Sleeping soundly the first night in Leigh, New Zealand

In seeking the best times of sleep

When it’s restful and dreamy and deep,

     This wisdom, please mark

     You must have it dark

And uninterrupted by beep.

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  On sabbatical to avoid burnout, while my non-compete clause ticks away I’m having adventures, visiting family and friends, and working in out-of-the-way places.  Just back from a six-week assignment in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point in the United States, right now I’m in Leigh,  New Zealand, hoping I’ll start work up next week.  I’ve not been able to access the net for the last three days.

A hovel, properly speaking, is any dwelling where the entrance leads below ground, and includes all those places with the wonderful euphemism “garden level apartment.”

During my premed days when I didn’t live in my mom’s basement I couldn’t afford anything other than basement apartments, and they worked well for me; they were dark and quiet during the day.

Such a domicile stood me in good stead during the first half of residency, especially during those rotations when I worked all night and slept all day.

When I went walkabout last May I traveled from Sioux City to Barrow, Alaska, and I learned how critical darkness is to sleep.

I originally attributed my grogginess there to jet lag, but as the weeks went by and layers of foil and cardboard went up on the inside of my windows, I came to realize how darkness relates to sleep/wake cycles, and how important it is to rest.  Despite everything I did, the unremitting sunlight robbed me of deep, restful sleep.

Barrow sits on flat land with no trees and only one tall building (three stories, not all that tall).  The well-lighted streets give the long (sixty-three day) Arctic night the visual impact of a very large Wal-Mart parking lot.  The hospital maintains halogen security lights, which shine into most apartment windows.  Within twenty-four hours of our arrival we purchased duct tape and heavy-duty foil.  Which helped a lot, but the apartment didn’t need night lights.  Bethany and I found unremitting night much easier to handle than unremitting daylight.

We stayed nine nights at a fine hotel in Wellington, but city lights impinged on the darkness and thus on our sleep.

Last night, we arrived late in a driving rain in Leigh (pronounced Lee), New Zealand, a tiny community on the east coast of the North Island.  After the terrifying experience of driving on the left side of narrow, winding roads in a downpour, we switched off the lights and the welcome darkness enveloped us.

This morning, we awoke to an astonishing view of the ocean.  Despite the stress of getting here, we slept soundly. 

Twenty years from now people will reminisce about the great real estate prices in Leigh before the tourists and commuters drove the values up.  Right now the town doesn’t suffer from an excess of street lights, traffic, or night-life.

And I can, in good conscience, shut off my cell phone, because I have to go down the block to get service.


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One Response to “Sleeping soundly the first night in Leigh, New Zealand”

  1. Sleeping Habits of Newborns | Health News, Wellness, and Medical Information Says:

    […] Sleeping soundly the first night in Leigh, New Zealand … […]

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