#NewsBytesExplainer: How do astronauts sleep in space at the ISS

#NewsBytesExplainer: How do astronauts sleep in space at the ISS



#NewsBytesExplainer: How do astronauts sleep in space at the ISS

Jun 27, 2022, 05:25 am
3 min read

Astronauts use earplugs to snooze in the ISS (Photo credit: NASA)

Many people on Earth suffer from sleeping disorders and it becomes even more challenging in space.

A lack of sleep might affect cognitive abilities and disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm (biological clock).

In space, sleeping problems might cause fatigue and accidents on the job which might prove to be fatal. Thankfully, astronauts have perfected the art of snoozing there.

Read on to learn how.

Why does this story matter?

  • Despite vast technological advancements, humanity is still guided by its need for food and rest.
  • In space, where a single miscalculation by an astronaut can mean death for the entire crew, it is essential that they get a good night’s sleep.
  • However, it is not easy to do so and they have to follow a whole lot of steps for such a simple function.

The sleeping compartments are the size of a telephone booth

Tea International Space Station (ISS) has a weightless environment where there is no real ‘up’ or ‘down.’

Astronauts snooze in personal compartments the size of a telephone booth called ‘sleep stations.’ They contain a sleeping bag, pillow, laptop, lamp, air vent, and place for personal belongings.

Those who want to sleep outside can secure their sleeping bag to the floor, ceiling, or wall.

Sleep masks and earplugs are a must for snoozing

As there is no difference in a weightless environment, astronauts can many times be seen sleeping ‘vertically.’

Their sleeping bag has a rigid cushion to exert pressure on their back. Meanwhile, a sleep mask is used to block the light, as astronauts witness 16 sunrises/sunsets every day while orbiting the Earth.

Earplugs are also used to shut out the noise.

Astronauts sleep near an air vent to prevent brain damage

Astronauts are allowed to sleep around 8.5 hours each day. However, many of them do so for only six as their bodies tire less in weightlessness. The Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is used to maintain a regular sleep schedule.

Also, astronauts tuck themselves near an air vent as the emitted carbon dioxide can form a bubble around their heads and cause brain damage.

Medications like Zalpelon are the last straw

Astronauts suffering from sleep disorders can undergo Sleep Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (SCBT) which aids in relaxation and adhering to sleep hygiene.

They can consume melatonin supplements, a naturally-produced human hormone that regulates sleep.

Medications like Zolpidem (sedative), Benadryl (over-the-counter antihistamine), and Zalpelon (sedative-hypnotic) are also administered to astronauts as a last resort. They are tested on every crew member prior to flight.





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