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Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

SocietyJanuary 17, 2024

An insomniac’s guide to getting to sleep when it’s hot and muggy

Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

It is not easy, but it is possible.

Ah, sleep. Those six to eight gorgeous hours when we lie back, do nothing and let our subconscious and random firing neurons take us for a ride. Then, like magic, we wake up and feel better, or at least like we’ve done something that’s good for us, and then we get to have coffee. 

That is how our most treasured biological function is supposed to go. Unfortunately you’re here because you know the horrors of reality. The holidays are over and, for many parts of the country, at least, the hot mugginess has come, along with the mosquitoes and the flies. In these conditions, sleeping easily can be kissed goodbye. I am here, as a chronic insomniac, to tell you that unfortunately life goes on, and to give you some tips to endure.

What does an insomniac know about sleeping well? Years of trying, my friend – visits to doctors who only prescribe three sleeping pills at a time, and insist on sleep hygiene instead, hours of trawling the internet for advice, and real-life tests of every sleepy reckon ever.

OK enough blah blah – here is the sleep recipe

Waking time

  • Don’t sleep too much. It’s bad for you, actually.
  • Get some sunlight in the morning. Maybe even have your breakfast outside.
  • Tucker yourself out. We are not so different from toddlers. The best thing you can do to sleep is to be physically tired. Go for a run or a really long walk.
  • Have a schedule. Your body and brain like knowing what to expect and doing the same thing day in and day out. Have a wake-up time that you adhere to, and get in bed seven hours before it. 
  • Address your anxieties. We can try to blame the weather all we want but in truth it’s our own minds that are our worst enemies.
  • No naps after 2pm. Sorry. 
  • No coffee after 11am. If we’re being strict, probably no caffeinated tea either.
  • Limit alcohol. Trust me, it’s messing with your sleep.
person lying facedown on bed surrounded by laptop, pizza, books, shoes. quite messy, pastel colours, cute comics vibe
This person is displaying an absolute lack of sleep hygiene – all these things are banned (Image: Getty Images)


  • Cool down. Six years ago an official sleep expert told us that our bodies need to drop temperature by a few degrees to fall asleep and this is surely still true. She said we could trick them into the process by having cool showers or baths half an hour before bed. 
  • No chocolate at nighttime. It’s caffeinated, stupid.
  • Bed is only for sleep and sex. Do not allow any other activities in there. It’s called sleep hygiene and it is as important as all the other hygienes.
  • Melatonin, if you can get a prescription. This is the sleeping pill version of a mocktail but you may as well try it. Sometimes soda water can make you feel silly. 
  • No screens after 10pm. I know we all have phone addictions but it’s just not compatible with sleeping. Get an old school alarm clock so you can leave your phone in the kitchen.
  • Pamper yourself. What you want is a little calming routine before you get in bed to tell your brain the time is coming. Brush your teeth, wash your face and give it a little massage, moisturise your entire body, get into comfy pyjamas, drink a little chamomile tea, read a book, sing a song, whatever relaxes you. 
  • Time your lights with the sun. After the sun sets aim to have only soft, warm-coloured lamps on. Avoid glaring bright overhead lights – they make you look ugly.

During sleep time

  • Stay cool. If you have air con, good for you and why are you even reading this since you live in a paradise in your control. The rest of us have to eliminate external body heat (cuddle buddy must be relegated to the couch or floor), put ice packs in our pillows or sleep in the freezer.
  • Listen to some guided sleep meditations. They help mark the passing of time and keep you company through the night.
  • Get out of bed if it’s not happening and you’re getting yourself flustered about it. Sit quietly in front of your sleeping flatmate and try your hand at life drawing. After a while, go back to bed and try again.
  • Give up. This is official advice from my doctor. She said just close your eyes, be still, and rest. Resting will give you some of the benefits of sleep. At 3am, you don’t really need to sleep, you just need to make it through the night.
Keep going!