There has been a steady stream of studies over recent years that suggests long-term night-working is extremely bad for your health. It's a sobering thought for those who have to work at night, writes Sarah Montague.
I've been getting up in the dead of night to go to work for years. It's the price for presenting the Today programme - and one I'm happy to pay.
But I've always wondered whether there is a longer term cost. Could my early rising, when my body is screaming at me to go back to sleep, be doing more serious and permanent damage than can be reversed by a good night's sleep?
Too many of us think of sleep as an indulgence. When my alarm clock goes off at 3.25am, I always promise myself I'll catch up later. After all, I'm only tired.
But sleep is as essential as breathing and eating. It's when our brains process what we've done during the day and lay down memories. And when our bodies carry out some basic maintenance.
We've now learned that even when night-workers get plenty of sleep, it's at the wrong time.
It had always been assumed that our body clock would adapt to the demands of working at night, but as one of Britain's leading sleep experts, Prof Russell Foster, from Oxford University, says "the really extraordinary finding across a whole range of different studies, is that you don't adapt".
And that means those working at night for long periods are more likely to get a range of serious diseases from type 2 diabetes to coronary heart disease and cancer.
Some scientists believe that anyone arriving at work at 4am - as I do - has an ability to process information that is as bad as if they'd had a few whiskies or beers.
It's not as much fun as being drunk but it is a struggle to think straight. That's when the amount we have to read and write in the two hours before we go on air has a welcome sobering effect.
When we say those first few words of the programme at 6am, I often think of those whose slumber we are breaking. Why is it so much easier if you set your alarm at 6am than 4am? Why are those extra two hours of night-time sleep so much more valuable than snatched day time hours?
The answer lies in a few thousand cells in a primitive part of the brain - the location of our main body clock or suprachiasmatic nucleus.
It controls everything about when we go to sleep, when we wake up, when our liver produces enzymes to digest food. And it changes our heart rate, increasing it in the morning when we wake up and ensuring it declines in the evening.
Prof Michael Hastings, from Cambridge University, who has spent 20 years working on circadian clocks, says: "All of our organs are running to this pre-programmed genetic pattern to make them do certain things at one time of day and different things at another."
It's a fantastic piece of engineering, the result of evolution, and makes perfect sense for a Neanderthal caveman, but not a 21st Century nightshift worker.
Eat a triple chocolate muffin in the middle of the night, as I have often done, and the sugar and fat hang around in your bloodstream for longer than if you'd eaten it during the day.
High blood sugar levels can lead to type 2 diabetes, the raised fat levels can cause heart disease. That's why nightshift workers are about one-and-a-half times more likely to get heart disease than those who work in the day.
It may also explain the high levels of obesity in those working at night.
A massive study in the US has been following 75,000 female nurses who work shifts over the past 22 years. It has shown that one in ten of those who have worked rotating shifts for six years will die early.
It's not just the harm we're doing to ourselves - in some jobs we put others at risk.
I spoke to someone who spends his nights as a cleaner. Instead of sleeping when he gets home, he says that, after a shower, he goes on to another job driving big trucks around the country. He does that six days a week, on only three hours sleep.
There are rules in place to limit the hours truck drivers can work. What they don't appear to monitor is what a driver is doing in his supposed "rest" time.
There are ways of mitigating some of the damage. A trucking company in America had three fatalities within a few weeks. They changed their shift patterns to stop rotating shifts - that is "flip-flopping" between days and nights - and they ensured drivers had two consecutive days off. Now they have one of the best safety records in the US.
There are huge upsides to working at night. A DJ I spoke to described the joy of watching the dawn and seeing wage slaves scurrying to train stations. For me, it's being able to pick my children up from school.
The evidence of the price our bodies are paying for that trade-off is piling up. But so too is our understanding of how the body clock works. And with that comes the possibility that we can manipulate it - turn the hands forward or back.
The Wellcome Trust has given Prof Russell Foster and his team at Oxford University £3m to investigate a relatively new discovery - something that has been called the sleep "switch".
The VELPO, or ventral lateral pre-optic nuclei, turns on or off the whole neural system that keeps us awake. It raises the possibility of developing a drug to allow our bodies to ignore the light/dark cycle.
Until then our night working puts us out of kilter with our biology.
I've been obsessed by sleep for years. And it has been depressing having it spelt out just what damage I'm doing to my body and brain.
So what do I do about it? Let me sleep on that.
