New York is the city that never sleeps. But this renowned insomnia would not be possible without the more than 200,000 men and women who work the nightshift – the fry cooks and coffee jockeys, train conductors and cab hacks, cops, docs, and fishmongers selling cod by the crate. Inverting the natural rhythm of life, they keep the city running as it slows but never stops.

In our book, NIGHTSHIFT NYC, we tell the stories of New York City nightshift workers. This ethnography of the night investigates familiar sites, such as diners, delis and taxis, as well as some unexpected corners of the night, such as a walking tour of homelessness in Manhattan and a fishing boat out of Brooklyn. We show how the nightshift is more than simply out of phase, it is another social space altogether, highly structured, inherently subversive, and shot through with inequalities of power. NIGHTSHIFT NYC presents the narratives of those who sleep too little and work too much, revealing the soul of a city hidden in the graveyard shift of 24-hour commerce when the sun goes down and the lights come up.

But there is more to the story than found its way into the pages of the book. Here you'll find more stories of the night in New York City and around the country. And we hope you will add your own stories and comments in the months to come. Stay tuned and check back often...

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Daysimeter

Nightshift workers have known for years that working nights and sleeping days can wreak havoc on the body’s internal clock. But scientists are just now catching up with some useful technology that might help reset that clock. Here’s an excerpt from an article Cheryl wrote for Scientific American, published online last week:

In an effort to gauge exactly how light affects our body clocks, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Lighting Research Center (LRC) in Troy, N.Y., has developed a device called a Daysimeter. Small and ear-mounted—like a wireless cell phone headset—it has three sensors that measure head movement, bright light (or lux, a measurement of the light used for daytime vision), and blue visible light (also known as circadian light). Circadian light—radiated by the sun as well as computer and television screens—helps balance certain hormones and neurotransmitters in the body, but only in specific doses and at certain times of day. Too much of this light can throw off the body's internal clock, which researchers believe leads to problems such as fatigue and poor health…

"We envision the Daysimeter, along with other biological markers [such as hormones] will allow us to get a more detailed circadian profile of a particular person," says LRC director Mark Rea, a Rensselaer professor of cognitive science. Researchers can measure the effect of circadian light exposure on hormone levels through blood samples collected from subjects. "We're fully expecting that we'll see variation among the population," he notes.

Rea envisions "real-time light prescriptions" to help people receive or avoid light at the appropriate times. Simple measures to control when and how much circadian light we receive could help nightshift workers stay alert on the job and sleep more effectively during the day, help cure jet lag, decrease depression, and generally help everyone get a proper night's sleep.

The ability to modify circadian rhythm could potentially mitigate the negative health effects that some researchers believe are brought on by disruptions to the light-dark cycle. Recent studies have found a link between health and changes in the natural circadian rhythm. The Journal of the National Cancer Institute published a series of articles, for example, that showed night shift workers had a higher incidence of breast cancer; and, last year, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer cited night work as a potential breast cancer risk factor…

Rea admits the LRC is a long way off from making their instrument available to the public. But researchers in the science of circadian rhythm are excited by the prospect of devices that may one day help people understand their own particular light-dark cycle and how to keep it in balance.

For the full article, click here:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thought you might be interested in knowing that someone out there wants to honor night shift workers