Being out in space in not an easy task, as daily routine can get at least different, if not entirely complicated. This is why NASA decided to study sleep quality as one of the important features of spending time in space. Researchers observed the effects of sleep deprivation and point out the importance of good sleep for space explorers.
NASA scientists studied the case of Mir, a Russian space station. The spacecraft functioned for fifteen years (1986-2001), and for almost twelve years it has been inhabited. Vasily Tsibliyev was one of the astronauts who lived on the spacecraft for a while, and specialists relied on his help for a study.
In 1997, Vasily Tsibliyev experienced poor quality sleep as part of the study he was participating in. Thirteen days after the study on sleep started, the astronaut made a massive mistake. He got the space station into a crash, and significantly reduced its power.
The NASA scientists believe that the accident was due to the bad night sleep the space explorer had been experiencing. They say that the Russian astronauts could have been killed and that the damages on the spacecraft were a small price to pay.
Specialists explain that sleeping in space is slightly different from what we are used to on Earth. In space, there is no gravity to keep people on a bad or sleeping bag, so they just float. They can’t control their movements and their limbs, so it is hard to get a sound sleep. However, there is always the possibility of getting attached to a wall or heavy pieces of equipment in order to prevent floating.
In addition to this, astronauts also have to adapt their body clock, as there is no night-and-day alternation to guide them. As they orbit the Earth, they experience sunrises every ninety minutes, so it can be a bit confusing, at least at first.
NASA intends to develop proper methods to help astronauts improve their sleep quality. They think about a device meant to register how tired people are. Modern spacecraft can also be equipped with tiny rooms which astronauts can use to sleep. They are so small that there is no room to float, so they have better conditions to take a nap.
Every journey in space provides both astronauts and researchers with new insight into this environment and how humans could adapt to it. Sleep quality is one of the most significant of these adaptations, but there are other aspects that researchers need to study too.
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