Heatwaves are making the news throughout Canada and making it harder for Canadians to get a good night’s sleep, especially in areas that are not used to such high nighttime temperatures. While experts believe the heatwave that affected the Pacific Northwest in July 2021 was an anomaly, parts of Canada see more frequent heatwaves and tropical nights, defined as nights where the temperature does not fall below 20 degrees Celsius.
In fact, this warming is increasing at about twice the rate of the global warming mean. The difference is stunning. In Toronto, for example, the number of tropical nights averaged less than seven between 1976 and 2005, according to the Climate Atlas of Canada. The average is expected to climb to between 17.6 and 20.6 from 2021 and 2050 and reach an astounding 26.4 to 42.8 nights by 2080.
Climate change worries aside, tropical nights and heat waves can mean many sleepless nights and sleep deprivation for Canadians. Here are a few hacks you can use to stay cool and sleep well during those hot summer nights.
1. Draw the curtains and close the windows
When you know the day will be hot, close all windows early to preserve whatever cool air you gained through the night. Draw the curtains tight as soon as the sun comes up to avoid heating your house further with hot rays from the sun. You can also try turning on your furnace fan to draw cool air from your basement to the upstairs areas of your home.
2. Create a cross breeze
The easiest way to do this at night is to open windows that are opposite one another. A cross breeze can improve airflow and mitigate the stifling effects of heat, making it easier to sleep. If your windows are not set up for a cross breeze, you can create one by positioning multiple fans throughout your bedroom or simulate one by setting up a fan directly across from your window.
3. Change locations
If you typically sleep with someone else, you may want to consider sleeping alone when it’s hot. The heat produced by two bodies is considerably more potent than the heat produced by one. Heat rises, so sleeping on the bottom level of your house is another tactic that can work to keep you cooler on hot nights. Finally, try to extend out as much as you can in bed. Spread your arms and legs wide and avoid the fetal position, which often serves to preserve your body heat.
4. Choose the right fabric
Cotton fabric is far more breathable than manufactured fabrics such as nylon and polyester. Bamboo and microfabrics are also lightweight and breathable. On hot nights, elect for cotton pyjamas and cooling bed sheets made of these fabrics that will let your skin breathe and will soak up excess sweat. Also, avoid wearing tight clothing to bed as this can actually restrict airflow and trap heat, causing you to overheat faster and adding to general discomfort.
5. Invest in cooling technology
Cooling technology has improved enormously in recent years. Cooling pillows and mattress pads can help. Most are infused with memory foam or other formulas that work to distribute your body heat evenly across the surface of the pillow or bed.
There are also great options in cooling beds using air- and water-cooling technologies. Essentially these devices use cooled air or water pumped into a cooling blanket or into the bed itself to keep it cool.
6. Shut down heating technology
Any plugged-in electronics will generate some degree of heat, even if it doesn't seem like it. Unplug televisions, cellphones and especially computers. Lamps and overhead lights, particularly fluorescent versions, can also produce heat. Power down and unplug everything you can to reduce even small amounts of heat from adding to your discomfort.
7. Try out some DIY options
If the heat ramps up and other options aren’t available to you, there are a few other things you can do to cool down. Cold showers can lower your body temperature, allowing you to ward off overheating for longer. Wearing damp socks or misting or dampening your top sheet with cold water can also cool you down long enough to get you to sleep. A cold compress will also help mitigate the effects of a hot night.
DIY Air Conditioning with Fans
Fans do not cool the air, although they do circulate the air, which helps prevent the oppressive feeling of hot summer air. There are also a few tricks you can use to allow your fans to cool your air. It isn’t nearly as powerful as air conditioning, but putting a tray or bowl of ice cubes directly in front of your fan can help it to blow cool misty air throughout the room. Positioning the fan in front of a window will allow it to pull hot air from the room and send it out the window and out of your bedroom.
DIY Air Conditioning with Plants
House plants can also help keep you cool. Indoor plants consume hot air and release excess water into the air as the air heats up through transpiration. This increased humidity will have the effect of cooling your bedroom. Interestingly enough, the same process works in reverse during the winter months when transpiration can help make a room feel warmer.
Hopefully, these hacks help keep you cool during our long, hot summer nights.