Tips for sleeping without the AC?
May 2, 2012 5:44 AM   Subscribe

I want to attempt to sleep without turning on the air conditioning this summer, any lifehacking tips for training one's body to adapt to a 30°+ environment when sleeping?

I mean, what did people do back in the day before fans and air conditioning?

If you need more info: I live in a small apartment, high-rise building, near the top floor in a big city. I sweat like crazy even at 25°C.
posted by querty to Science & Nature (46 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't used an air conditioner in years, though I've had some uncomfortable nights.
Best tip is to keep a fan aimed at your body. Also, figure out how to keep the room cool during the day - blinds over the windows if they get sun; close the door if it connects to a warmer part of the house; or get air circulation when you need it. Air circulation: one window fan at the hot end, blowing air out, and another window fan at the cool end (doesn't get direct sun) blowing in.
posted by entropone at 5:48 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

A cold shower before bed, cotton sheets, minimal clothing, and open windows. The cross ventilation trick entropone mentions is great. I've also found that opening the windows from the top down (if they're double-hung windows that allow you to do this) helps.

If you live in a very humid climate you could try just using a dehumidifier instead of AC.
posted by mareli at 5:51 AM on May 2, 2012

Back before fans and air conditioning, I have it on reliable evidence from my father (who actually was just poor), people sweltered. And slept badly. People also slept outdoors - there was a whole culture of sleeping on the roof or in the park that is totally gone now. Also, before fans and air conditioning most businesses and so on slowed down for the summer, so being exhausted and heat-crazed wasn't as terrible.

However, I do get through the summer without air conditioning. I don't live on the top floor of a high-rise, though, which sounds like fifty kinds of hell. I move my bed so that it is sticking out into the room with the head at the window and I put a fan in the window. It's a sturdy round fan that can tilt, so it can be wedged in the window and pointed down onto me.

If I had the option, I'd use two window fans at night, one to bring night air in and one to push hot air out, then close the place up by day. Although the fact that you're at the top of an apartment building may negate the "close by day" bit.

If you have an air conditioner, what about setting a temperature above which you'll use it? That's what I'm hoping to transition to - get a window unit for nights where it doesn't cool down to below 75 at all, for example.

Also, one of my housemates works in an un-airconditioned space. It's a lot harder for him to get through the night without A/C than it is for me. I work in an air-conditioned building, so my body isn't as tired from the heat and putting up with it for the coolest twelve hours of the day is possible. If I were you, I'd try to spend some serious time in the A/C during the hottest part of the summer, even if you're sleeping without. It will make a lot of difference.
posted by Frowner at 5:55 AM on May 2, 2012 [10 favorites]

I should have added - about half the summers, I feel like I'm going mad from misery, sleep deprivation and heat-sickness in late July/early August. My emotions are less controlled, I make poor decisions, it's generally a miserable time. That's why I'd like to have the option of a few good nights of sleep around then - if you have the possibility of occasional air conditioning, don't rule it out. You may be surprised by how badly your competence slips after a couple of weeks of four hours a night because it's too hot to sleep. (I've been known to go to a friend's for a couple of nights.)
posted by Frowner at 5:59 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Keeping the room cool as entropone suggested is key. If you don't have proper blinds you may want to invest in them; think of those blinds that you see in Italy, where they completely cover the windows and are pulled down before you leave the house in the morning. A fan, plus open windows, is also essential. If there is a cooler room than your bedroom consider sleeping in it if possible - when I lived in LA and didn't have a/c, I used to sleep in the living room because it was cooler than the bedroom.

And without a/c, people generally just suffer somewhat. You can certainly manage without, but it helps if you can sleep outdoors/on the roof, or not work during the hottest part of the day.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 6:03 AM on May 2, 2012

This might be cheating, but when I didn't have air conditioning I often took an ice pack or even just a loose ice cube to bed with me. You wake up a little unpleasantly damp, but in 100 degree weather without air conditioning, you always wake up unpleasantly damp.

Also, shutting your blinds during the day is essential.
posted by telegraph at 6:06 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Can you open any of the windows? In especially warm climates (particularly here in the South), sleeping porches were a way of dealing with the excruciating heat and humidity during the summer nights. If you're way high up, the bugs might not be much of an issue.
posted by jquinby at 6:10 AM on May 2, 2012

I lived in Africa for a year in a hut without any A/C, and I never got used to the heat at night. I don't think most people did much better than I did although they had been there their whole lives. We just lived with it because we had no other option. The only things I found made any difference were taking a cold bath right before bed, and trying to put my bed somewhere there was a draft. Usually the difference was at best marginal.

