The very first summer I spent in New York City I slept on the fire escape of my third floor walkup in Queens as a small oscillating fan blew warm air on me.
August in the concrete jungle feels like you’re wearing a onesie made out of tongues.
And it was one of those nights that was so hot the only way you could sleep without an air conditioner was to lay very still, so still that your molecules stopped spinning, and you just became one with the humidity.
So I slept outside with a fan. Ambulances and car alarms are the crickets of the city.
Eventually, I would be able to afford a used air conditioner. When I turned it on it would shudder and make a noise that sounded like a robot gargling rocks. The old box didn’t pump out the arctic blast I wanted but it allowed me to sleep on my futon and not three stories above the street.
Things are different now. For one, I have a bed. It is a very nice bed, and if you’re wondering, yes, I work for a mattress company. But I am under no contractual obligation to mention my bed, which is super comfortable. I just bring it up because I am a nice guy. For more information on getting the best night’s sleep of your life, please click here.
I sometimes get nostalgic for the distant past. This is, of course, a bad habit. It encourages the romanticization of moments that shouldn’t be romanticized. I know that if I were able to travel backward in time to when I didn’t have an air conditioner and announced that one day I would be wistful about having to climb out a window to sleep, past me would look at future me and ask me what’s wrong with me.
Well, kid, here’s the story: I am currently sleeping without turning my air conditioner on because I care about the environment.
It is also, suddenly, hot and I’m cheap. The early weeks of May shouldn’t feel like the inside of a freshly steamed tamale. I, also, don’t feel like running up my electric bill. I can afford a sleek new air conditioner but it’s expensive to run, especially during months that are supposed to be cool and crisp.
So I decided to sleep hot and you know what? It’s almost not terrible. Or, rather, not as terrible as I remember it to be.
There are all kinds of ways to sleep cool with the help of an air conditioner. One simple way is to sleep on an award-winning mattress made out of breathable material (wink, wink.) But there are other things you can do, like stuff your sheets in the freezer. This is an actual tip that multiple articles about “sleeping cool” suggest. I have never done this but, I suppose, it’s worth a try? The other tips are practical, and obvious, like make sure you’re hydrated and try not to wear wool pajamas to bed.
I like to tell myself that air conditioners make us weak. I really do romanticize the past. One hundred years ago there weren’t any air conditioners, and civilization didn’t collapse. Sure, life expectancy was, more or less, fifty years old. There were no antibiotics, and dental work was basically mouth butchery, and women couldn’t vote. But even rich and powerful people slept hot. Everyone slept hot. That’s because our forbearers were strong and, also, they lived short lives of struggle and sorrow. My point is: humanity has slept without air conditioning for the overwhelming majority of its existence, so I should have no problem not sleeping with my air conditioner off during the month of May so I can save a few bucks.
Did I mention that not running my air conditioner is good for the planet? They release gases—like chlorofluorocarbons and hydro-chlorofluorocarbons—that trap heat and deplete the ozone layer. The ozone layer has been pretty good to ol’ Mother Earth. I’m pretty sure she’ll appreciate the two weeks, or so, I’ll be spending tossing and turning on sweat-soaked sheets.
I refuse to power up my air conditioner until it is so hot that my toenails perspire. Until then, I am toughing it out, like your average American in 1916, albeit with better teeth. I have a proper fan blowing warm air on me. I keep a cool, wet compress handy in case I want to dab my forehead. My bedtime attire is best described as “just socks.” June will be here before I know it.
Until then I will keep the window wide open, so I can fall asleep to the city crickets.