If you slip into bed at night only to find that your feet feel as if you’ve been on an arctic fishing excursion, we feel your pain.
Besides a snoring sleeping partner and your neighbor’s 3:00 am experimental dubstep DJ sessions, having frigid feet at night is a common annoyance that can stop you from drifting off comfortably.
While it’s not usually a serious cause for concern, there are several reasons why your feet might feel chillier than the rest of your body and, thankfully, lots of ways to solve the problem. Here are a few of the more common causes:
OK, thanks Captain Obvious! While it makes sense that you’ll feel colder in colder temperatures, there’s a reason why your feet might feel it most.
The blood vessels in your extremities (hands and feet) constrict when it’s colder outside. That, in turn, reduces blood flow and the amount of heat your body uses. The reason? To keep blood flowing to all your vital organs.¹
Since your extremities are furthest away from your vital organs, reducing blood flow there means that the most important parts of your body maintain as much warmth and blood flow as possible.
Stress or Anxiety
“Cold feet” is also a common term for feeling doubtful or apprehensive and maybe this is why?
When you feel stress, your body reacts by releasing adrenaline into the blood stream triggering a fight or flight response. Adrenaline causes blood vessels to constrict in order to conserve energy and prepare for any harm that it might encounter. A side effect of this is decreased blood flow, which can cause you to feel chilly.²
Just another reason to listen to take more time to watch calming videos of baby animals at your desk. Tell your boss we said it was ok.
One of the more common causes of cold feet is poor circulation, which can range from minor to serious. Someone with poor circulation can have issues getting warm blood to their hands and feet.³
Circulation issues can have many causes, from living a sedentary lifestyle, to smoking and high cholesterol. That’s why it’s particularly important to follow a healthy lifestyle if you’re prone to these problems.
Other Medical Issues
There are other common health issues where cold feet can occur. Anemia, diabetes, nerve damage and hypothyroidism can all cause cold feet.⁴ If you suffer from any of these problems, it’s important to let your doctor know so issues can be effectively monitored and treated.
HOW TO TREAT COLD FEET
Now that you know the causes, let’s get to the important stuff: how to avoid and treat cold feet, so you can get to sleep without feeling like an angry snowman is sitting at the end of your bed.
Anything that boosts circulation can help get warm blood flowing and keep your feet warm.⁵
Cardiovascular activity like jogging, jumping jacks or a vintage jazzercize VHS should have your feet feeling warmer fast.
If your day-to-day routine involves a solid amount of sitting or standing still, it’s important to get up and move around from time to time to avoid chilly toes.
Since movement has an immediate effect on boosting circulation, you might want to try moving a little before you turn in for the night.
We’ll use any excuse to get a foot massage TBH. In fact, having your feet rubbed can stimulate circulation and warm you up fast. The best way is to have someone push their fingertips and thumbs into the bottom of each foot in a circular motion, beginning with the toes and working towards the heel.
For an even toastier experience, massage Sigh of Relief™ into your feet for a wonderful warming sensation that will stay with you for a while.
One of the easiest ways to ensure better circulation is to make sure you’re drinking enough water. This simple practice is essential for overall health and also helps increase the volume of blood flowing to your toes.
Socks and Slippers
Bundling your feet up is a common way to warm up but it’s important to do it right. Socks or slippers that are overly tight can restrict circulation and actually make feet feel colder.
Likewise, try to wear merino wool socks instead of cotton or synthetic fibers as it helps to regulate body temperature.
Since water conducts heat 25x faster than air, a warm foot bath is one of the quickest ways to combat cold feet.
Warm water can also relieve tension and relax muscles, so it’s ideal to do this right before bed. Simply soak your feet, dry them thoroughly and slip your feet into some cozy (merino wool) socks.
Heating pads or hot water bottles
If all else fails and your freezing feet are still keeping you up at night, try a heating pad or hot water bottle at the foot of your bed and snuggle down.
As a general bonus, heating chilly feet causes vasodilation—dilation of the blood vessels—which helps redistribute heat throughout your body to prepare for sleep.⁶ This, in turn, can signal to your brain that it’s time for bed and help you drift off to sleep. Win-win!