It’s widely believed that men have higher body temperatures than women. The observable truth is rather more complicated: there’s not a noticeable difference in core temperatures for males and females, so the difference we observe is due to different skin temperatures and varying sleep patterns.
Picture by Bryan Brenneman
Over at The Conversation, Merlin Thomas explains how research demonstrates that adult male and female core temperatures are extremely close, typically hovering around 37 degrees Celsius. Female core temperatures can vary in pregnancy (or when taking hormonal contraceptives), but that variation is typically less than 1 degree.
Where we see variation is in skin temperature, which can range from a typical 33 degrees down to 25 degrees on cold nights for uncovered skin on extremities. In this arena, female temperatures are often lower by around 3 degrees. Differing sleep patterns also influence the gap.
Our perception of other people’s warmth (or lack thereof) will generally reflect skin temperature, which is how the belief presumably came into being and also influences behaviour:
By having cooler skin, women appear to be more sensitive to incremental skin cooling, meaning it takes less (cold) to reach a point at which skin sensors “feel the cold”, say enough is enough, and reach for the extra blanket.
The important lesson? It doesn’t particularly matter what gender you (or your partner) is. If you feel cold, wrap up and don’t blame your chromosomes.
Monday’s medical myth: men are hotter than women [The Conversation]