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Just hold still...
Just hold still...
Rozena Crossman

French super chef Philippe Etchebest was simply describing reality when he called coronavirus a "national nightmare" in a recent article published by La Croix. He was referring specifically to France's shutdown restaurant owners and workers, but the metaphor can also describe the collective, surreal sense of uncertainty and fear currently permeating the world's subconscious like a bad dream come true.

Yet to call this global pandemic a nightmare isn't merely figurative. Quartz reports that Google searches for "coronavirus dreams' have shot up in the past weeks, andLe Monde invited Marc Rey, the president of France's National Institute of Sleep and Vigilance to answer readers' questions about troubled slumber. Yes, people all over the world are reporting increased nightmares as life under COVID-19 continues.

Of course, it is hardly surprising that the heightened anxiety of quarantine, health worries and a deeply uncertain future are having a serious impact on our slumber. Stress not only causes more nightmares, but more nightime wake ups — which means we're remembering more of our dreams. The continuing shutdown and social isolation multiply the effects, according to Courtney Bolstad, a sleep researcher interviewed by Time magazine: "Social rhythm theory says that the rhythms we have during the day, what time we get up, whether we see our friends, can influence our circadian rhythm," she explained. "If you aren't doing the things you typically do during the day, that could mess with your circadian rhythm which could mess with your sleep."

This doesn't necessarily mean that we'll be tossing and turning for months to come. "We're confined. It's violent. But confinement situations exist independantly of the epidemic," Marc Rey reminded Le Monde's readers. "In monastaries, in submarines, in space stations … If others can adapt to this confinement situation, we should be able to as well." Keeping a regular schedule, doing gentle exercise, practicing breathing techniques— there are many habits we can learn to regain a more peaceful rest. And it's in our best interest, as not only does sleep boost the immune system, it can alleviate stress and trauma.

So let's all do our best to dream of brighter days to come, and maybe even a night out at a Philippe Etchebest Michelin-star restaurant.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Kharkiv Revisited: Inside Russia's New Assault On The "Hero City" Of Ukraine

The nation's second-largest city, Kharkiv was quiet for weeks after Ukrainian forces took control. But now it is again under attack as Russia pushes to capture the city that's considered the "gateway" to Ukraine. Die Welt reports from the frontline.

Damages due to Russian shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine

Alfred Hackensberger

KHARKIV — "Come, I want to show you something," Denys Vezenych says, opening the door of his dental office.

The 40-year-old begins to tell the story in the waiting room: "It was April 16 when the Russian artillery shell hit. The windowpanes were broken, the walls had holes everywhere and the roof was destroyed. But I renovated everything."

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The repairs cost him several thousand euros. "You have to think positively, because life goes on," he explains with a smile. But this attitude is not so present generally in Saltivka, a neighborhood in northeastern Kharkiv. The dental practice may be like new, but the rest of this area in the northeastern Ukrainian city is completely destroyed.

The Russian army has done a great job in its three-month offensive on Ukraine's second largest metropolis. Countless flats have been burned out, the facades of houses have been shot to pieces, entire shopping centers have been bombed. Debris still lie in the streets everywhere.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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