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‘Don’t sleep naked’ – How to get a good night’s sleep in a French heatwave

France's increasing heatwaves also bring with them some hot, sticky and uncomfortable nights - so here are some tips from experts to help you sleep when it's hot.

'Don't sleep naked' - How to get a good night’s sleep in a French heatwave
Sleeping during a heatwave can be difficult. Photo: Yuris Alhumaydy / Unsplash

Heatwaves in France – and across Europe – are becoming more frequent and more intense, and climate experts predict that this trend will continue.

As well as scorching days, many heatwaves are also characterised by night-time temperatures that don’t drop – in many places in France temperatures have stayed above 20C all night during recent heatwaves.

Here, then, are a few tips to keep cool overnight, and enjoy better sleep despite the heat of the night.

Don’t sleep naked

It’s tempting to ditch the PJs when it’s this warm overnight. But sleep experts say this is a mistake, as any moisture from sweat accumulates on your body.

Cotton pyjamas and cotton sheets are very effective in absorbing sweat and taking it away from your body. 

Avoid naps, keep a routine

It’s tempting, but avoid any extra napping during the day.

It’s easier to sleep overnight when you go to bed tired than when you’ve already slept a little. More generally, hot weather can cause us to change our habits. Even small changes can disrupt the sleep cycle.

Try, then, to maintain a routine, and go to bed at your usual time, after doing the things you usually do before bed.

Eat and drink sensibly

Old news, but what you put in your body affects how it performs. Drink sensibly and regularly throughout the day, and avoid having a lot of water just before bed – you’ll only need to go to the bathroom in the night. 

Avoid alcohol, obviously. Yes, it can help you fall asleep quickly, but it also promotes early and abrupt awakening, and you get poorer quality sleep in general. Limiting alcohol is advised in general during a heatwave as it dehydrates you.

And eat light – a diet based on fruits, vegetables, or fish is good when the temperature is high.

Evening shower

Are you used to taking a shower before going to bed? It’s not a bad idea during a heat wave: it lowers the body’s temperature, which helps you fall asleep.

But keep the water lukewarm. A cold shower may be tempting, but the body reacts by generating heat – which is exactly what you don’t want. 

Keep your home cool

If you have trouble sleeping in the heat, the first thing to do is to keep your room – and your home – as cool as possible.

Follow the French tricks of opening your windows early in the morning and late in the evening when the temperature is lower, then shutting both windows and shutters (or curtains if you don’t have shutters) when the sun is high. 

To keep room temperatures the same, open internal doors to allow the air to circulate.

Meanwhile, don’t spend all your time on the PC, playing on a games console or watching TV – screens give off heat that add to the heat of the room.

Fans are good

As long as you’ve been able to keep your room relatively cool, fans work. They help evaporate sweat which, in turn, helps your body regulate its temperature. 

Putting a bowl of ice in front of the fan can also help cool the room.

Humidity works

Some people swear by dampening their sheets before going to bed. But if you’re not used to it, the feeling can be a little disconcerting. You can also place multiple ice containers in the corners of your room which will melt slowly overnight and cool the air.

Still can’t sleep?

Get up and do something relaxing – like read a book, or even write.

But avoid doom-scrolling on your phone, or powering up the laptop … even if you really, really want to read The Local.

The light from personal devices is overstimulating and will, in fact, keep you awake.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Thunderstorms expected around contained French wildfire

French firefighters were keeping a wary eye on a huge blaze that appeared to be contained in the country's southwest, with thunderstorms and strong wind gusts expected in the area overnight.

Thunderstorms expected around contained French wildfire

The 40-kilometre (25-mile) fire front in the Gironde and Landes departments around Bordeaux “did not significantly progress overnight. Firefighters are working on its periphery,” police said in a statement.

But officials said it was premature to say that the blaze — which has already reignited once — was under control.

“We remain vigilant” because “while we can’t see huge flames, the fire continues to consume vegetation and soil,” Arnaud Mendousse, lieutenant colonel of Gironde fire and rescue, told AFP.
 
Weather forecasters are expecting thunderstorms with wind gusts of up to 60 kilometres an hour in the region in the evening.
 
The wind “could reignite the fire” that “is in a state of pause,” Menousse warned.
 
EU members including Germany, Poland, Austria and Romania have pledged reinforcements totalling 361 firefighters to join the roughly 1,100 French ones on the ground, along with several water-bombing planes from the European Union fleet.
 
 
Most of the reinforcements had arrived on the ground, with the last 146 firefighters from Poland expected later on Saturday.
 
France has been buffeted this summer by an historic drought that has forced water use restrictions nationwide, as well as a series of heatwaves that experts say are being driven by climate change.
 
The blaze near Bordeaux erupted in July — the driest month seen in France since 1961 — destroying 14,000 hectares and forcing thousands of people to evacuate before it was contained.
 
But it continued to smoulder in the tinder-dry pine forests and peat-rich soil.
 
Officials suspect arson may have played a role in the latest flare-up, which has burned 7,400 hectares (18,000 acres) since Tuesday.
 
Fires in France in 2022 have ravaged an area three times the annual average over the past 10 years, with blazes also active in the Alpine Jura, Isere and Ardeche regions this week.
 
European Copernicus satellite data showed more carbon dioxide greenhouse gas — over one million tonnes — had been released from 2022’s forest fires in France than in any summer since records began in 2003.
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