Monday, May 25, 2009

Declaring night in the land of 24 hour sunshine

So we're into the leading edges of silly season here in Iqaluit. Sunrise this morning was 2:54 a.m and sunset this evening will be at 10:08 p.m. That means it essentially no longer gets dark in Iqaluit. And yes, I know there are people further north than Iqaluit who have already been experiencing this for weeks, but it's just settling in here right now.

I'm always surprised when people say how great this must be...24 hours of daylight. And I guess it is when compared to the alternative - nearly 24 hours of darkness. However, as I've said before, this much daylight can do as much damage, if not more, than all the cold and darkness. Especially if the stories I've heard about the carnage of this past weekend are true. That would involve a couple of brutal assaults, what sounds like a very disturbing rape (all rape is disturbing, this one went that much extra) and a murder and stand-off with the RCMP.

I've always said to people who ask me about moving to Iqaluit that the city is relatively safe as long as you're not stupid and that most of the bad things that happen, the person tends to know the other person. That offers some small, cold comfort, I guess. But I do wonder if the incidents of weirdness increase in the city as it gets warmer and the daylight ends for 24 hours. I suspect it does.

But I'm also reading from Facebook and on blogs about the trouble in getting to sleep. Or friends from down south asking how we manage. Honestly, and this may feel like jinxing things a bit, but we don't suffer too badly from insomnia because of all the daylight.

Granted, this could be because we have no lives and we're not out partying at midnight and stuff. However, for day to day living, it's pretty simple.

First of all, you absolutely need good curtains/blinds/heavy cloth/tin foil....whatever it takes to block out the light from your windows. We have heavy blinds and curtains in our apartment, but use whatever it takes. Oh, and by the way, it's not enough to have these up just in your bedroom. Some people seem to think that's enough. If you have heavy curtains in your bedroom and it's dark in there, then you will be fine.

However, that doesn't work. If you're sitting in your living room at 11 p.m. with the curtains open and enjoying all that late evening sunlight and then try to go to bed, well, that's not going to work. You've been soaking up all that daylight and your brain is going to be telling you it's about 6 p.m. instead of 11 p.m. That means it's essential to declare night in your apartment. Pull all the curtains closed and turn on lights around the apartment. Pick your own time, but we do it around 9 p.m.

It might seem silly to close curtains and turn on lights when it's still bright outside, but we swear by it. Cathy's normally in bed between 10:30 and 11 p.m., I'm normally in bed between 11:30 and midnight.

Now, if you're up late and off to the bar, a party or whatever, well, yeah, odds are you're going to be out of synch. And obviously this does nothing to drown out the noise from those outside at 3 a.m. playing street hockey or doing other assorted weirdness.

But for day to day living, this is what works for us. We're also lucky to live on the third floor of a secure building, which helps with the noise. You have to declare night in your home a couple of hours before you go to sleep. You do that, you should be fine. Otherwise, well, you're doing laundry at 2 a.m. and noticing the TV options are really crappy.

Last Five
1. Last chance avenue - Ron Hynes*
2. I wanna be loved - Elvis Costello
3. From my own true love - The Decemberists
4. The sun doesn't like you - Norah Jones
5. Summer in the city - Regina Spektor


Simon said...

24 hour light drove me mad. I didn't mind the 24 darkness, tho.

Adam Snider said...

When I was visiting the Yukon (Dawson City) last summer, I actually adapted to the essentially unending daylight pretty quickly. However, I was on vacation, so it wasn't so important that I lived according to a normal schedule.

That said, I've heard that far northern countries (Norway, Iceland, the Canadian north) tend to have higher rates of suicide than places in the south. For a long time, people assumed it was because of the periods of 24 hour darkness. But, recent research shows that the suicide rate actually increases during the summer months, presumably because the lack of darkness destroys people's circadian rhythms and basically causes some people to go crazy and snap (resulting in suicide, in many cases).

As a guy who is seriously considering moving north in the not-too-distant future, your tips are definitely appreciated. The idea of "declaring night" sounds like a simple yet necessary thing to do. I'll have to keep that in the back of my mind for the day that I do head north.

Anonymous said...


A little off topic... I've been following your blog and others from up north for a few months now. I've just accepted a job in Iqaluit- moving up mid-June. I love everything sports, but have never tried curling once. From your blog, you seem to be enthusiastic about it. What basic equipment would you recommend I buy and bring with me? Any advice would be much appreciated.

Kennie said...

I follow those same "rules" tin foil + dark curtains + making my apartment dark starting early in the evening to trick my mind ... and it works .. only wish my neighbors and the kids outside would realize that I have to get up and go to work in the morning too so if they would nicely stop playing bad gangster music at 3am and having a soccer tourney outside my window at night, I'd be able to sleep. Sigh. I'd sleep with ear plugs, but then I would not hear my alarm in the morning. Oh the joys of living in the North.

towniebastard said...

You honestly don't need to buy anything. We supply step-on sliders at the club and brooms. That's the basic supplies. The only thing you need to bring is a clean pair of shoes, a pair of comfortable pants (I don't recommend trying to curl in tight jeans) and some warm clothing.

If you grow to like the sport, then you might want to invest in a pair of curling shoes (which go for about $100) and a broom, gloves and whatnot.

Curling registration will take place during the Mass Registration, which takes place in early June.

If you have more questions, by all means drop me a line.

Adam Snider said...

Kennie - Can you change the volume on your alarm so that it's loud enough that you'll hear it even with earplugs in? If so, do that. Then you can block out the sounds of the people outside, but you'll still get up on time in the morning.