Good luck to you but I doubt you'll get very far with this.
posted by forza at 6:10 AM on May 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

Taking a very cold shower before bed, thoroughly soaking my hair, and sleeping naked helped me through a AC-less summer. I would also keep a dishtowel submerged in water next to my bed so that when I woke up with the crazy hots I could just drip water all over myself. Having a fan on constantly made that feel better too.
posted by amicamentis at 6:13 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with the above, especially the blinds to keep the hot sun out during the day. Other things are to watch for the dew point. If it is really high, you might be better off closing the windows to keep the damp out. Warmer, but drier, air can be more comfortable than cool but completely saturated air.

Linen sheets might help too- it seems to wick moisture away rather than just absorbing it and becoming an even better insulator.

It also can't hurt to get yourself good and exhausted during the day, and don't eat heavy meals before bed.
posted by gjc at 6:14 AM on May 2, 2012

Spray bottle filled up with water and a fan. When you wake up in the middle of the night crazy hot you spray water into the fan flow and let it mist all over your naked body. This will cool you down a tremendous amount, it's really shocking. It won't last long but sometimes it will last long enough for you to fall back asleep. This technique was an absolute lifesaver for me.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:24 AM on May 2, 2012 [15 favorites]

Ps ideally its one of those bottles you can set to mist
posted by nathancaswell at 6:25 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Lived in a part of Australia for 40 years where the weather would easily reach 40C/105F for days on end in summer. I never owned an air conditioner until I moved to the US.

Tips on sleeping in the summer heat. Keep the house cool during the day, thermal curtains, keep doors shut etc. It is only when the temperature hits the tipping point of significantly cooler outside do you want to open up the house to catch every breeze and that is usually in the evening and is great as you can cool your house down before shutting it up again the next morning. Cold meat and salads for dinner, don't cook anything that will steam up the house and increase humidity.

Cool shower before bed, in the worst of it I would go to bed with wet hair as it helped keep me cool. I have slept with a spray bottle and damped down my sheets and then pointed a fan onto me to make my own evaporation cooling system which works really well. The best thing you want is a ceiling fan over the bed or nice quiet fan on a pedestal so you can have it pointed at you while you sleep. Drink a lot of cool fluids in the evening so you can sweat freely, you'll sweat it out before you have to pee. Have a nice breathable cover under your sheets so you don't get hot and sweaty on one side (memory foam just made me sweat mad). Good cotton sheets, no man made fibres. You can get gel insert pillows and chill pillows (designed for menopause) that I found great to keep my head cool. I found if my head was cool I could sleep. Wet facecloths are also super handy to have by your bed for a quick wipe down.

Don't fight the heat is my best advice in general, you are going to feel warm/hot, you are not going to be able to snuggle under sheets but will be laying sprawled on your bed inelegantly. My best suggestion is to not sleep next to my husband who pumps out heat like a furnace and on really hot days gets to sleep in the spare room. Also sleep outside is rather nice in summer and we did that a lot as kids, just remember the mozzie repellant.
posted by wwax at 6:31 AM on May 2, 2012

I withstood 10 years on the Lower East Side without an air conditioner. And as Carrie Fisher put it in one of her books, "New York City in the summer feels like everyone in the country all came here and coughed." Here's what I've learned for coping:

1. Yes to the open-windows-and-fans.

2. Yes to the keeping-blinds-down-during-the-day.

3. If it's really awful, I've also tried getting the top sheet on my bed wet and sleeping underneath it like that. Not wringing wet, more like "a little bit past damp." That and a fan sometimes felt downright chilly.

4. Another trick is a cool shower before bed -- not a blasting-cold one, though. If it's ice-cold, it sends your body into a sort of "whoa it is cold and I must warm myself up" mode, so after you get out of the shower your body is already working on warming you up, so that defeats the purpose. Go with just....pleasantly cool.

5. My secret weapon -- in that before-bed shower, make sure you use Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap. Dr. Bronner's puts a ton of essential oils in their liquid soaps; and in the case of the peppermint soap, this gives you a bonus, because there is so much menthol in the peppermint oil that it has a cooling effect on your skin. (Also stressing to use the liquid verison -- I've not been able to get that kind of effect from the bar soap.)

6. Other AskMes have suggested the idea of a "swamp cooler", and based on them I once hacked a half-assed version of one that helped, thusly:
* Get a big box fan, a big bowl of water, and a piece of cloth big enough to drape over the front of the fan.