The myth of the eight-hour sleep
We often worry about lying awake in the middle of the night - but it could be good for you. A growing body of evidence from both science and history suggests that the eight-hour sleep may be unnatural.
Update: The salvage team has abandoned the Modern Express for the night after an attempt to establish a tow line was unsuccessful, Maritime Prefect Atlantic said in an update late Friday.
After reaching the bow of the car carrier, the salvors were able to attach a messenger line from a tug to the Modern Express, but the line parted due to the movement of the vessels. During the operation, one member of the salvage team suffered minor injuries. The team left the ship before nightfall.
Earlier: A four-man team from SMIT Salvage was able to board the heavily listing Modern Express car carrier in the Bay of Biscay in an attempt to attach a tow line to the drifting vessel.
The latest update from France’s Maritime Prefect Atlantic said the vessel was located 150 nautical miles west of La Rochelle on Friday and drifting east at 1 knot.
Weather had previously prevented the salvage team from boarding the vessel, with waves of 4 to 5 meters.
The Panamanian-flaggedModern Express was transporting 3,600 ton of wood and construction equipment from Gabon, Africa to the port of Le Havre when it listed heavily in rough seas. All 22 crew members were evacuated safely by Spanish search and rescue helicopters.
On scene are two tugs contracted by the ship owner, Cido Shipping, the French emergency tug Abeille Bourbon and the French Navy frigate Primauguet. The AHTS Argonaute arrived with equipment on Friday.
The towing operation has been approved by French officials and could commence as soon as late Friday afternoon, officials said.
One truck driver was able to get into the Bayonne port, but then he wasn’t allowed out, Haskell reported.
“The ILA and the New York Shipping Association – our employers, it’s not just the workers, but also the owners of the companies that generate the jobs and generates money for the economy, both sides have been fighting the Waterfront Commission, especially in the last five years, over the right to bring new workers on, the right to operate their ports the way they think they should be operated,” Jim McNamara of the International Longshoreman’s Association told 1010 WINS. “They’ve had enough, they told me they’re taking this action to demonstrate their displeasure.”
There is an apparent labor walk off at all PONYNJ terminals. No truck operations at this time. All efforts to resume activity will be under
The dispute between the longshoremen and the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor has been ongoing for some time.
“The Waterfront Commission continues to interfere with both management and labor,” McNamara said.
Meanwhile the Port Authority urged workers to return to the ports.
“As the agency that oversees the largest port complex on the East Coast, we strongly urge the ILA members to return to work immediately and resolve their differences after they return,” the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said in a statement. “In the meantime, Port Authority Police are actively working to ensure public safety for all of the stakeholders at the port.”
Shame blokes at English docks don't stick together.
We can't,Government took the right to strike off us and give more power to the employers to finish anyone who does.
Highways England said it was recommending that the new Lower Thames Crossing was built between Gravesend and Tilbury and not Option A, which would see a new bridge alongside the A282 Dartford-Thurrock crossing.
'Double economic benefits'
There are three variants to the Option C route north of the Thames and two to the south.
Martin Potts, of Highways England said the route between Gravesend and Tilbury "provides double the economic benefits" of a crossing close to the existing routes between Dartford and Thurrock.
He said it would also be a "clear alternative route to the Dartford Crossing, reducing congestion and improving resilience of the road network".
He added: By choosing a tunnel rather than a bridge we can minimise the effects of the new road on the environment.
"There are important choices to be made. As well as inviting comments from the public about our recommendations, we have identified three routes for the new road to the north of the river and two routes south of the river."
(The Loadstar) – Analysts agree there is no recovery in sight for the beleaguered containership charter market, which is facing its biggest crisis since the 2008 financial crash.
However, unlike that bleak period for shipping, which ultimately resulted in a strong recovery for charter rates, this time the fundamentals are quite different.
Overcapacity, stemming from the ordering strategy of carriers has been exacerbated by a growth slowdown in China and ultra-low oil prices. And according to the latest report from Alphaliner, with the possible exception of very small feeders, all containership sectors are struggling badly, with owners obliged to accept sub-economic charter rates and pay for positioning costs just to keep their ships busy.
The revenue earned in charter hire is seen by owners as a “contribution” to vessel overheads, but is often insufficient to cover mortgage payments on the ship.
Thus “zombie ships”, as they have become known in shipbroking circles, are masking the parlous state of container shipping.
