Next time you complain about jet lag, spare a thought for the average astronaut aboard the International Space Station.
Space flight messes with your sleep in just about every imaginable way. Constantly shifting time zones, temperature swings, and zero gravity are some of the reasons that account for the 6 hours sleep astronauts get on average.
If you find a trans-atlantic flight disruptive to your sleep schedule, think how you’d feel if you experienced up to 16 sunrises per day….
It’s no surprise then that the experts at NASA are not just a bunch of rocket scientists, they’re also pioneers in understanding many areas of human biology, including the physiology of sleep.
So how does NASA ensure their astronauts are able to function at peak performance in the most challenging environments?
The NASA blog lays out 7 ways that astronauts address sleep and circadian rhythm disruptions. These are:
Schedule Sleep and Wake Times
Sleep Education and Training
Non-prescription Sleep and Alertness Substances
Sleep Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
From the NASA ‘Mission Pages’ blog:
“Circadian misalignment and sleep deficiency occur during both short- and long-duration spaceflight, and can lead to significant, fatigue-induced errors and long-term sleep loss. In addition to spaceflight, employees working in Mission Control, where shift work and abnormal hours are common, often experience the effects of circadian misalignment.
Chronic sleep deprivation and circadian desynchronization are associated with health complications such as metabolic disorders, cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal diseases and some types of cancers. NASA’s flight surgeons and scientists have devised tools for crew members and Mission Control employees to help promote a more natural circadian rhythm in space and during shift work back on Earth.”