* Set up the fan near your bed. Put the bowl of water just in front of it.

* Wet the cloth, and drape it over the fan, with one end in the bowl of water. Secure the cloth to the fan enough so that it won't billow all over the place -- you want it fairly close to the front of the fan and you want to keep that one end in the bowl of water.

* Turn on the fan.
I leave it to others to explain why a swamp cooler works.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:32 AM on May 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

An old fashioned office fan with a 160 degrees rotation on. Sweep the air just over your body. Use only a thin sheet as cover.

Worked for me in semi-tropical Japan
posted by 0bvious at 6:34 AM on May 2, 2012

Ceiling fan! But if you're in a rental that might be impossible. We use our window AC maybe 1 week in the summer - combination of an exhaust fan in our attic and a ceiling fan over the bed works wonders. Since you're up high in a high rise you might consider running a fan as an exhaust fan during the heat of the day. Definitely fan pointed right at you, damp washcloth - all the aforementioned suggestions.
posted by leslies at 6:42 AM on May 2, 2012

When we have a heat spell before we've put the window unit in, I take a damp washcloth to bed with me. Waving it a bit in the air cools it, then I lay it on my chest or upper back (depending on how I'm laying). Combined with a fan, I find it really helps with cooling.

There's also the Chilly Pad, which is the same principle but much more efficient at cooling. Doesn't work the greatest when it's super humid, but I can attest that when the pad is properly moistened, it does feel cold to the touch.
posted by cabingirl at 6:48 AM on May 2, 2012

We've gone without an AC for two years (so far) in our south-facing apartment with big, big windows. It's tough, but you can do it.

If you have a bathtub, or even just a tub of water: cooling your feet somehow helps you to feel cool in your whole body.

Watch what you eat: carbs and sugars warm your body.

My wife keeps a couple of water-misted, mostly-dry washcloths in the freezer and sleeps with one.

Getting the night air in is good. If you can get cross-drafts going in the evening (one fan blowing in, another on the other side of the house / room / whatever drawing out), that will help a lot. Draw your blinds in the morning to keep the sun out during the day.
posted by gauche at 6:49 AM on May 2, 2012

When I was little we moved from the city out to a new house that had no A/C. Granted, we were in the country, but it was still pretty damn hot. Cool showers (or a plunge in the pool after the sun went down), coupled with keeping the house closed up and dark during the day was what did it for us.

Frankly, it's still how my Mom and Dad do things.
posted by LN at 6:53 AM on May 2, 2012

I did fine for several nyc summers with just a fan. Without a fan, you'll be miserable, no two ways about it.

In the olden days, people used to sleep on fire escapes. My dad told me that in the 60s they would drag mattresses to Riverside Park and sleep there.

Ans siesta culture probably evolved from hot nights - you go to bed late, after it's cooled down, then take a long break and nap at midday. This works best in dry heat, though, because the house can cool at night and you can nap in the shade at lunch. For high humidity, I'm afraid you're back to misery.
posted by yarly at 6:55 AM on May 2, 2012

Sleeping in the heat at night is terrible. When I was in a Chicago summer in an apartment building with no AC, I had one garment that was bearable at night: a 100% linen, very thin, tank top. That thing was my one stitch of clothing I could wear that made me feel cooler than not wearing anything at all. During the day I would soak it in ice water, wring it out, and put it back on.

I grew up in Houston, and if you don't have a fan, you're going to wish you were dead. So have at least one fan. Your physical environment doesn't sound like it's going to help you out much.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:58 AM on May 2, 2012

Lived in Senegal for a few years. In the hot season sleep was difficult. Cold showers before bed if there was water were helpful. Fan at the foot of the bed blowing of at me if there was electricity. Only a very lightweight sheet and no blankets. But on the nights when the power was out (very often) I just did not sleep. My neighbors would sleep in the streets and on their roofs. I tried the latter, but it was still too warm for me, and there was the added problem of mosquitoes.

The spray bottle next to the bed, especially paired with a fan, is good.
posted by Nothing at 7:02 AM on May 2, 2012

You could track down this piece by Arthur Miller: Before Air-Conditioning.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:14 AM on May 2, 2012

I live in southeastern France, it regularly gets up to 40°C in July-August here. Have never had air conditioning where I've lived.

Nthing a fan - I have one with a built-in timer that's been a life- and electricity-saver. It helps most when you're trying to get to sleep, so putting it on for an hour is great.

