About one-third of a person’s life is spent in sleep, and sleep is vital to humans. For astronauts, adequate and high quality sleep is essential to maintaining good physical strength and completing missions.
If an astronaut can’t sleep and sleep well, it will seriously affect his mood and ability to work. According to the study, even if the asystructurs who have been strictly trained, if they do not sleep for 72 hours, there will be a significant decline in performance, an increase in the error rate, and an increase in fuel consumption when manually controlling the rendezvous and docking. The mood will also fall into anxiety and cause fatigue. Not qualified for mission-critical tasks. Insufficient sleep can also affect basic cognitive functions, including alertness, cognitive speed and accuracy, working memory, response time, attention and agility, affecting flight safety and even causing mission failure.
Sleeping, for most people on the planet, just relax in the bed to relax nerves and muscles, but for astronauts floating in space, it is not an easy task.
Many people think that astronauts can start to sleep as long as they relax their muscles, whether they are standing or lying down. But actually lying down is easy, but it is not easy to fall asleep. According to astronaut Mike Hopkins, sleeping in space is a big deal. On earth, when you lie down, your feet immediately feel relaxed, and in space, you will never feel this way. So some astronauts used their elastic ropes to fix themselves to the wall in order to find a similar feeling.
Light is the most central controlling factor of the human body clock. Human beings spend the sunset on the earth every day, because the light makes people awake, and the circadian rhythm in space is different from the ground. The spacecraft flies in space, experiencing a sunrise and sunset every 90 minutes, and the longest night is only 37 minutes. When the sun rises, the bright sun shines through the porthole of the spacecraft; when the sun sets, the cabin becomes dark again. And the lights and space stations never turn off the lights, because everyone wants to take turns to sleep, people who don’t sleep need lighting to continue working. In addition, ground control personnel should also observe the situation in the cabin at any time and require uninterrupted lighting.
In order to ensure the oxygen pressure in the cabin, the spacecraft must be constantly ventilated with a fan, and the noise will make sleeping a difficult task; in addition, the astronauts must get used to hanging in the air. Sleeping, they have to relax their muscles and then fall asleep.
Sleeping in a floating state can be a bit difficult. Many astronauts who have just arrived in space say they will be awakened by the feeling of falling in the process of being lost. And, just like on Earth, they may wake up in the middle of sleep to go to the bathroom, or stay up late to watch the window, and astronauts say they will dream, even nightmares, and some even fight in space.
How should the astronauts sleep?
Therefore, the scientists made careful arrangements for the astronauts’ sleep.
The first is scientific scheduling, so that astronauts can reasonably arrange their work and rest to ensure adaptation before and after going to bed. In addition, you can reduce the light intensity in the rest area to create a nighttime environment. The last question is how to sleep.
In a weightless environment, the astronauts couldn’t cover the quilt with the quilt—the quilt quickly drifted away, unless the quilt was wrapped tightly around him. In order to create a feeling similar to sleeping on the ground for astronauts, the astronauts can sleep in bed if conditions permit. On the International Space Station, there is a bedroom dedicated to the bed. The bed is placed vertically between the floor and the ceiling. There are rafters on the bed, sleeping bags on the rafters, and vent holes on the sleeping bags. Each astronaut has a separate sleeping position. Avoid mutual influence. Some astronauts like to drill in like a big scorpion, and some people like to put both hands outside. Some people don’t like sleeping bags, and they use straps to tie themselves to the bulkhead to sleep. In short, you can fall asleep.
When sleeping, the astronaut must put his arm in his sleeping bag and put his hands on his chest to avoid accidentally touching the switch of the instrument. At the same time, in a weightless environment, people in sleep have the feeling that their limbs are out of the torso. A former Soviet astronaut used to put himself in the arm outside the sleeping bag as a “monster” drifting to himself, scaring a cold sweat.
Before going to sleep, the astronauts need to fix themselves and the sleeping bag somewhere with a strap. Otherwise, after falling asleep, the astronaut’s body will be pushed into the air and floated in the cabin due to the thrust generated by the breathing gas. . However, there are also astronauts who want to enjoy this feeling of fluttering, and intend to relax the sleeping bag fixed on the bulkhead, only use a rope to hold it, let it float, and truly become a “night god” during sleep. To study sleep in space, astronauts wear an activity recorder on their wrists and record a sleep diary.
To sleep well in space, how many steps are there?
- Fix the sleeper
Sleeping in the air is very funny. Everyone has different sleeping methods. Some people sleep upright, some people hang upside down, and some people sleep sideways. There are also astronauts hanging the sleeping bag somewhere and letting it float in the air. If you don’t fix the sleeper, you may hit the ceiling or collide with someone while you sleep.
How do astronauts sleep in space?
The astronauts are doing sleep training. (Source: NASA)
2, wear a black eye patch
As mentioned earlier, the circadian rhythm in space is different from the ground. The sun rises every 90 minutes and falls after 45 minutes. Therefore, the astronauts must wear a pair of black eye masks when sleeping to isolate the frequent changes in the cabin.
3, a person wearing a communication cap to sleep
In the past, due to short flight times, heavy work tasks, and the inability to go to bed at the same time, often one person worked and another person slept, which would interfere with each other. In order to ensure the health of the astronauts, almost everyone is sleeping at the same time, and one of them needs to wear a communication cap. People in the ground control center during sleep do not bother them. Some of the operations in the cabin are controlled by computers or by engineers at the ground control center. If something goes wrong, the computer will give an alarm and the ground engineers can wake up the astronauts by radio.
- Enhance personal adaptability
When the astronauts are asleep, they need to get used to the back and sides of the body without feeling. In fact, the astronauts are floating in the sleeping bag, just hanging him up with a rope, so the sense of gravity that makes people sleepy is non-existent. . Some astronauts are still not comfortable with this. They are not sleepy. They must be able to sleep with sleeping pills. Some people are different. Even in this special environment, they can sleep very well.
How do astronauts sleep in space?
Choosing a private corner is a good environment to sleep. (Source: NASA)
If the astronaut’s head is in a non-ventilated place while sleeping, the exhaled carbon dioxide will collect near his nose. When the carbon dioxide in his blood reaches a certain concentration, an alarm system at the back of the brain will issue a warning. To wake him up and feel the rush of breathing. At this time, the astronauts can take a few steps or change places, and they can sleep again.
What about insomnia in space?
If the astronauts can’t sleep in space, neurasthenia or insomnia, what about the swelling? There are three main ways:
- Sleep cognitive behavioral therapy
NASA has a dedicated agency to guide astronauts to sleep. The NASA Johnson Space Center’s Behavioral Health and Performance team provides psychological support for astronauts before, during and after the flight. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help astronauts solve sleep problems and help patients relax their minds and turn their brains into sleep mode.
2, non-prescription drugs
The astronauts of the International Space Station can also choose to take melatonin, a supplement that regulates sleep. Melatonin is a naturally occurring human hormone that is a popular over-the-counter sleep aid.
How do astronauts sleep in space?
The astronauts took melatonin at the space station. (Source: NASA)
3, prescription drugs
If the above methods do not work, as a last resort, astronauts on the International Space Station can also use sleep drugs. Various types of sleep aids are available at the space station, including Zolpidem (a sedative), Zalpelon (a sedative hypnotic) and Benadryl (an over-the-counter antihistamine). Each astronaut will be tested for drugs before flight to avoid allergies.