Forget the usual markers like the end of the school year, buying sun-screen in bulk and prepping for the festive season. Those long, hot nights when sleep seems impossible are the true marker that Australia’s summer is here.
Unless you have air-conditioning or live in a double-brick basement, chances are you’re already feeling the heat when you’d rather be sleeping. But there are ways to ensure the rising mercury doesn’t play havoc with your sleep this summer.
Sleep expert Cheryl Fingleson has some easy – and quirky – tips.
Sleeping with just one fan running is for amateurs. Try adding another box fan into the mix, next to an open window to push hot air from your bedroom. Then angle another fan on to your body, but not directly on your face so it doesn’t disturb you when you are in a lighter sleep phase.
Sharing a bed with a partner or a furry friend means their body heat will transfer to you throughout the night. It might seem antisocial, but sleeping alone is cooler and less disruptive. If that’s not possible, but you and your partner have different body temperatures and bedding needs, consider having separate covers: a sheet for them, a light summer doona for you, for example.
Electricity = more heat. ‘I always tell my clients to have an electronic sunset and keep all screens out of the bed, but turning off electrical appliances around your house when they’re not in use will also help it keep cool,’ says Cheryl.
Hot air rises, so consider moving your mattress to your bedroom floor for the summer months, or if you live in a multi-story home, to a lower room. This might not be practical if you have an unwieldy large and heavy bed, but it’s an easy idea for older kids with smaller mattresses who find it hard to sleep in the heat.
Pack some ice
We use hot water bottles in winter, so why not try an ice pack in summer? They won’t stay cool all night but they will help you fend off the heat when you’re trying to get to sleep. ‘If that doesn’t appeal, keep a bowl of iced water by your bed and a towel at the foot of your mattress. When you’re hot, dunk your toes in – this will help cool your whole body,’ says Cheryl.
Nope, this doesn’t mean finding your mum and having a cuddle. If you are really suffering in the heat and fans, ice packs or other methods just aren’t cutting it, try this: lay towels on your mattress then soak your sheets in cold water, ring out and lay them across or around you. Warning: you may look like a shrivelled prune when you wake up.
When all else fails: breathe
‘Using mindfulness techniques, meditating or simply slowing your breathing can help you feel more in control of your body’s reaction to heat,’ says Cheryl.
Yoga practitioners use a technique called sitali breathing to cool down, even calling it ‘all natural air-conditioning’. To try it, curl your tongue to form a tube and inhale slowly through your mouth and exhale slowly through your nose. Repeat a dozen or so times.