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Austrian heatwave: Six tips to get a better night’s sleep

Summers are getting hotter in Austria, with a heatwave set to hit the country and bring temperatures to a scorching 40C. Here's how not to let it affect your sleep.

Austrian heatwave: Six tips to get a better night's sleep
A man jumps into the "Old Danube" river in Vienna, Austria (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Austria is set to be hit by a heatwave next week, with temperatures likely to melt records.

Though the forecast may change, temperatures should be above 35C degrees by the middle of next week, even reaching closer to 40C in some areas.

This could mean trouble for residents of a country that is better prepared to bear the cold weather than the extreme heat.

To keep the warmth in, many homes were made with insulation in mind. Some attic apartments, which are very common in Austria, can become almost a greenhouse, making it next to impossible to sleep.

Before the worst of the heat arrives, there is still time to prepare yourself and your home for an as decent as possible night of sleep despite obscene temperatures.

READ ALSO: Heatwave in Austria: What to do as temperatures hit 40C

Give a little help to your internal clock

Many people think that it is only the extreme heat in summer making your sleep seem a bit worse than in the colder months. But the fact that days are brighter for longer also makes a huge difference.

As light suppresses our body’s own production of melatonin, the hormone that signals that it is time to sleep, the longer days irritate our internal clock, sleep expert Brigitte Holzinger told Der Standard.

Just as a sunlight lamp can help you stay awake in the winter months, you can also help your body by simply closing the blinds and turning off the lights early. Sunset in Austria is currently around 9pm, so darkening your home a bit earlier than that certainly helps your body wind down for sleep.

The old tip of turning off your devices to avoid the blue light is also extra important at this time. So around one hour before going to bed, you can start your “darkening” ritual throughout your home.

READ ALSO: Heatwave: Nine of the coolest places in Austria

Similarly, if you practice sports just before going to bed, you might want to swap the routine for an early morning workout.

This is because the hormones we produce while exercising can hurt our sleep schedule. So aim to be done with the gym at least four hours before you go to sleep.

Be mindful of your alcohol consumption

Summer is also a great time to meet up with friends outside, drink some Spritzer or a beer by the Donau and enjoy yourself.

And we should definitely keep doing that, but if you are having trouble sleeping, it might be a good idea to consume less alcohol, as it can significantly worsen the quality of your sleep.

In a similar way, it’s better to eat lighter and more often, especially before sleep. Eating a fresh salad before going to bed also means you don’t need to warm up any food, which adds unnecessary heat to your home.

Vienna bar alcohol drink

Summer is a perfect time to enjoy Vienna’s outdoor areas (Photo by Wiktor Karkocha on Unsplash)

Try to keep yourself and your bedroom cool

The ideal temperature for sleeping is between 18C and 20C, which may seem next to impossible when the mercury is approaching 40C.

However, there are many ways to keep your home cooler during a heatwave. One of the main things you can do is invest in external blinds instead of curtains. In Austria, you might need the permission of a landlord to drill outside a building facade.

READ ALSO: How to keep your apartment cool in Austria this summer amid rising energy prices

Certain areas of Austria even have funding programs for people who want to install external roller shutters. For example, tenants and owners in Vienna can apply for funding of up to 50 percent of “reasonable costs” to a maximum of € 1,500 per housing unit. You can find out more about the Vienna funding program here.

Use water to your advantage

Besides drinking loads of water (which you should be doing, especially during a heatwave), evaporation also cools down the environment. So, you can use a damp cloth to cool your neck if the night is too hot, for example.

Additionally, a wet towel positioned in front of a fan can help during those sweltering nights. Some fans even have compartments where you can store ice or iced water and they will either spray the chilled water occasionally or use it to cool the air a bit.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about Austria’s world-class drinking water

Some people swear by the habit of bringing a bucket of cold or iced water and just leaving it near your bed to feel the chill even while you are asleep.

You can also shower before going to bed, but be aware that a lukewarm shower is better than a super cold one (which will awaken all your senses and make falling asleep harder).

None of it, of course, compares to an actual air conditioning unit, but they can help. A split AC unit (those with indoor and outdoor compartments) consumes less energy and is overall more practical, but since it involves drilling a building facade, its installation requires the permission of the property owner.

