The Surprisingly Cozy Truths of Sleeping in Space

A good night’s sleep is a key aspect of human health , and this is especially true for astronauts working in the ultra-demanding environment of space. After a long day of floating around in microgravity doing experiments, astronauts on the International Space Station retire to their sleep station, which is little more than a closet, for some shut-eye. Inside the sleep station is a sleeping bag and laptop strapped to the wall, as well as some personal effects, like photos of an astronaut’s family or memorabilia from a favorite sports team. If the astronauts were hoping for a comfy down pillow , they’re out of luck. In space, they don’t need them because their head holds itself up.It’s a far cry from the spacious beds we have on Earth, but it’s still better than the shared sleeping compartment on the space shuttle, which Mike Massimino , a former NASA astronaut, describes as “a big slumber party.” The trick, Massimino says, was to remember to strap your sleeping bag to the wall so your body wouldn’t drift around during the night. But even when they’re strapped in, astronauts’ arms tend to float out in front of them while they sleep, making them look like tired zombies. It sounds like something from a nightmare, but this, says Massimino, is just the reality of slumbering in space.Astronauts are allotted an eight-hour period for sleep each night and are often expected to keep a log of their sleep schedule so scientists can learn how spaceflight affects this basic human function. There are a number of things that could disrupt a good night’s sleep in space—the lights that never go off, the noise of the machinery, and so on. But once he got used to these conditions, Massimino says, it was “probably the best sleeping I’ve done in my life.”To learn more about how to stop an astronaut from snoring and NASA’s wake-up playlist, check out our new video on sleeping in space.
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