Also nthing keep the house closed. This is why there are shutters everywhere in southern Europe, btw. In the summer, people will keep sun-facing ones closed all day, and it makes a huge difference.

No pyjamas unless absolutely necessary. If they are needed, be sure they're linen or cotton – breathable. Silk would be okay but it's actually pretty warm (this is one reason it's popular as a sleeping bag liner, btw). NO man-made plasticky fibers such as polyester or nylon, they trap sweat and heat. A single, natural-fiber sheet on the happy, rare nights that it gets below 25°C.
posted by fraula at 7:34 AM on May 2, 2012

I find using some talcum powder after that cool evening shower also helps; minimal bed clothes, thin cotton sheet, oscillating fan. The advice about not eating carbs/sugars in the evening is a very good one. And if you can in any way keep the heat from getting in during the day (dark blinds, closed windows, fan blowing out if you must have window open during hot part of day), it's a big help. (Though I see this might not be as easy for you in a top floor big city apt. - we're very lucky that our house has big oak trees that shade the bedroom end in the summer.)
posted by aught at 7:36 AM on May 2, 2012

If you need more info: I live in a small apartment, high-rise building, near the top floor in a big city. I sweat like crazy even at 25°C.

I lived in a modest three story building, that thing was nasty. I clocked it once at more than 50°.

Everyone here has some decent tips. To repeat the ones that work for me:

The wind is the best thing ever: figure out where it comes from, and if you get a late night breeze.
If you do, opening windows to allow it to flood you apartment is idea.
Ice in front of the fan (for 30°+ nights), showers before bed, no sheets, minimal clothing and/or ceiling fans. Oh, and slushy iced water by the bed for when you wake up. And/or a misty spray bottle.

The trick is to fall alseep and stay sleep, I find.

As a kid I used to sleep against the cool concrete walls.
posted by Mezentian at 8:01 AM on May 2, 2012

How about a dutch bamboo wife?
posted by Zarkonnen at 8:21 AM on May 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

I mean, what did people do back in the day before fans and air conditioning?

People first and foremost tried to avoid living places where oppressive heat was a problem. Places like Las Vegas had small populations because anyone who could avoid it didn't live there. Mechanical refrigeration and rural electrification really openned the southern US to residents and contributed to a population explosion in many areas.

A step back from that is the summer house. People who could afford it who lived in places where it was hot in the summer would take vacation during the worst of it and move to places where the heat was less oppressive.

Architecture was climate aware so places where it got hot had wide overhangs designed to shade windows in the summer and let sun in during winter, shade from trees or other features, sleeping porches, summer (outside) kitchens, and building design that encouraged natural cross ventilation and used chimney effects to generate ventilation even when the air was still. In high daytime temperature and low night time temperature locations like Arizona high mass low insulative building material like Adobe was popular because it moderated daily temperature variations. Smart buildings also avoided massive south facing window walls.

Large trees like a weeping willows were popular in dryer places not only because of the shade they provide but also because they dump a massive amount of moisture into the air via transpiration (plant sweat) which acts as a natural evaporative cooler. A large willow can transpire several hundred gallons of water a day.
posted by Mitheral at 8:33 AM on May 2, 2012 [8 favorites]

Maybe build a small swamp cooler?
posted by chazlarson at 8:45 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Blinds installed on the outside of the window make a huge difference. With internal blinds, even when they're closed, there's a greenhouse effect between the glass and the blind.

A hammock! The traditional solution for sleeping in equatorial South America. The extra ventilation is so worth it!
posted by Tom-B at 8:49 AM on May 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I live in the tropics. What works best here is to give up on sleeping in a bed and use a hammock instead. I'm talking a Mayan hammock, the big net that has no bars. You lie diagonally across it and end up almost flat. I sleep in one every night.

I'm serious. Hammock + fan = air circulation all around your body. There's nothing more delicious than sprawling all sweaty in a hammock under a fan and 10 minutes later actually feeling a little chilled.

You can order hammocks over the internet. Just make sure you get one that's COTTON, Mayan (no bars!!!!), and has a fine weave. When I was in the US I got a good cotton, "matrimonial" size hammock online for about $60. Don't buy a super big one, because a too-big hammock is actually uncomfortable.

Hang it from hooks installed on wall studs; it's easy to put away during the day and during the winter. The hooks should ideally be about 13 feet apart, and the empty hammock should droop in a slight banana shape.

