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Energy

Why some like it hot. Or cold.

Men and women feel the cold differently.

It’s an old stereotype: women always complain about being cold and men about feeling hot.

As a maker of thermostats, we hear about it all the time: from the husband who turns the heat down from his phone while his wife isn’t looking, or the woman who sneaks into Nest’s schedule and raises all the temperatures two degrees. It’s the cause of epic thermostat wars, where shouts of “Just put on a sweater” and “I’m already wearing a sweater” disturb the peace of many happy homes.

For centuries scientists have been searching for a cause for this phenomenon. In years past, the science was hazy, pushed ahead by creative scholars like 19th-century physician Dr. Carl Wunderlich, who determined average body temperature by collecting over a million temperatures from 25,000 patients. Or an experiment in which men and women floated in tanks of cold water and talked about how they felt.

A 2008 article most decisively answers the question. Women get cold because, strangely enough, their bodies are better designed to keep warm. Female bodies have a more evenly distributed layer of fat that can quickly pull blood back to their core organs. This is great for keeping alive in a snowstorm, but sometimes works to the detriment of their extremities.

As warm blood rushes back to keep vital organs warm, less reaches fingertips and toes. And while they may not be critical to survival, warm toes are important to comfort. You immediately feel cold when your hands and feet get cold.

So there you have it: the reason why my wife crams her ice-cold feet under my legs to warm up, the reason I throw the covers off at night, the reason for the thermostat wars. We can only hope this knowledge helps bring some peace to that never-ending battle; women can now be warmed by the knowledge that their bodies are actually more efficient and men, well, we can open a window.