Commentators generally point to laid-up tonnage and ship deletions as health barometers of the industry, but in the past year, these have proved to be less than reliable as indicators. Despite chronic overcapacity and weak demand the number of laid-up containerships has only inched up relatively, with Alphaliner’s idle tonnage register at 11 January reflecting a net increase of just six ships in the previous two weeks.
In fact, the total number of idled ships, 337 (1.35m teu), represents only 6.8% of the world’s cellular fleet; a figure that is clearly artificially low given current industry fundamentals.
While some smaller ships were added to the laid-up fleet during the period, Alphaliner notes that several ships of 7,500 teu and above were returned to service ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday, albeit that after the peak pre-CNY weeks these ships are again likely to become surplus to carrier requirements.
The demand for 7,500-9,500 teu ships is “next to zero”, said Alphaliner, adding that there are still 12 vessels of 7,800-8,800 teu seeking employment in Asia.
It follows that, when time charters expire for these vessels, ocean carriers will return them to owners if they cannot find the ship a service that provides a return for the line..
Meanwhile, if the vessels are long-term chartered or carrier-owned, the container lines are endeavouring to push bigger ships into traditionally smaller trades, as has been seen in South America and West Africa, which can often throw the market out of kilter and ignite rate wars between carriers.
Elsewhere, the number of containerships sold for scrap last year, 93 (213,000 teu), was half the 2014 tally – but this had more to do with the falling price of steel than anything else. However, there has been a pick-up recently in the demolition market, as owners reluctantly accept that scrappage rates are likely to remain low for some time – somewhere south of $300 per ldt, compared with $500 a year ago.
The Loadstar is fast becoming known at the highest levels of logistics and supply chain management as one of the best sources of influential analysis and commentary.
A video released by Listen 2 News shows the construction process for building a container port or terminal, which includes dredging work and the construction of the yard area.
During the dredging process, rock is transported by a 30-50m3 hopper and placed on the excavated footprint, with the rip-rap – which is a type of rock or other material used to protect the shoreline from erosion – work carried out layer by layer.
A Panamanian-flagged car carrier has been evacuated after a loss of stability incident in the Bay of Biscay.
Spain’s search and rescue agency Salvamento Maritimo responded Tuesday afternoon following a distress call from the roll-on/roll-off pure car and truck carrier (PCTC) Modern Express located 148 miles off Cape Ortegal.
All 22 crew members of the ship were evacuated by two Spanish search and rescue helicopters. Sixteen crew members were evacuated by Rescue Helicopter Helimer 401 and brought to La Coruña airport in northwestern Spain. The other 6 crew were transferred to Celeiro, Spain by Rescue Helicopter Pesca II. All are in good condition.
The vessel was listing by about 40 degrees, with winds on scene reported to be Force 8 with heavy seas, Salvamento Maritimo reported Tuesday.
The search and rescue was being coordinated by the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) in Falmouth in the United Kingdom, with help from National Coordination Centre (Madrid). The vessel has since drifted into French waters.
An update Wednesday from the French Navy said it has dispatched the emergency towing vesselAbeille Bourbon to retrieve the vessel, arriving on scene sometime during the day Wednesday.
According to France’s Maritime Prefect, the Modern Express is loaded with 3,600 tons of wood and construction equipment.
The 10,454 dwt Modern Express was built in 2001 and is 164 meters long. The vessel was sailing from the country of Gabon to Le Havre, France.
UPDATE: Modern Express Taking on Water, Further Adrift
Image Courtesy: Premar Atlantique
The list of the Panamanian-flagged car carrier Modern Express, now at around 50 degrees, is gradually increasing as the vessel continues to drift about 370 km west of La Rochelle, France.
According to the French Maritime Authority, the heavy list indicated that the vessel, carrying 3600 tons of timber and construction machinery, is taking on water.
A Falcon 50 aircraft and an intervention, assistance and rescue tug Abeille Bourbon were sent to keep an eye on the situation, however, due to inclement weather at the site, further investigation of the 10,454 dwt vessel was not possible.
The tug will stay in Modern Express’ vicinity to oversee the safety of maritime activities.
The authority added that SMIT Salvage, a Dutch maritime company, was hired by the vessel’s owner to remove the vessel from this major shipping lane.
Modern Express’ crew of 22 people was evacuated on Tuesday afternoon as the vessel started listing some 148 miles off Cape Ortegal, Galicia, in the Bay of Biscay.
The 2001-built Modern Express, operated by European RoRo Lines, was on its way from Gabon, Africa to Le Havre, France when it started listing.