It took me about two nights to get used to sleeping in a hammock. Now it feels completely normal. I have a ceiling fan to blow air down on me, and on bad nights I also have a small fan on the floor that blows up on me from below. I use a small pillow and on cooler nights a cotton sheet.

It also helps to have a tile or concrete floor. Around here, we hang the hammocks kind of low, so your body heat sinks into the concrete floor. When I get up in the morning, the floor below the hammock is warmer than the rest of the room, from absorbing my body heat.

When I had to live in a small bedroom that already had a bed, I turned the bed to make room for the hammock to hang. I'd be that with some rearrangement of furniture, it should be possible to hang a hammock almost anywhere.
posted by ceiba at 8:51 AM on May 2, 2012 [9 favorites]

That's supposed to say "I'd bet that with some rearrangement..."
posted by ceiba at 8:53 AM on May 2, 2012

When I was young and we didn't have air conditioning (boy am I old) I had a bedroom with only one window so I put the fan in backwards so it would blow the hot air out. But if it got really hot we usually slept on a sheet on the floor because it was cooler then the bed.
posted by interplanetjanet at 9:00 AM on May 2, 2012

And another thing: When you hang a hammock, don't just put the end loops in the wall hooks. Use a rope as an intermediary. That way, it's easy to adjust the height and banana-ness of the hammock, and you protect the very important end loops.
posted by ceiba at 9:04 AM on May 2, 2012

Lived without air conditioning for much of my life, here's what you need to do:

1. Pay attention to the weather. That means letting the cool air in through the windows when it's available. Pretty much opening the windows after dark. But (this is most important), even if the air still seems cool in late morning, you MUST close the windows by about 9–10 am at the latest. The point is keeping the coolest air in your home during the day, so you close the windows to trap it in before the warming air from outside overwhelms the cool air you've already let in during the wee hours. If there is a thunderstorm that just passed through or cool weather front, open up the windows to let that breeze in, but otherwise you keep them closed during the day.

2. During the day, you also cover your windows with the best thing you've got. That meant at our house, if we didn't have dark blinds or curtains, we hung a blanket over the window during the day to keep that sun out. Yes, it will be a little like living in a cave, but making sure no sun gets in makes a world of difference.

3. When you do let the breeze in, emphasize it the best way you can. You know those fans designed to go in the window? Use those. Especially the kind with the dual exhaust so one side brings in the air, the other fan takes out the hot air. (it seems counter-intuitive, but I really liked the way it worked) But here's the other trick if you don't have a fan: when you open the window to let the breeze in, place pans of cool water on the window sill. This will help cool the air as it comes in. I've seen people also hang wet clothes in front of open windows—same idea, but the cloth tends to dry out pretty fast.

4. Cool shower/bath. As others have suggested, this works great to bring down your body temp and the heat won't bother as much.

5. Also, a cool washcloth on your forehead when you lie down can help give you the sensation of being less warm than you are. You may find you need to keep cooling it off though, so YMMV.

6. Oh, and for goddsake, do not run the oven during the day. Back before air conditioning, that's why picnics were so popular. You just DO NOT cook indoors if you're trying to keep the place cool.
posted by Eicats at 9:23 AM on May 2, 2012

It all depends on the climate inside your house. In houses I've lived where it gets hot (like I'm in a sun-facing room) I have one fan blowing air in, one blowing air out, a fan blowing on me, and take a cold shower prior to going to bed. Obviously nothing more than a thin sheet to cover me. Right now I'm in a cooler apartment, so I don't pump air in, just keep the fan circulating air around me. Keep shades and whatnot down during the day, it will help. My current apartment gets basically no sun and is 10 degrees cooler than the outside as a result.
posted by schroedinger at 9:28 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I lived in Chennai, India, until I was 21 and > 35 C nights were routine. We did have ceiling fans, and when I was 13 I got an air conditioner as a birthday present, but there were nights with no electricity, and my parents never slept with an AC. How did we manage? Well if there was no electricity we usually took mats to the roof of the house (what we called the terrace) and slept there until the morning or until the electricity came back. Ceiling fans or fans of any sort are a godsend. We slept in light, loose, cotton sleep clothes -- nighties not pajamas for my mom and me. My dad had really really thin linen sleep clothes.
posted by peacheater at 9:37 AM on May 2, 2012

I lived in Germany for awhile with no a/c where it got just as hot/humid as here. I stayed comfortable by keeping the window open and having a fan turned directly on me. I kept a sheet on mostly because I don't like the feeling of air blowing directly on me, but I think the sheet also helped disperse the cool air evenly over my entire body.
posted by fromageball at 10:21 AM on May 2, 2012

