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In a bunch of films and other entertainment, when characters find themselves in a cold place with no heating but must sleep, they conclude that to stay warm, they should sleep as close to each other as possible —and naked.

I think it sounds reasonable, until the “and naked” part.

Can reducing clothing help keep you more warm in the sheets with another human?

Or is this just a Hollywood excuse for awkward / intimate encounters?


Significance support: The one example in entertainment that springs to my mind right now is the mention in Big Bang Theory season 3, episode 1 here. I've encountered multiple people independently making this claim, usually backing it up with waffle to the tune of "clothing would insulate you from the other person's warmth" or "having bodies touching reduces their total surface-area to volume ratio, which is warmer".

Related questions: It's definitely not warmer to sleep naked in a sleeping bag, but that's just 1 person. (Also asked on Skeptics SE.)

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    I believe you've confused the claim. This sounds like the (scientifically dubious?) first-aid technique of body-to-body rewarming for hypothermia. This was in the Boy Scout Handbook two printings ago, for example. In the case of hypothermia, any wet (but not dry) clothing is supposed to be removed from the victim, and the idea is that the person doing the warming will transfer more of their warmth if they themselves are naked. – Dan Getz Apr 17 '16 at 11:19
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    The latest high-profile instance of this occurs in The Revenant, but that is a different situation: the protagonist slips into the carcass of his horse overnight to keep warm. He undresses only because otherwise he'd have to start the next day in soaked clothes. – Kilian Foth Apr 18 '16 at 9:59
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    @DanGetz The intent with rewarming is to help the victim, not to help the group. Overall you lose more heat that way but you transfer heat into the victim faster if you remove the clothing between them. It's a last-resort option assuming the helpers aren't also chilled. If everyone's already cold it's just going to make things worse. – Loren Pechtel Apr 19 '16 at 2:04
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    @Anko While I'm no expert I have studied it some as I used to head out into the wilderness a reasonable amount. I've never seen it suggested as a prevention, only as a means of helping a victim. For prevention you keep your clothes but huddle together as much as possible--you will have basically zero heat loss on any part of your body against another person regardless of how much clothing you are wearing. – Loren Pechtel Apr 19 '16 at 2:22
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    @Nat: Personally, I suspect the unsaid part of the strategy is to cause serious temperature increase by significantly increasing blood circulation through vigorous physical activity... – SF. Sep 18 '17 at 15:16

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