CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 16 . . . . March 30, 2007
Back in 1998, pop artist Billy Joel wrote a song titled “The River of Dreams.” The opening lines are “In the middle of the night, I go walking in my sleep . . .” Well, at least the singer actually gets some sleep. Annette Mangaard, writer, director, and narrator of Into the Night has lived her life in the twilight zone of near-exhaustion experienced by chronic insomniacs. Everyone, at one time or another, whether through choice or circumstance, experiences sleeplessness: students pulling “all-nighters” to finish a paper or cram for an exam, new parents with colicky babies, shift workers who must try to sleep during the day so that they can get through an evening or midnight work schedule, are but three groups of folks suffering sleep-deprivation. But, imagine what it’s like always to be desperate for rest, facing your pillow with dread each night, knowing that waking up fully refreshed and re-charged is a vain hope. That is the nightmare which Mangaard chronicles in this film.
She speculates on the possible childhood roots of the problem (a somewhat nomadic existence, nights spent in a tent pitched wherever her immigrant parents found themselves), describes her attempts at self-treatment, and commiserates with fellow insomniacs. As she explores her own experiences, she also speculates on how insomnia has been both a burden and a boon to some very famous people: Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, and Ben Franklin, to name but three. Is sleeplessness the opportunity for creative thought, or does it lead to extreme irascibility (as was the case with Josef Stalin), and fatal error (the disaster of NASA’s space shuttle Challenger has been attributed to sleep-deprived project engineers)? In desperation, Mangaard finally seeks help at a sleep clinic where she learns more about the physiological dimensions of her sleepless state.
The incandescent light bulb forever changed the natural rhythms of light and dark. We now live in a world of 24-hour services and shopping, and our workplaces and so-called leisure pursuits cause men, women, and children to cram more and more into 24 hours. Sleep-deprivation has become a modern-day badge of honour in some workplaces, and people boast/complain about how much they do in a day. As a consequence, sleep, and all its benefits, is sacrificed. Into the Night is slightly less than an hour long, but it challenges the viewer to consider how much he or she values the hours given over to sleep. For those who suffer sleep deprivation, it offers insight and empathy. Teachers and students of high school biology and health will find it interesting and thought-provoking viewing.
Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.