Reaction to cold

ChickenOSeaChickenOSea Charter Member
edited May 2012 in General Discussion
Hi all. I've been a regular in the cooler waters of Lake Michigan for a few years now but have not been coping with cooler water temperatures well at all lately.
Is it normal for people to go through phases like this? I've been completely checked out by my doctor and am fighting fit, but am getting very very cold and quite dizzy and tired after short swims at previously comfortable temperatures.

Am I just getting old? I cant tolerate the thought of not being able to swim in the lake.


  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    Are you sleeping ok? There is direct evidence that poor sleep or tiredness decreases cold tolerance (along with all the other stuff, alcohol, not eating enough, illness). (I was reading 2 research papers on it last, I might be able to find them again if you need).

  • ChickenOSeaChickenOSea Charter Member
    edited May 2012
    I'd love to see the papers you were reading, thanks. I have been wondering if this nasty phase is the result of a long period of stress and sporadic sleeplessness. Food and drink wise I'm good except I'm in the process of cutting back on caffeine just to see what happens (although I've always been a moderate coffee/tea drinker). This is all so strange. I feel ok in the water but experience a weird, unpleasant, sick kind of effect after short swims instead of the usual slightly shivery euphoria. Hopefully when the stress and exhaustion are under control, I will be too! Tx
    (also thinking of getting my hormones checked)
  • nvr2latenvr2late Central VirginiaCharter Member
    I have found that what Loneswimmer has stated, is true for me. If I go into a swim a little "off" or fatiqued, it is as if mentally, I am not prepared for the physical effects of the cold water. This happened to me just last week, and when I saw your note of concern, my response would have been similar to Loneswimmer. I hope that focusing on good quality sleep, and stress reduction, will improve your tolerance to cold. As far as hormones go, I think that my stage in life has been advantageous in that regard - I have just the right amount of body fat in all the right places, and I am HOT all the time. I think the polite phrase is "power surges" - I really enjy a brisk swim most of the time! I swam this morning in our lake and it was 72 - way to warm already here in Virginia - in a month it will be to hot in the lake!
  • slowmoslowmo Member
    What kind of temps have you been running into, I know the lake water by me can swing 4 or 5Ddegs in a day,maybe you are running into temp changes like that. I know if the water is in the 50f range my hunger goes off the charts when I'm done if the temp goes up by 7deg that doesn't happen.
  • Leonard_JansenLeonard_Jansen Charter Member
    Have you been checked for anemia? I was diagnosed with severe anemia (6.7 hematocrit count when 13 is normal for decrepit old men), bordering on life-threatening (=6.0), in January. I was having all kinds of weird problems for about a year, including a decrease in cold tolerance. After a few months of iron supplements (and an endlessly upset stomach) I am almost up to normal levels and feel better than James Brown.


    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    edited May 2012
    @ChickenOSea, of course, now that I'm looking for them, (I was trying to understand fatigue last week and came across it only tangentially), I'm having problems finding them, I can't remember the keywords. I thought it was on Pubmed. Here's what I have so far, mostly abstracts only, but while they are indicative, they're not the ones I came across last week.

    Here is "Cold thermoregulatory responses following exertional fatigue", abstract : " there is evidence to suggest that changes in central thermoregulatory control or peripheral sympathetic responsiveness to cold lead to thermoregulatory fatigue and increased susceptibility to hypothermia."

    "Effects of 29-h total sleep deprivation on local cold tolerance in humans", abstract: "We concluded that TSD induced thermal and vascular changes in the hand which impair the local cold tolerance, suggesting that TSD increases the risk of local cold injuries."

    "Cold tolerance and metabolic heat production in male C57BL/6J mice at different times of day".

    "Thermoregulation during cold exposure after several days of exhaustive exercise": "These findings suggest that susceptibility to hypothermia is increased by exertional fatigue".

    Full "Human Physiological Responses to Cold Exposure". I must read that one myself, looks interesting generally.

    "Sleep Deprivation Affects Thermal Pain Thresholds but Not Somatosensory Thresholds in Healthy Volunteers". "CONCLUSIONS: The present findings suggest that sleep deprivation produces hyperalgesic changes that cannot be explained by nonspecific alterations in somatosensory functions."

    It think it's pretty conclusive. The most popular long running article I wrote on my blog was "what temperature is too cold to swim in", because people keep searching with that phrase,and I put sleep loss right up near the top of the list.

    General stress is also a factor, because thermal adaptation (cold hardening specifically) has been shown to be accompanied by a reduction in stress hormones (Makinen, Extreme Cold Adaptation in Humans, (I did a series on it) and if the stress hormones are higher than normal, then there must a corresponding reduction in cold hardening.

  • ChickenOSeaChickenOSea Charter Member
    Oh wow! That's low! My iron's good....I'm hoping this is just a temporary result of stress and fatigue. The water's mid 50's here at the moment. I could always do a mile in that, have a bit of a shiver and feel like a million bucks. It's the different, kind of "yukky" feeling I'm getting lately after shorter swims that's got me wanting to find answers..
  • bobswimsbobswims Santa Barbara CACharter Member
    For me cold water tolerance is most affected by the lack of sleep.
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