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Sleeping with the Enemy? Hot Men, Cold Women And The Battle Over Bedclothes

published Jan 20, 2011
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

So, all evidence to the contrary, it seems I am actually a man. Every morning I wake up with a quarter inch of sheet over one ankle and I am practically sweating. My husband is lying under his portion of the duvet and my portion (which I have flung over him during the night) plus the occasional pillow covering his torso. And he is perfectly content. Well, according to scientific research, I am a freak of nature: In most heterosexual relationships, it is the man who is too hot and the woman who is shivering, ensconced in flannel pajamas with the electric blanket jacked up to 10. My freakishness aside, is there any solution to the gender divide over temperature? Apart from clandestine attempts to adjust and readjust the thermostat, what can couples do so that both feel comfortable in bed (temperature-wise, that is)?

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Research suggests that our biological thermostats are indeed set to slightly different levels so we feel the cold to varying degrees, depending on a multitude of factors, including, of course, gender. According to a fascinating article in the London Times, women actually do feel the cold more than their male counterparts because females are better at conserving heat than men. Huh? Mark Newton, a scientist at W.L. Gore, the company that makes Gore-Tex, explains: “Women have a more evenly distributed fat layer and can pull all their blood back to their core organs.” As a result, less blood flows to our extremities (hands and feet) so we feel cold even though our organs are toasty. This could be because we women (who are designed to protect our young, born and unborn) require an especially efficient system for protecting core body temperature. To add insult to injury, while everyone’s body temperature falls at night, women reach their minimum body temperature more quickly than men.

So, what’s a man or woman (or me) to do? Sure, you can get one of those electric blankets with dual programming so each side can be set for a different temperature. But I think I found something even cooler at Select Comfort, the company known for producing those personalized Sleep Number mattresses, which allow each individual to adjust their side of the bed for firmness or softness. Select Comfort also offers customized comforters, designed for couples with different warmth preferences. The 300 thread count, 100% cotton, white damask stripe comforter comes with separate sections in which you can place your own personalized insert. You can choose down or down alternative and a range of warmth preferences, from light weight to “extra weight.”