Sleeping in the heat 

My sleep has taken a nose dive. And it’s not totally because of the return to work. 

It’s just too hot. 

Days and days of extreme heat without much relief at night means sleeping is really disrupted. It’s a struggle to drop off! I wake every hour or so when the body heats up, until the last three hours when I fall into a deep, exhausted sleep. You wake feeling akin to having a massive hangover. 

Here’s the temperature last Sunday. 


The promise of 25° overnight was more of a tease. Didn’t get there until a microsecond before sunrise. Anyway, it didn’t get there inside with the doors shut overnight. 

For those of you who prefer Fahrenheit, here’s last Friday, as in two days ago. 


So how to stay cool without an air conditioner? 

Our usual practice resists day temperatures in the low thirties and when it drops to the low twenties overnight. 

Usually in summer, we open all our doors and windows before the sun rises. (Well, Mr S does. He gets up and opens everything without waking me, bless him.) Then we shut up everything – doors, windows, blinds – as soon as the temperature is hotter outside. This keeps inside surprisingly cool throughout the day, until about 5pm when the ambient air temperature and the western sun is just too much. 

Fans, we own lots of fans. A fan on overnight keeps us surprisingly cool and the white noise is very restful. When the night is too warm I use wet face washers and drape them over my feet or legs. Or I hop in the shower and only slightly dry myself before hopping in bed. The water evaporates with the fan and cools me enormously, allowing me to drop off. 

The sun sets at the back of our house, so the afternoon we sit on the front verandah where it is more pleasant  – shaded and cool. 

But none of these techniques have helped in the current heat wave. 

What have I been doing?

Drinking lots of iced water which drops the internal body temp. 

Having frequent dips in our pool and then sitting, wet, in front of a fan. I have not been a big user of our pool for the last five or so years but the recent heat has driven me to it. That and I have rediscovered the joy of swimming naked. 


I have also draped an ice pack, kept in the freezer for injuries, around my neck, legs and feet. 

Yesterday afternoon and evening, I wanted to read a book but it was just too uncomfortably hot. How hot? Well, so hot when I got off our leather lounge, the top layer of skin of my upper back, which was bare as I had a sarong wrapped around me, remained on the lounge. Yes, it ripped off and was clearly visible on the lounge. And yes, god it hurt. 

How hot? Well after the sun set it was still 40°C/100°F. 

Yes, HOT. DAMN HOT. FUCKING HOT. So hot we discussed whether we’d move to NZ or Tassie or Armidale. 

Anyway, we must be the only house in our street that doesn’t have air conditioning. I couldn’t float in the pool and read so decided I would use the technique I used as a child of the western suburbs, pre air conditioners and pools. 

No, I didn’t jump through the sprinkler in the yard. (Though last week when I watered some plants out front, I did send water myself.)


As a child, I used to sit in the bath. My current bath is a big old claw-footed one. It holds me perfectly, comfortably. The sides are smooth, unlike the pool. I am out of the sun, unlike the pool. I have a bath caddy on which to rest my book and glass, unlike the pool.

Still, I jumped in the pool at least six times yesterday. 

OK. None of this helped me sleep a sustained sleep. So I am happy to adopt siestas, lots of them whenever the mood strikes me. 

And look to the weather forecast, frequently, hoping for cooler weather. 

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15 thoughts on “Sleeping in the heat 

  1. Tassie, my vote is Tassie!

    I am SO, SO impressed that you live in Sydney without an airconditioner. So much respect!

    I remember heat waves in Broken Hill and Adelaide with tiny babies. I would fill up the bath with not quite cold water and hop in and float the newborn with her head on my chest, while the toddler splashed. I remember being seriously worried about the babies and heat stroke.. and I am always absolutely gobsmacked that any plants survive through heat like that.

    Fingers crossed for cooler nights..

  2. It has been brutal. The whole back-to-school time being a peak work time for teachers…always coinciding with the worst time for sleep. Super-tired classes of kids and fractious staff and parents. I think you have to live in Oz to fully appreciate how good naked swimming is in the heat! Hopefully no overlooking neighbours though (or 20ish kids returning unexpectedly!) All the other strategies are a great checklist. I want to move to Tassie or New Zealand as well at the moment.

    • Luckily only neighbours near the pool, can’t see into pool. And they rarely come out on their deck which has limited views.

      I always think we should have February off instead of January as it is always hotter.

      • Agree. Feb/Mar were the hotter, drier times if you use the 6 season, indigenous calendar in Victoria.

        Just saw the fire rating for NSW has been graded “catastrophic” for today. Last time that happened down here we had Black Saturday. Hope everyone stays safe.

  3. I had no idea your skin literally stuck to the seat. I thought you were embellishing the story for dramatic effect. Poor you!
    Fond memories of childhood sprinklers and my kids used to enjoy being hosed as they jumped on the trampoline.
    Nowadays I favour Mr S’s technique of opening the house to cool, then closing it all before the heat sets in. Plus the luxury of air con.

    • While I never let the facts get in the way of a good story, this needed no embellishment. I should have taken a photo.

      As to favouring Mr S’s techniques, I think you know his position on air conditioning. A luxury we won’t have for years.

  4. Oh! Your back! How is it feeling now?

    We don’t have air conditioning here, either. The house we lived in before this one had 4 reverse cycle air conditioners. We only lived there one summer and found there were only two days where we would have used it (but we didn’t. Perhaps we are a bit like Mr. S!) So, when we looked at this house we thought ‘we can live without it’. I think there have been about 6 days here so far this summer where an air conditioner would have been appreciated.

    Friday was very hot, even here in the mountains. I called the local pool and found that they had a swimming carnival on all day, so I took our kids to the local library and we vegged out in the Children’s Section. We came home for lunch, then went back to the library in the afternoon. Their air conditioner was struggling, but it was still better than being at home.

    Yesterday we went to the city for a birthday party. The party was all done by lunch time, but we stayed for the rest of the afternoon, wandering around the shopping centres enjoying the cool air.

    Last night a storm came through just north of us and we have been hovering around 14C all day. What a change from the last two days of 37C!

    We sleep with the doors closed, but all the windows open. We have pedestal fans in each bedroom. One of our sons ‘runs hot’ so I ended up sending him to bed with two ice packs on the two really hot nights. The neighbour’s kids have taken to running under our front sprinkler when I turn it on in the evening. I’ve started up an ice container in the freezer, and spent a lot of time ensuring I tipped out the cubes from the trays as soon as they were ready, and then re-filling the 6 of them for another batch. I also stocked the freezer with ice blocks. Frozen grapes and frozen banana slices are nice, too. My husband also likes frozen medjool dates (with the seeds removed). One night I bought BBQ chickens from the supermarket and we ate it with salad as it was too hot to cook. I don’t think anyone was very hungry, anyway.

    Hopefully the cool change reaches you soon. Perhaps you could consider buying a lodge on the snowfields. I think it only reached 25C at Perisher yesterday… 🙂

    • Don’t you worry. I have Perisher as a saved place on my weather app. I look at it longingly.

      I’ve also kept restocking the ice tray. Though I must say 37° sounds like look-sh-ree. Not a struggling-to-survive temp.

      I think I have to buy the supermarket chook and make a salad more often. We normally BBQ chicken kebabs with salad but the chook will be cooler and easier.

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