Magazine topic: 
Life around the world

White Nights - the insomniac's dream

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Most people know the frustration of the white night. No matter how hard you try, you can't sleep. In fact, the harder you try, the more awake you feel. Under pressure to fall asleep, you are glancing at the clock every few minutes, constantly calculating the time left until morning. You begin to dread the tiredness you'll feel the next day. Perhaps the worst thing about sleeplessness is the loneliness – the feeling that the whole world is fast asleep and dreaming, leaving you alone with your worries. Often I have found myself wishing for late-night solace in a 24-hour café or art gallery, and wondering where I can find such a thing. In the UK, where I come from, nocturnal culture is very limited. Most shops close by 5.30pm and most restaurants by 11pm. Even the clubs close earlier than those on the continent. Sure, 24-hour supermarkets and corner shops exist in bigger cities – and many universities have a 24-hour library. But since I'm no longer a student, all night culture is harder to find. Visiting Moscow a couple of years ago, I was thrilled to discover an all-night bookshop (a comforting thought for the insomniac, even if you never need to buy Crime and Punishment at 3am).

However, insomniacs around the world can rejoice. “White night” has a new meaning: no longer a cause for dread, it's now the name for an all-night arts extravaganza. It began in St Petersburg, a city located at high latitude, where for a few weeks in June it never totally gets dark. The idea has spread to several cities including Melbourne, Montreal and Tel Aviv. Two weeks after arriving in Paris, I experienced my first White Night. Cycling with a friend from churches to gymnasiums to playgrounds, we discovered films, music and stunning art installations. There were games, walking tours and fireworks on the river Seine. Restaurants and galleries were open late, and two of the metro lines kept going all night. Most wonderful of all, there was a swimming pool open until 5am, lit up in fantastic colours, with a huge sculpture suspended above the water. There's something indescribable about nocturnal swimming, added to the excitement of being in a place that is normally off-limits at night. I went to bed at 8am, refreshed, invigorated and absolutely exhausted. I don't think I have ever slept so well.

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Do you sleep well? What do you think about doing activities at night time if you can't sleep? 


hadia's picture
hadia 20 April, 2015 - 09:45

Usually I sleep well but during days like exams in which I have to study or i'm nervous about something i can't have a good sleep. Also when the next day is result!!!!!! and whole night I spend it Praying to Allah for my good result! but I mostly have a good sleep!

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dzeni's picture
dzeni 10 March, 2014 - 16:29

I often sleep well, specially when I am tired. I can`t sleep after watching horror film or something other. Once I tried to read a book but after few minutes I stopped. Then I realised that I can`t do activities at night time. I don`t have the will for anything maybe just for talking. But that is inpossible because my sister always sleep well.

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ClaireL's picture
ClaireL 7 November, 2013 - 22:05

Isn't it strange how people go through phases! Sometimes you sleep badly for several days or a few weeks - and sometimes, falling asleep is the easiest thing in the world. Yes, it depends on how calm or anxious you are feeling. It's also important to be properly tired - if you work in an office and don't get any exercise, you often have a lot of energy left over at the end of the day. And yes (good advice, Natalija!), if you can't sleep: get up, read, clean, knit, write a letter. Anything is better than lying awake! Being active takes your mind off things, and tires you out. Sometimes I deliberately choose a book that's dull and/or difficult. That sends me to sleep! On the other hand, reading the newspaper gives me too much to think about, and tends to keep me awake. Any other ideas on what to read late at night?

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Natalija's picture
Natalija 5 November, 2013 - 13:45

I usually sleep well, I can't do anything at night. But I used to have a bad sleep. It's still like that sometimes. Sometimes I can't sleep for hours, especially when I"m anxious or nervous, and I think it's good to do some activities at night time if you can't sleep. It's better to use that time. For example, I like cleaning my room. Or reading a book, listening to music or something. But luckily, those days're really rare.

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