Life

Feeling chilly? New research says you should reach for the light switch to warm you up

Posted by
Georgie Young
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As British Summer Time ends, new research suggests that we should keep ourselves warm and comfortable by turning on more lights.

This Sunday marks the official end of British Summer Time. Although many of us will be rejoicing the extra hour in bed, the clocks going back is one of the signs that winter is on its way - and with it a chill in the air that is usually combatted by an extra-snuggly jumper and a steaming mug of hot chocolate.  

Although there’s a lot to love about winter - Christmas for one thing, and festive parties for another - the wintry weather also brings a whole host of small annoyances. The colder air can lead to chapped lips and drier skin, it starts to get dark earlier in the afternoons, and don’t get us started on waiting for a bus in sheets of ice-cold rain. It’s safe to say that we all feel more cold and grumpy when the days get shorter - and now there are scientific findings that appear to back this up. 

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New research conducted by psychologists Giorgia Chinazzo, Jan Wienold and Marilyne Andersen suggests that feeling uncomfortably cold as you head home from work in the evening could actually be caused by the lower levels of daylight – and not just the actual air temperature. 

Research suggests turning on the lights can help us to feel less uncomfortably cold

The psychologists studied a group of 84 participants and recorded their skin temperature while they fluctuated light levels and varied the room’s temperature to 19C, 23C and 27C. As they did this, they asked participants to report how ‘comfortable’ and ‘acceptable’ they found the different temperatures at varying light levels. 

What they found was that low levels of daylight made colder temperatures feel even more uncomfortable – but that this was “only at a psychological level rather than a physiological one”. In essence, this means that the lower levels of light in the coming winter afternoons will not impact how warm we physically are, but we’re likely to feel less tolerable to the lower, wintry temperatures.

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So, what does this mean for the coming winter? 

This is actually good news for those of us who feel particularly grumpy in chilly weather. Because we usually associate discomfort in the cold with feeling chilly, we’re more likely to crank up the heating  in an effort to stave off the negative emotions we think are caused by the cold - which may not actually help. However, the takeaway from these findings is that if you’re struggling to get through a winter afternoon despite having on a few layers, you should try switching on a few more lights instead of turning up the thermostat; it’s bound to make a difference. 

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Georgie Young

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