Have you ever thought what it is really like to sleep in space? What it is like to sleep with microgravity – can you still get the 8 hours of sleep recommended to wake up feeling fresh and reinvigorated? What about pillows? What about the light? The movement during the night? Sleep walking? Bad backs? Mattresses? Sleeping is just a little different in space!
Microgravity causes astronauts to experience the effects of weightlessness, there is no up or down, and setting up a mattress on the floor isn’t possible as the mattress and the sleeper would simply float away. Whilst sleeping is obviously very different in space there are some key factors that impact the quality of our sleep on both land and in space. The steps taken by astronauts to ensure they get a good, quality sleep show just how important sleep is for our overall health, function and performance every single day.
Space and Earth Sleep: How are they the same?
- On the International Space Station (ISS), most of the crew sleep in their own small cabins. It is important that sleeping quarters are well ventilated in space. Otherwise, astronauts can wake up deprived of oxygen and gasping for air. This is just as important for a good sleep in space as it is on land. You need your room to allow the free flow of fresh, clean air so you can wake up refreshed, revitalised and rejuvenated.
- There are 16 sunsets and sunrises every 24 hours on the ISS, that means a new day every 90 minutes or so. This makes it difficult to know when to actually sleep. This same problem can occur during a change in Daylight Savings time when the sun stays out longer and longer and impacts on our typical sleeping patterns. Astronauts work and sleep according to a daily time plan and they are usually scheduled for eight hours of sleep at the end of each day. This is the same on land, regardless of our ever-changing schedules it is critical to plan for a solid 7-8 hours of sleep each and every night.
- In space astronauts wear eyeshades or pull down shutters over the windows to keep out the sunlight while they are sleeping, this same principle is important on Earth – keep out the light to ensure an uninterrupted rest.
- Just like on Earth when it is time to wake up we may require some assistance. Astronauts use alarm clocks or music broadcasts.
- The excitement of being in space and motion sickness can disrupt an astronaut’s sleep pattern, just like the excitement of a big life event or a big day at work can affect our sleep patterns.
- Astronauts have reported having dreams and nightmares in space not dissimilar to those had on Earth.
- Despite the microgravity, astronauts have been recorded snoring in space. So if you’re a wife fed up with your husband’s snoring and thought relocating to space could fix the issue – think again.
- Most astronauts choose to sleep as closely to how they would on Earth, in sleeping bags connected to the floor, the walls, or the ceiling.
- Astronauts follow the same principles for a good night sleep – keep it dark, quiet and cold.
- What about Pillows? You would think that microgravity would mean there is no need for a pillow; however some astronauts prefer one to help them relax their neck. So they attach their head to a block of foam for extra support.
Despite the thought that sleeping in space couldn’t be anything like what it is on Earth, we see that no matter where you are there are key principles that need to be followed to ensure a great night’s rest.
(Photo Courtesy of www.bioedonline.org)