First, I would like to write about some myths/stereotypes and how it is in reality and then my solutions to the existing problems.
In the Czech Republic are very often some misconceptions about the arctic or boreal area. If you are not interested in this topic, you may not get the right information. Teachers are usually teaching about north in a particularly misleading way.
Most often taught is, that there is half year dark and half year light. Well, that would be suitable for children in lower grades at elementary school. Also, people living in north are not Eskymos, Inuit or sometimes called Lappish. All is “kind of” correct and also totally wrong.
I don’t think, there is a term for all indigenous people living in far north. If you would think about northern Europe and call those people Eskimos, they may hit you or tell you something very rude. In northern Europe are living people, who are technically Lappish, as they inhabit area called Lapland. In reality, they would not be very happy if you would call them Lappi, or Lappish; they call themselves Sámi people.
Sámi people live in parts or Norway, Sweden, Finland and in small part of Russia. Just a few of them still speaks their language, because of their history. Besides all trauma they had, it was forbidden for them to speak Sámi language.
They have quite intriguing history. There is also few controversial things after which they may seem “bad” in some ways. Then it is up to you to make your own opinion. All of those I’ve met are nice and normal people, only with different culture.
That is also quite common idea. In the far north, they don’t know knives and forks and there is no civilization etc. Even though, it is so remote and people often don’t have the most modern things (there is a lot of older people as anywhere else), it is just normal modern world. You can go to supermarket, drive a car, sleep in a 5* hotel…
Only big issue might be that everything is painfully far. People are easily going more than 100 km just to buy some groceries. Or easily 500 km for a hospital. There are doctors even in smaller cities, but for specialized care it is far.
There is also something, what could be called as wilderness. You have there no phone signal, no roads, no touristic signs and you can get very easily lost and never be found (I mean it seriously).
The amount of non-profit forests is quite big and there is a lot of national parks and they are really worth visiting.
Half year dark and light
This one is really funny as this doesn’t work there. It depends a lot on your location. You will get different results in Svalbard or close to the polar circle, but most of inhabited areas get “only” about 2-3 months of “eternal” day and night.
It means, that in the summer, you will really have sun shining “above” your head at 3 am and you might need sunglasses in the middle of the “night”. Sun is having quite flat way on the sky, so it actually never goes straight above your head. But yes, you can enjoy the beautiful white sanded beach with amazing turquoise sea (great fo swimming) in the middle of the night and enjoy sun shining. You can really go swimming and a lot of people does that. Just the water temperature will usually not be above 15°C.
In the winter, the situation is same, just the sun is on the “opposite side”. It means, you will not see the sun even at the midday with clear sky. You will have twilight over the day and that would be most of the daylight you will get. It is just way more brighter and that is because snow will reflect all possible light. Actually nights with full moon are sometimes similarly bright. And you can also go swimming and it is worth it. It is better to try after sauna or in drysuit.
For a first time it can be challenging. There is a lot of common things what can happen. Like these:
- I am tired, what’s the time? Damn it, it is 1 am!
- Why it’s here so dead in the middle of a day? *look at the watches* Oh, it is night.
- The sun is below horizon! When it is going to be night? – In the September…
- It is warm, sun is shining… Great I am going to run before dinner. – Oh, it is 11:30 pm?! I guess, I am going to sleep.
- That sunset is happening already for three hours!
- Why the sun is on the horizon, when we are heading north?
- Why they are not cooking in the restaurant? It is only…wait…11 pm…
- *sitting in the restaurant* Really all of those people are sitting here and just waiting for the sun not to set?
Some people (including me) will get very tired and irritated for first days and some even can’t sleep at all. And after few days, they will just fall asleep. Be careful, you may literally fall asleep.
- Dark room. Preferably room without windows or with heavy curtains at least.
- Sleep mask. It can be a lifesaver in conditions like this.
- Melatonin. It is natural sleep hormone which is normally made in a human body when it is dark. With nights without darkness, its production may be disrupted. You can get it in pharmacies and in a lot of supermarkets in north.
- Rituals. Wake up and go to bed as regularly as possible. It will help you with falling asleep.
- Timers. This will help you to remember it is certain time of a day, as you can’t rely on the amount of light and on the position of the sun. Unless you will learn where the sun is, when night starts – as I did.
- No screens. No monitors, phone or tablet (etc.) blue light is not okay for your sleep. Even using apps for reduction blue light might not be the right thing in the arctic.
- Binaural sounds. If you have smartphone just download an app, which can help you with falling asleep. At the beginning it may feel awkward, but later you will get used to it. It also helps when you have thousands of thoughts whirling in your mind.
- Food. Just something light.
- Relax. Don’t do any sport before going to sleep. You need your body ready to do nothing. Don’t ready anything what may make you angry.
- Dull book. Choose a topic you find extremely boring before going to bed.
During the day is also great to do some sport, or at least walk in the fresh air. There is a lot of beautiful places to explore in the far north and a lot of clean fresh air. Including clean water you can drink directly from most rivers and lakes.
If nothing helps, you can always go to see a doctor, they would have stronger ways how to help you sleep.