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How to survive a heatwave: Tips on how to stay cool and why sleeping naked won't help during those sweaty nights

Saturday February 1, 2020 - 07:19 EDT
ABC licensed image
Keeping cool in a heatwave does not necessarily call for drastic measures. - ABC licensed

A heatwave that brewed up over inland Western Australia is making its way south and east, meaning much of Australia is about to experience sweltering temperatures.

in parts of:
South Australia
New South Wales

It's going to get hot. So here are 10 ways for your to beat the heat (that don't involve picking up the air conditioner remote).

1) Check you've got the right curtains

Closing the curtains to block out the sunlight seems like a no-brainer, right?

But this only really makes a difference if you have a light-coloured backing on your curtains.

Energy auditor and sustainability educator that while curtains can block sunlight, they don't effectively block the heat.

"If the outward-facing side of the curtain is light in colour, some of the sun will be reflected out, but the curtain absorbs the heat, changing its form to long-wave infrared," he said.

"That heat doesn't pass through glass so it can't be reflected back out [and] the curtain then becomes a heater."

Mr Ruffin said awnings or external window coverings are best as they'll stop direct sunlight from the outside, meaning it won't hit the glass.

But if cladding your house in awnings isn't an option for you, get a cheap shade cloth and temporarily fix it to the outside of the window.

Bonus tip: Close up the house early in the day before the sun has a chance to warm it up.

2) Maximise your air flow

Do: Close off the room if you're running an air conditioner to keep the cool air inside.

Don't: Close off the room if you're sleeping in a room with a fan.

Mr Ruffin recommends using a spray bottle in the same room as the fan to spray mist over your skin.

"The outcome is a rush of cool that evaporates off your skin that can be repeated again and again," he said.

Our ABC Messenger audience also had some handy recommendations:

"Soak sheets in chilled water and hang them up over windows where there are no curtains," Z Tulip said.

"Then fill a spray bottle with water and keep it in the fridge to re-spray the sheets once they dry out."

Bonus tip: Try putting a bowl of ice in front of a pedestal fan to blow the cool air across the room, creating an air conditioner effect.

3) Don't sleep naked

It sounds counterintuitive, but the Tasmanian Government advises covering up if you want to sleep through a hot night.

Sleeping naked can actually make you feel even hotter than wearing pyjamas.

Being nude doesn't allow moisture to evaporate between your body and your mattress, the State Government says.

Bonus tip: Opt for cotton pyjamas. Guy Leschziner, a doctor who presents a series on sleep, told BBC radio natural fabrics act like a sponge for your sweat.

"It can increase the surface area for the sweat to evaporate, thus may make you feel much cooler."

4) And no snuggling up in bed

We're not trying to destroy your love life, but this one's pretty obvious.

Sleep expert that on hot nights, those who share a bed should stick to separate sides.

"A hot night is not a time for cuddles," Mr Hillman said.

"Give your partner a bit of room."

Bonus tip: This also means giving your pets some space if they sleep with you (sorry). The Tasmanian Government advises finding them somewhere else to sleep.

5) It's all about positioning

Can't sleep without a sheet on you?

The Tasmanian Government says sticking a foot out could make you more comfortable.

The thinking here is that your body heat will escape through your feet.

Bonus tip: Flipping on your back and stretching out might make things cooler.

6) Cool your wrists

Localise the cooling power to your wrists.

The Tasmanian Government says to run your wrists or the inside of your arms under cold water for about 30 seconds, because the blood flows closest to the surface of your skin.

Bonus tip: If you don't want to spend all your time at the sink, wristbands soaked in cold water will have the same effect.

7) Wash your hair

Run your head under cold water, as per .

If you're washing your hair, have the shower as cold as you can stand.

Towel dry your hair just enough so it isn't dripping but it's still damp.

Bonus tip: Instead using of a hair drier, stand in front of a fan — "that way you've effectively turned your head into an evaporative cooler," Mr Ruffin says.

8) Get soaking

is to put wet cloths around your neck and soak your feet in a cold bucket of water.

But some ABC readers suggest taking it a step further, soaking your entire outfit in water, ringing it out and wearing damp clothes around the house.

Bonus tip: Avoid drips by running your wet clothes through the spin cycle on your washing machine.

9) Lighten up your wardrobe

This is no time for black skinny jeans or leggings.

If you have to brave the outdoors, to reflect the heat and sunlight.

And it goes without saying that opting for loose, lightweight fabrics is by far a better option than close-fitting clothes.

Stick to natural fibres like cotton, linen and silk, which allow the skin to breathe.

Bonus tips: Polyester may feel light, but it won't do you any favours. It will trap heat and raise your body temperature. Steer clear.

10) Hook into salads

The last thing you want to be doing is turning on the oven at a time like this.

is to eat cool foods, such as salads and fruits — watermelon was a favourite among the ABC Messenger audience.

This not only cools you from the inside but also eliminates the extra heat that ovens and stovetops generate.

Don't have big meals, go for smaller meals spread out across the day.

But, we're sorry to say this doesn't mean grazing on platters of meat and cheese all day — specifically singles out meat and dairy products as foods to steer clear of.

Heavy-protein food can raise your body heat and increase fluid loss.

Bonus tip: If you must cook, the outside rather than cooking in the kitchen.

While we're at it … put down the espresso martini

The advice across the board is to keep your fluids up, but stick to water where you can.

Fruit juice is another good option.

Alcohol is out, as it increases dehydration.

Caffeinated drinks should also be avoided so avoid coffee and tea intake (or, if that's impossible, at least try to cut back).


© ABC 2020

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