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...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Nightshift Chicago

Next week, we’ll be reading and signing books in Chicago. Why Chicago?

As in New York City, lots of people in Chicago work the nightshift. Last year, in Chicago, 171,279 people left for work between 4pm and 4:59 a.m. That’s 11% of the city’s total workforce. As in NYC & all over the world, these nightshift workers struggle to maintain relationships, eat right, exercise and, above all, sleep.

Not surprisingly, researchers at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center have just published an article in Sleep on, well, sleep. Much research suggests that nightshift workers need to stay on a nightshift schedule, even on nights off, to mitigate the harmful effects of working nights. But this study, by lead author Mark Smith, suggests that it’s possible to mitigate these effects even if nightshift workers choose to sleep nights when they’re off work. How? With a strict regimen of light and dark to help partially delay the body’s natural circadian clock. For the full article (registration required), click here. For my other posts on sleep and the circadian cycle, see The Body's Clock and The Daysimeter. And remember, it’s not only shift workers who need to pay attention to daily doses of light & dark. It’s anyone struggling with depression, seasonal affective disorder, or the blahs when night falls earlier and earlier each day.

Ok, so you don’t work nights or mind the increasingly early nightfall but you still live in Chicago. Check out the exhibit, IN THE DARK, at the Nature Museum in Lincoln Park, 2430 N. Cannon Dr., Chicago, IL 60614, 773.755.5100, . Learn more about how worms, bats, butterflies and, yes, humans interact with darkness.

Finally, our book event is on Friday Dec 19 @ 7pm, at The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60625, 773.293.2665, We're billing it as a night of holiday shopping and bar hopping in the Lincoln Square area, starting at 5pm, then the book event at 7pm, then a pub crawl starting at 9pm. Hope to see you there!

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