When I lived in a pretty hot apartment with no A/C, I had a window fan and a spray bottle on the mist setting. If I was really hot, just one spritz from the spray bottle felt like being dunked in ice-water and would help me get back to sleep.
posted by MonsieurBon at 10:32 AM on May 2, 2012

On hot nights I've taken a big water bottle that I put in the freezer all day, and then slept cuddling it like a teddy bear. (Putting it between my boobs was also great, but I don't know if you're boob-having.) I also recommend putting your sheets in the freezer all day (in a plastic bag, so they don't get weird smells.)
posted by whitneyarner at 10:57 AM on May 2, 2012

I've never had air conditioning. My summer hot night regimen is as follows:

• HEAVY curtains on the window to keep heat out (my window is south facing, this is crucial)
• window fan, the kind with two fans, one to pull in, one to push out--if the room gets hot during the day (which it shouldn't if you have the heavy curtains) push out all the hot air on using the exhaust setting during the evening. Then set one back to regular fan setting.
• cold shower before bed with Dr Bronners peppermint soap
• one or two of those blue gel things for injuries that you freeze, one inside the pillowcase, one under your feet
• a mister spray bottle filled with water and a few drops of peppermint essential oil will cool you off, too

Often, even on nights when it's 30°C, by 4-5 a.m. I have to turn the fan down because it's too cold.
posted by looli at 1:08 PM on May 2, 2012

My essential tool to beat the heat at night is a Sobakawa pillow, aka filled with buckwheat hulls. It allows much more air circulation than feather pillows, or fiber-fill. If you are a back-sleeper I'd recommend getting the "bolster" shape which is like a small tube about 4 inches in diameter (it sags down to less) which can support your neck without allowing a lot of heat to accumulate around your head and ears.

I sometimes ponder if I was in a *really* hot/humid climate I'd like to try the African wooden head rest:
posted by markhu at 3:15 PM on May 2, 2012

I've enjoyed sleeping in hot weather with my legs resting on a steel plate (it was the base of a bicycle repair stand, I slept on the floor next to it, it just kind of happened, don't ask). Even at 85° F/30° C, steel is thermally conductive enough to feel cool, even to the point of discomfort when too much of me was in contact with it at once. It would warm up enough to be ineffective by 3 or 4 a.m. but by then I was usually sleeping soundly.
posted by pullayup at 6:43 PM on May 2, 2012

I skimmed through the answers above, and was surprised that I didn't see *icepaks* until looli mentioned "those blue gel things" (maybe I just missed it). I don't specifically remember seeing them before I lived in Japan, and a quick Google suggests that maybe they aren't readily available elsewhere, but there are these blue gel pillows that I don't know what to call, either in Japanese or in English. It's a gel material (presumably alcohol based?) in a sealed plastic case that freezes to semi-hard, and stays cool for a couple of hours or so. They take a bit of getting used to (I prefer to leave it to warm up a bit before using - I don't like the super cold sensation while the rest of my body is sweltering), but my wife swears by them. We wrap them in a face towel before using, and toss them back in the freezer in the morning so they're ready to use the next night. Here's an English language link to someone selling some in Japan, to give you an idea of what I'm talking about. I'd be surprised if they really aren't available elsewhere; I am probably just not using the right search words.
posted by segatakai at 12:53 AM on May 3, 2012

I only run my window unit a few days a year in Chicago (whew, that humidity). Keep the room as dark as possible during the day, windows wide open at night, ceiling fan + sometimes a floor fan. When it gets above 90 I often end up with ice packs. My sister just about died laughing when she visited and I handed her ice packs with her pillow for the couch, but it helps. Putting them in a ziplock and/or washcloth helps with the condensation not getting all over the place.
posted by Bunglegirl at 1:36 PM on May 3, 2012

I've enjoyed sleeping in hot weather with my legs resting on a steel plate...

How funny, I remember using the foot-board of my old cast iron bed for that exact purpose in high school and college.

If you have double-sash windows (they're common in older houses here in the Southern U.S.), open the bottom one "up" and the top one "down." Put the box fan in the bottom one. Warm (well, let's be serious here) air gets sucked in, hot air gets pushed out.

Also, if you have a ceiling fan, remember to reverse its blades so that it's pulling air up instead of blowing it down--that's the hot air up there--unless it just feels better to have the air moving over you in the event you can get a better fan going.
posted by resurrexit at 2:30 PM on May 3, 2012

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