Choose natural fabrics

When it comes to the clothes you wear at night and especially your bedsheets, keeping it natural with cotton, linen, and silk, for example, is much better to stay cool during a heatwave.

Be smart about ventilation and shading

Create the habit beforehand of ventilating during the cooler nights and closing your windows and blinds during the hot days. The idea is to trap the (even if slightly) colder night air and keep the stuffy heat of the day outside.

Even if nights are still warm and far from the ideal temperatures, it will be easier to cool down and fall asleep in the evening with temperatures ranging from 20C to 25C, as they might get on Austrian nights during the heatwave than with the day heat of 35C.

Don’t forget: Austria has a “heat” hotline people can call for personal advice on how to best protect themselves from the heat under the free hotline 050 555 555. In addition, if you or someone you know shows any signs of heat stroke or other health problems, call the country’s health number 1450.

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IN PICTURES: How drought and extreme heat are affecting Austria

Europe has been hit by the worst drought in centuries and Austria has felt the effects of extreme heat and dry days. Here are the pictures that showcase the impact of drought on the Alpine nation.

IN PICTURES: How drought and extreme heat are affecting Austria

Temperatures have been high across Austria this summer and rainfall have been low. While many have welcomed the long, hot days, the heat has negatively affected Austria’s water reserves.

The hot and dry spring and summer mean communities in Vorarlberg and Upper Austria are running out of water.

In Langen near Bregenz, the drinking water tanks are empty and the municipality is therefore appealing to the population to only use water for personal hygiene and as drinking water for people and animals.

In Traunkirchen in Upper Austria, the population is also being called on to water their gardens with rainwater to save water due to shortages.

In July, the popular holiday location of Lake Neusiedl in Burgenland reached its lowest levels in almost 20 years. And as the lake is mainly fed by rainwater, it takes a long time for it to recover water levels after a drought.

READ ALSO: Austria and Hungary fight nature to stop lake vanishing

Austrian and Hungarian authorities were working to supply water to the lake, which is very important to both countries as a tourist destination and a food production region.

A man stands in front of a water level indicator in front of the marina in Neusiedl am See, Burgenland on June 5, 2022.(Photo by Alex HALADA / AFP)

As lake temperatures rise, Austria also needs to cope with the death of hundreds of fish. For example, when Zicksee lake dried out in Burgenland, workers were called to clear the dead fish in St Andrae am Zicksee.

Dead fish are pictured at the Zicksee lake in St. Andrae am Zicksee in Burgenland, Austria on July 20, 2022. (Photo by Alex HALADA / AFP)

Similarly, forests in Lower Austria (including the Vienna Woods) are being hit by dry weather conditions due to low groundwater levels.

The record-breaking drought even resulted in forest fires in parts of the Alps during the past month, despite snow still coating the mountains.

READ ALSO: Smoking cigarettes in Austrian forests could cost you €7,270

This follows several years of little snow and rainfall in autumn and winter in the region, and forest managers are now debating the best course of action to tackle the problem.

Changes are also taking place in the Alps, with temperatures rising by nearly two degrees Celsius in the past 120 years — almost double the global average, according to the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps (CIPRA).

READ ALSO: Austrian scientists race to reveal melting glaciers’ secrets

In Tyrol, the Jamtal glacier has been losing about one metre (three feet) from its surface annually, but it has already lost more than a metre so far this year.

The Jamtal glacier has been losing about one metre (three feet) from its surface annually, but this year it has already lost more than a metre. (Photo by KERSTIN JOENSSON / AFP)

Even in the capital Vienna the drought and extreme heat are causing problems. For horses, temperatures above 35C can cause severe discomfort and force riders to halt the traditional (and very touristic) tours of the so-called fiaker in the city’s first district.

fiaker horse vienna austria summer weather heat

Fiaker horses are doused with water on a summer day in Vienna, Austria.(Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

For people, the heat is dangerous and the capital provides its residents and visitors with several places where they can cool off – from public pools to “cooling centres”.

READ ALSO: Vienna’s free ‘cooling centre’ lets you avoid Austria’s stifling heat

Vienna cooling centre Austria heatwave

There are several places to cool off from the extreme heat in Vienna, including a dedicate “cooling centre” in the 21st district (Amanda Previdelli / The Local)