December enters record books as warmest ever

Switzerland has had its warmest December since records began in 1868, according to meteorologists, with snow in short supply over Christmas.

December enters record books as warmest ever
Tourists ski on a thin layer of snow towards the resort of Leysin on December 28th. Photo: AFP

With just a few days of the month left and no weather change in sight it is clear that a new record has been set, Daniel Murer of MeteoSwiss told the sda news agency.

In Disentis and Chur in the eastern canton of Graubünden and in La Chaux-de-Fonds in the canton of Neuchâtel temperatures on Boxing Day topped 11 degrees – warmer than ever before, MeteoSwiss reported.

Over Christmas, ski resorts had to rely on artificial snow or lay on alternative offers for disappointed skiers.

In Crans Montana in the southwestern canton of Valais six holes on the Ballesteros golf course were reopened on December 25th to compensate for closed ski runs, according to a report on Swiss public television SRF’s  “Tagesschau” programme.

Not everyone seemed to mind the lack of snow. “Golfing in the winter is unique. It’s great,” said one visitor.

On Monday morning just 32 of 140 kilometres of piste were open in the resort at 1,800 metres, with 26 of those covered by artificial snow.

Mountain railways are also suffering from the lack of snow. In the canton of Graubünden around a dozen businesses that rely on tourism have had to cut back on staff, the Blick newspaper reported.

Meanwhile Swiss pleasure boat operators are reporting an increase in passengers as people take to the lakes instead of the mountains, the “Schweiz am Sonntag” reported.

The unseasonal December tops off a year that has been generally too warm, MeteoSwiss said.

The average temperature – 8.46 degrees – was 1.3 degrees higher than the mean temperature between 1981 and 2010.

The year was also very dry with more sun and less rain than usual, MeteoSwiss said.

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‘Don’t sleep naked’: How to get a good night’s sleep in a Swiss heatwave

As temperatures climb again, many people may struggle to get a good night's sleep in Switzerland. Here are some expert tips to help you even when it's sweltering hot.

‘Don’t sleep naked’: How to get a good night’s sleep in a Swiss heatwave

Switzerland’s summers tend to get hotter and this season has seen its share of heatwaves, bringing temperatures closer to 40C and making it almost impossible to sleep.

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

The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has three ‘golden rules’ for how to make it through heatwaves; avoid exercise during the hottest part of the day, keep the heat out of your house however you can, drink and eat smart (fresh foods and lots of water).

With night temperatures in some regions above 20C, Swiss residents will also need some help getting through the night.

Here are a few tips to keep cool overnight and enjoy better sleep despite the heat of the night.

Don’t sleep naked

It’s tempting to ditch the PJs when it’s this warm overnight. But sleep experts say this is a mistake, as any moisture from sweat accumulates on your body.

Cotton pyjamas and cotton sheets are very effective in absorbing and removing sweat from your body.

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 makes a huge difference.

READ ALSO: How Switzerland’s largest cities are combating the heat

As light suppresses our body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that signals that it is time to sleep, the longer days irritate our internal clock, according to sleep experts.

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

In that sense, it’s also better to avoid naps during the day to keep a better sleep routine.

Try to cool your room and yourself

Of course, the cooler temperatures are in your bedroom when you go to sleep, the better. You can help get temperatures a few degrees down by following these tips: keep the blinds and windows shut during the worst of the day and ventilate the cooler night breeze during the night.

Sleeping during a heatwave can be difficult. Photo: Yuris Alhumaydy / Unsplash

You can also moisten your curtains just before bedtime and leave the window open; the water evaporation will make it a bit cooler. If you can, another tip is to put your mattress on the floor as hot air rises – excellent advice for those sleeping on a bunk bed.

Don’t forget to turn off (and unplug!) electrical appliances, as those are heat sources.

READ ALSO: Eight great swimming spots to escape the Swiss summer heat

To cool yourself, you could take a lukewarm evening shower (not a hot one, those will make your body react by generating heat).

Fans and humidity help

As long as you’ve kept your room relatively cool, fans work. They help evaporate sweat which, in turn, helps your body regulate its temperature.

Putting a bowl of ice in front of the fan can also help cool the room.

Some people swear by dampening their sheets before going to bed. But if you’re not used to it, the feeling can be a little disconcerting. You can also place multiple ice containers in the corners of your room, which will melt slowly overnight and cool the air.

Why is it essential to have a good night’s sleep?

Several days of scorching temperatures can cause heat stress, according to the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute.

If the nights are not cool enough, the body can’t recover from the heat of the day, creating a dangerous condition called “thermal stress”, which can be fatal for the elderly and other vulnerable people.

While there are no statistics showing how many people have fallen victim to heat stress during the most recent heatwave, several cantons have implemented a system of home visits and frequent phone contact with this at-risk group.

READ MORE: How to keep your cool during Switzerland’s heatwave