Amber fighting the heat

First Palestine, then Iraq and afterwards Greece, our work takes us to some pretty hot parts of the world and nothing tires you out like teaching skateboarding, especially in the heat. Getting a good night’s sleep is really important so you’re refreshed and ready to bring the energy to the skatepark the next day. Unfortunately, these hot a sticky climates can leave you waking up feeling far from refreshed and voluntary work doesn’t usually come hand in hand with an airconditioned room, so how can you beat the heat and get a good night’s sleep without any AC? We’ve got a trick or two to keep you cool through the night so you can wake up ready to bring your A-game to the skatepark.

Use your fans right

Until my time in Palestine, I honestly thought the best way to use a fan was just to crank it up to 11 and point it straight at yourself. Turns out (after desperately and sweaty 3 am googling), that there are much cleverer ways to use your average room fan.

Keep it low

Heat rises, meaning the air closer to the ground is cooler. Do what you can to get this cooler air circulating around the room by placing fans lower to the ground and pointing them upwards. Science says that if you position the fan cleverly enough, you can “bounce” the cooler air off an opposite wall but I was never any good at science so I can’t tell you how effective this is.

Get the fan pointing across the room to an open window

The theory here is that rather than moving warm air around the room, this method pushes warm air out of the open window allowing the room to cool down.

Ice that air

Place ice in front of the fan so that the air that is pushed around the room is cool air. A lot of places online suggest filling a roasting tray or similar with ice. However, I found this isn’t very practical when sharing a room and volunteering in places with a water shortage. It wastes water and is easily knocked over. I’ve found that freezing a big bottle of water and placing that in a bowl in front of the fan is best. It’s still cool but it’s tall and thin blocking less of the fan and still making the most of the icy effect. It also doesn’t waste water and won’t make as much mess, be sure to put the bottle on a bowl or plate to catch any condensation though.

If possible, use more than one fan

The sharp among you will notice that if you followed all of this advice you’d end up with a low placed fan, cooling the air with a strategically placed ice bottle before quickly whisking it out of the open window, which isn’t much use to anyone.

If you have multiple fans, use them to create a cross breeze to really circulate the air. You can also put on to work on one of the above methods while another fan is used for another job. It’s rare for me to have the luxury of two fans so I’ll get the fan rotating so that at one point of the rotation it’s pushing air passed an ice bottle and into the room and at another point of rotation it’s pushing warm air out of the open window.

Get cold feet before bed

Keeping your feet cool is a really good way to cool down your whole body. In Palestine, when it got really hot, I’d wet my feet before bed meaning they’d chill when the breeze from the fan caught them. The problem was that it was so hot they’d dry in a couple of minutes leaving me back at square one. I had the idea to put socks on and then wet my feet, to keep them wet for longer. Unfortunately, this didn’t work because I don’t like sleeping in socks at the best of times- it makes me feel claustrophobic- and this was even worse when the socks were wet and my toes couldn’t move. The solution? Cut the toes off the end of some trainer socks. My toes were free to wiggle and my feet stayed cold long enough for me to fall asleep. This may sound ridiculous but it really worked. You can also use the tight bit of sports socks or wrist sweatbands.

Keep your feet cold
Testing out the Cold Feet Method

Give yourself the cold shoulder

I wrote in 5 Things to make your hot-weather volunteering more comfortable that a great way to keep cold is to wet a small towel, scarf, keffiyeh/krama (or your local equivalent) and drape it over your shoulders. Well, this works for sleeping too and is a sure fire way to keep you cool while you drift off dreaming of cooler climates. Another variation of this is wetting your towel/scarf and either sleeping on it or putting it over your body, giving an all-new positive spin to the expression “wet blanket”.

Don’t sleep in a greenhouse

Avoid inadvertently turning your bedroom into a greenhouse by keeping curtains closed through the day. If you have curtains that don’t keep out the sunlight try to use sheets, towels and whatever else you can find to block out the sun.

Nanja swears by aluminium foil, explaining you can wet the window and stick the foil right to it reflecting both heat and light away from your sleepy sanctuary.

How low can you go?

As discussed earlier, the coolest part of your room will be closest to the ground, so, if possible, move your mattress to the floor. This will work especially well if you have tiled flooring which most homes in hot climates do. Just a note though, we don’t recommend this if you’ve been experiencing problems with cockroaches!

Hopefully, these hot (or should I say cold?) tips will keep you cool through the night so that you can get the rest you deserve after all of your hard work. What are your tricks for keeping cool on hot nights? Let us know in the comments below and share your summer sleep survival secrets.

Want more ways to beat the heat? Check out 5 Things to make your hot-weather volunteering more comfortable.

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