The Icelandic language has many unique and fun words, one of our favourites is this week’s word of the week: Svefngalsi. Read on to learn all about this whimsical word.

Sleep is vital to human beings’ health; it is a glorious act of self-care to lie unconscious for hours. But when you don’t go to sleep at a reasonable time, sometimes a sensation takes hold of you, suddenly you transform into a cheerful, babbling mess, prone to fits of hysterical laughter.

This state is what Icelanders call: Svefngalsi.

The word is a compound of two words: Svefn, which means ‘sleep’, and galsi, which means ‘giddiness’. Together they mean ‘sleepy-giddiness’, that mischievous state when you’re just the right level of sleep-deprived and become ‘punch drunk’.


Bananas in Pyjamas are coming down the stairs, probably suffering from svefngalsi. Photo: Bananas in Pyjamas Facebook.

To be clear, svefngalsi has nothing to do with insomnia, which is not a fun condition. What we’re talking about is when you’re tired but push past it instead of sleeping and end up over-excited and giggling yourself silly. If you relate to that description, then you’ve experienced svefngalsi.

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We can’t deny that we’re fond of this state in which you move past sleepiness into a delirious state where everything is fun and funny, especially when there are other people around who are equally hyperactive due to exhaustion.


What you should be doing is sleeping like a baby. Photo: Maxpixel.

However, we’re not saying this state of being is all good. People suffering from this particular type of giddiness have been disrupting sleepovers and refusing to go to bed forcenturies. And, as mentioned above, sleep is an essential part of living a healthy life.

If you’re currently in a fit of svefngalsi, we wish you all the best and hope you eventually calm down and get a full eight hours of rest tonight. 

Read next: The 7 Best Spots for Peace, Quiet and Silence in Iceland