- New research shows that productivity and cognitive skills for women increase in warmer rooms.
- Raising room temperature has a stronger positive effect on women than it does a negative effect on men.
- Ideal sleeping temperatures are lower than the average nighttime thermostat.
Why Women Prefer Warmer Room Temperature
I grew up at 70 degrees, and so did almost everyone I know. But it turns out that the 70-degree standard for indoor comfort was established by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) in 1966 by considering the comfort of the average forty-year-old, 154-pound man wearing a business suit—in other words, the typical worker at that time.1Lydgate, Anthony. “Is Your Thermostat Sexist?” 3 August 2015. The New Yorker. 24 May 2019. http://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/is-your-thermostat-sexist The idea was to find out what temperature office buildings should maintain in order to ensure optimal worker productivity and comfort. The problem is that nearly half the workforce is now female, and yet the standard for indoor comfort hasn’t changed since it was established 53 years ago to match the needs of men in suits. If you’re female and it’s July and you’re dressed sleeveless for the weather, you’re going to be shivering inside your air-conditioned building, as so aptly portrayed in this Game of Thrones parody.
According to a study in the journal Applied Ergonomics:
- Men prefer rooms at 72 degrees.
- Women need 77 degrees to be comfortable.
Why do women like it hotter? According to Boris Kingma, a biophysicist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, women have a higher fat-to-muscle ratio, and “fat cells produce less heat than muscle cells.”2Bichel, Rae Ellen. “Women, There’s a Reason Why You’re Shivering in Your Office. 4 August 2015. NPR Shots. 24 May 2019. http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/08/04/429005094/women-theres-a-reason-why-youre-shivering-in-the-officeAlso, women have a significantly lower resting metabolic rate than men because they’re usually smaller.
Women Think More Clearly When Room Temperature is Higher
A new study just published in the journal PLOS One tells us that when the thermostat goes up, women perform much better on verbal and math tests.3Gander, Kashmira. “Women Think Better in Warmer Rooms, Study Suggests.” 22 May 2019. Newsweek. 24 May 2019. http://www.newsweek.com/women-think-better-warmer-rooms-study-1431690 In the research, women answered far more questions and got more answers correct when in a warmer room. Men, on the other hand, did better when the thermostat was turned down, but they did only a little better.
The researchers administered verbal, math, and logic tests to 541 students in Berlin. The tests were given in a room heated either to 61 degrees, or to 91 degrees. As study co-director Agne Kajackaite, of the WZB Social Science Center in Berlin, summarizes, “[Our study shows] that the battle for the thermostat is not just about the comfort. It is much more—in our experiment, women’s cognitive functioning is the best at high temperatures, whereas men’s [is] at low temperatures. Importantly, the positive effect of increased temperatures on women’s performance is much stronger than the negative effect on men.”
Bottom Line? In spaces that men and women coinhabit, and particularly in workspaces, setting the thermostat to 77 degrees will have more overall benefit to productivity than keeping it at the traditional 70 or 72. This is particularly true in warmer months when frigid air conditioning can freeze females into stagnant thinking.
The Ideal Room Temperature for Sleep
It’s not only colleagues who have gender wars over room temperature: so do spouses. When it comes to bedtime, some like it hot, some not.
- Ideal sleeping temperature, according to some experts, is around 65 degrees.4“What Temperature Should Your Bedroom Be?” National Sleep Foundation. 25 May 2019. http://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/touch/what-temperature-should-your-bedroom-be
- Other experts suggest a range of 60 to 67 degrees, according to your body.5 http://www.sleep.org/articles/temperature-for-sleep/
- Women tend to prefer the nighttime temperature to be higher than men do.6http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1420326X11425967?journalCode=ibeb
Body temperature decreases at night, reaching its nadir around 5 a.m., so it makes sense to lower the temperature in the house when you go to bed. As Dr. H. Craig Heller of Stanford University explains, “When you go to sleep, your set point for body temperature—the temperature your brain is trying to achieve—goes down. Think of it as the internal thermostat.” If your room is too hot or too cold, the body struggles to achieve this set point and you have a restless night.
Raising Room Temperature Helps the Environment
Those public buildings that require down jackets in summer are spewing tons of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. This is clearly demonstrated by a program created by the Japanese Ministry of Environment after Fukushima, to save energy.7“The Japanese Cool Biz Campaign: Increasing Comfort in the Workplace.” 30 September 2015. Environmental and Energy Study Institute. 25 May 2019.http://www.eesi.org/articles/view/the-japanese-cool-biz-campaign-increasing-comfort-in-the-workplace The Cool Biz Program mandated that public buildings in Japan set their air-conditioning to 82 degrees during the summer, while suggesting that employees replace suits with cool short-sleeved shirts. Within just two years, the program cut CO2 emissions by an estimated one and a half million tons.
While 82-degrees certainly is outside the comfort zone of most of us and might even pose health risks for elderly or fragile folks, it’s important to know that by nudging the thermostat up on those hot days, you’re helping the planet.
|↑1||Lydgate, Anthony. “Is Your Thermostat Sexist?” 3 August 2015. The New Yorker. 24 May 2019. http://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/is-your-thermostat-sexist|
|↑2||Bichel, Rae Ellen. “Women, There’s a Reason Why You’re Shivering in Your Office. 4 August 2015. NPR Shots. 24 May 2019. http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/08/04/429005094/women-theres-a-reason-why-youre-shivering-in-the-office|
|↑3||Gander, Kashmira. “Women Think Better in Warmer Rooms, Study Suggests.” 22 May 2019. Newsweek. 24 May 2019. http://www.newsweek.com/women-think-better-warmer-rooms-study-1431690|
|↑4||“What Temperature Should Your Bedroom Be?” National Sleep Foundation. 25 May 2019. http://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/touch/what-temperature-should-your-bedroom-be|
|↑7||“The Japanese Cool Biz Campaign: Increasing Comfort in the Workplace.” 30 September 2015. Environmental and Energy Study Institute. 25 May 2019.http://www.eesi.org/articles/view/the-japanese-cool-biz-campaign-increasing-comfort-in-the-workplace|