectly comfortable inside?
posted by kimota to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When the temperature drops, your body tries to preserve core body temperature, and one of the tactics is to curb circulation in the extremities, and this makes them feel colder. Everyone's body is different. People whose ethnicity favors warmer climes may experience this at higher temperatures than others.
posted by jimfl at 10:20 AM on October 24, 2006

The air temperature in your home may be constant year round, but I expect that your floor temperature is not. Your heater is keeping the ambient air temperature in the low seventies. However, both the air at the floor and the floor itself are probably colder. Your feet may be getting cold because of conductive heat loss with the floor. Try wearing warm socks :)
posted by tumble at 10:27 AM on October 24, 2006

Don't know but here's a guess.

Your thermostat is only trying to regulate the AIR tempurature. When the air temp is 70, the furnace shuts off. But the temp of objects, specifically your bed, may not be warmed up, and may be cooled by contact with and/or proximity to cooler surfaces. Depending on how well your floors are insulated, they will be cooler. Your bed with covers is insulated against the air temp.

In summer, the air conditioning is cooling the air first, so floors and objects may be warmer than the air temp.

Put a thermometer under your sheets where your feet would be at night. Do the same thing for floors where your feet are the coldest.

I bet your floors and bed are colder than you realize.
posted by marsha56 at 10:30 AM on October 24, 2006

66-73 seems like a huge range to me. Maybe I'm just unusually sensitive to temperature, but I have no more than a 1-2 degree Fahrenheit range (roughly 69-70) where I'm comfortable at night. It seems not at all strange to me that 66 would seem excessively cold.

Also, keep in mind that your thermostat regulates the temperature where the thermostat is. If your thermostat is set to 66, but it's located along an interior hallway, your bed may be several degrees colder, especially if it's near a window.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:32 AM on October 24, 2006

Building on what Jimfl said, your toe coldness may be related to the outside temperature the last time you were outside, even if you're now inside. Your body's internal thermometer doesn't respond instantly to changes in external temperature, so if you were out in the cold a few hours ago, your body may still be trying to keep your core warm enough to withstand the outside temperature. It will take a while for your body to "realize" that it's not in the cold anymore and begin pumping blood more evenly to your extremities.
posted by decathecting at 10:34 AM on October 24, 2006

What others said about thermostat readings, ambient temperatures, etc. In addition, the relevant temperature measurement is not under the covers where your feet are, it is at the head of your bed, outside the covers. Most of your body's heat loss through convection and radiation occurs via your neck and head. If the air around your head is cool, you will lose a lot of heat. As your core temperature drops, the blood is drawn away from your extremities. Hence the old phrase, "If your feet are cold, put a hat on."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:12 PM on October 24, 2006

Probably less likely than previous suggestions, but perhaps barometric pressure could be at play? Many people feel changes in barometric pressure as changes in their aches (eg the cliches about there being a storm a'coming - I can feel it in mah bones). Maybe your body's response involves circulation?
posted by -harlequin- at 4:02 PM on October 24, 2006

Kimota- do you smoke cigarettes by chance? When I smoke my toes are cold when the temp drops, but are fine when I do not. Nicotine constricts blood vessels in the extremeties. This is Reynaud's Syndrome. Others I know who do not smoke get this same effect.
posted by madstop1 at 8:21 PM on October 24, 2006

madstop1, nope, I don't smoke. I think a number of the other suggestions are at play here, though. The thermostat is unfortunately in one of the warmest parts of the house, and my bedroom is the most poorly insulated. I tend to be sedentary and sitting on my bed in the evening a lot of the time, and I'm thinking I don't notice how cold my feet are getting (because my core temperature is fine) until I actually get in bed to go to sleep. Last night I wore layers until I went to bed (I prefer to just wear shorts while sleeping), and I was fine.

Thanks for the ideas!
posted by kimota at 5:51 AM on October 25, 2006

you toes are cold because you are not wearing socks made of smart wool. highly recommended.
posted by macinchik at 3:59 PM on October 27, 2006

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