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WEATHER

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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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

How Austria’s TV licence changes may affect you (even if you don’t watch TV)

Proposed changes to Austria's TV licence system look set to result in expensive cost increases. Stefan Haderer looks at how the new system will impact you, even if you don't watch TV.

How Austria's TV licence changes may affect you (even if you don't watch TV)

On July 18th the Austrian Constitutional Court ruled that receiving TV programs online and streaming them without paying so-called GIS fees is “unconstitutional”.

As a consequence, the court has asked the legislative powers (Austria’s National Council, Federal Council and Federal Assembly) to take action by “closing the streaming gap” by end of 2023.

This raises many questions for residents of Austria. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to pay Austria’s TV and radio tax, or (legally) avoid it

In which ways could the TV licence change affect people who don’t even own a TV and use their laptops only?

What could be alternatives to mandatory fees and how likely are they? And which preferences do the political players and the population actually have?

Long running debate on TV licence fees

The debate of introducing general TV fees in Austria isn’t new.

For many years Austria’s largest media provider, the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF), the government and the parties have been discussing ways to solve increasing financial issues. The ORF is not profit-oriented but an independent public media enterprise.

Two-thirds of its revenue comes from TV licence fees, that is, from households paying a monthly charge. These fees were increased on February 1st this year and now range from €22.45 to €28.65, depending on the state due to varying taxes.

According to a recent survey by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Austria is the most expensive EU country with regards to annual television fees.

More than 25,000 payers missing in 2022

Beginning of this year, Roland Weißmann became the corporation’s new CEO. He warned the ORF foundation council members about a minus of approximately €12 million, which he considered to be an effect of the constantly declining numbers of GIS payers.

In Austria, the younger generations in particular prefer streaming on their laptops or mobile devices, or they have switched to alternative private channels like Netflix and YouTube to avoid the fees.

Because of this trend, Weißmann stated a decrease of about 25,400 paying households for this year, an overall loss of more than €5.5 million for the corporation.

In 2015, Austria’s Supreme Administrative Court accepted a Viennese man’s objection to paying GIS fees for listening to radio programmes on his computer.

That ruling was regarded as a breakthrough for streamers and all those refusing GIS charges. The ORF, however, swore to “close this legal gap” and revive the debate of introducing “household fees” in the near future. The latest ruling by the Constitutional Court is definite. Although many Austrians and foreign residents hope to see licence fees abolished in Austria like in France, chances are rather slim.

ORF content can be easily found and watched online on a smartphone or computer. (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP)

READ ALSO: Cost of living: Seven tips to save money in Austria

Household fees becoming more likely 

So what are the options for the legislative powers to close the gap between streamers and TV owners? The two coalition partners still disagree, the ÖVP being against a new tax while the Green Party advocates a “household fee”.

This option, based on similar models in Germany and Switzerland, seems pretty likely for a number of reasons: The administrative efforts of control would be minor as four million households would be obliged to pay, regardless of having a television set at home or not.

Charges could also be lowered to about €18 a month (as in Germany) and more easily adapted to the real household income. The rates, however, would also be raised every year.

Another alternative preferred by a large number of users in forums would be a “pay-wall” for watching ORF content online. Many viewers consider this to be the only fair solution because, they say, one shouldn’t pay for a service not consumed. Logins and access keys may be easily abused, though. Besides, a pay-wall wouldn’t solve the corporation’s biggest issue, its decreasing revenues.

While the government hasn’t come to a decision yet, the TV licence is going to be a hot topic at the next elections. Other party members have already commented on the debate: The Socialist Party (SPÖ) strongly supports licence fees in order to consolidate a politically independent and unbiased national broadcasting corporation. NEOS calls for affordable household fees based on real income. 

Only the right-wing FPÖ demands GIS fees to be dropped like at present in France and presumably in the United Kingdom as well.

Their strong rejection of TV licence fees is expected to attract many angry voters at the expense of the ruling ÖVP. With state elections ahead in Tyrol, this could also explain why the ÖVP is still refusing to give a clear statement on this topic.

Will a referendum change anything?

Many people who don’t watch ORF state that the quality of the programme has deteriorated over the past few years.

They criticise permanent reruns of German soap operas, old American sitcoms and crime series, in particular. On channels like Netflix, some young people said, they are free to pick what they like, even if they have to pay. 

In the Standard forum posters also complain about the poor quality on ORF channels. Not surprisingly, some feel very angry about the recent court ruling. Others support a referendum which has been initiated and approved.

Citizens opposing GIS charges can sign it from September 19th until September 26th. Similar popular initiatives concerning the abolition of TV fees were launched in Austria in the past.

However, even if more than 100,000 persons sign the referendum, it won’t have any legal effect. Sooner or later the government needs to make a decision which certainly isn’t going to be very popular.

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