Saturday, May 12, 2007

Sleeping by Daylight



At the extremes of latitude the days and nights obey a different cycle than most of us are used to. During spring the sunless days of winter steadily lengthen until the world remains alight 24 hours a day. Inuvik is situated well above the arctic circle, and as the solstice nears, the days here are long. There is a time of dusk around 3AM, but even then it the sky remains fairly bright.

Since I have been here I've found my usual day night cycle thrown off a little. The light is energizing, and plays havoc with any internal chronometer I might have. I find myself wondering why Conan O'Brien is on TV so early, only to remind myself that it is not really early at all but only a trick of the light.

On call last week I was paged back to the hospital just before midnight. The sky was still bright and there were still people out and about enjoying the day. I spent a couple of hours at the hospital admitting a patient, and when I wandered home at 2 AM it was like an early evening dusk. Luckily for me I can sleep anywhere and anytime, so the light doesn't disrupt my sleep at all. The funny thing is that with so much light, I just don't feel like sleeping as much as usual...


Here's what Robert Peary had to say about the arctic sun as he tried for the pole.

It must be remembered that during all this time we were in the region of constant daylight, in the season of the midnight sun. Sometimes the weather was foggy, sometimes cloudy, sometimes sunny; but there was no darkness. The periods of day and night were measured only by our watches—not, during the passage of these channels, by sleeping and waking, for we slept only in those brief intervals when there was nothing else to do. Unresting vigilance was the price we paid for our passage.
From: The North Pole, by Robert E. Peary



Peary's ship, The Roosevelt, at Cape Sheridan

11 comments:

Xavier Emmanuelle said...

That was one thing my grandparents had real trouble with when they were living in Nunavut -- their circadian rhythms were all messed up and they couldn't sleep properly. Glad it's not giving you problems, cause sleep deprivation is never fun!

Dr. J. said...

For all of the complaining about call that I have ever done (and I admit it's probably a fair amount), I think that the idea of sleeping when it's light outside is normal to me as a result. So, finally, being on call has done something good for me ;o)

Midwife with a Knife said...

I grew up in Alaska (but south of the Arctic circle), and I miss the really long days. In Anchorage, the sun would set, but at the height of summer, it didn't get completely dark before the sun started to rise. Ah... I miss the land of the midnight sun.

Anonymous said...

You have great insight into your chosen profession and your travels and that makes your blog immensely enjoyable. In a lively conversation this Friday past with two docs from Yellowknife, the topic of fiscal remuneration came up. They wondered why any docs would work in Nunavut as opposed to NWT? Their comments seemed to focus mainly on salary but also accommodation, lifestyle and back up were mentioned as very important to them. I saw you posted the link to Nunavut/BRH request for locums and checked out the "prices." While I would not expect you or anyone to comment on the differences just alluded to, it is an interesting aspect to the adventure of healing. I have worked extensively in health care in the Western Arctic, the Kivalliq and Baffin Region. They all hold great appeal and I have found each community to be a gift.

Hope you get out to the communities. Tuk is great and Sachs Harbour, like its eastern counterpart Grise Fiord, not to be missed.

Taiga

Xavier Emmanuelle said...

Come to think of it, I think my grandmother did have a much better time of it than my grandfather. She was a nurse in the ER so she was used to being at the hospital at all hours, including night shifts -- I guess that's similar to the experience you have with call.

Dr. J. said...

Taiga: Thanks for the interesting comment! I guess that the question of why anyone would work in a a particular area, NWT vs. Nunavut, depends partly on why they are there in the first place. There are certainly some financial differences between the 2 locals, but for me having spent the last couple of years working in inner city medicine, both are paying me substantially more than I am used to. (Inner city medicine has it's rewards, but it is not a money-maker in the world of medicine.) Back-up is an important issue to me (both specialist back up, and direct back up from my collegues), and although I have heard that historically Nunavut has had issues in this regard, in the time I have spent there the back up has, honestly, been excellent.
I guess for me, it is more about the experience than anything else. Being a doctor is a privilige in many ways, and working in different places is one of those priviliges. What other job allows you to call up all these different and interesting places in Canada and go travel and work there and get paid well to do it. It's a great experience and I am lucky to be able to do it.
Dr. J.

Liana said...

Dr. J, I am hereby tagging you for the "5 reasons why I blog" meme.

Dr. J. said...

Hmmm, that's tough!! I'll post it in the next couple of days :o)

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