NASA begins new astronaut sleep studyOn Earth, we experience disruptions to ou…

NASA begins new astronaut sleep study

On Earth, we experience disruptions to our circadian rhythm – the body’s regulator for sleep and wake cycles based on a 24-hour schedule – due to abnormal work schedules or traveling between time zones. Now think of astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) who orbit Earth every 90 minutes. Crew members see 16 sunrises each day! The frequent change from darkness to light severely disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm, and that can mean loss of sleep for astronauts, who, studies have shown, sleep considerably less in space than they do on Earth.

The new ScienceCast video above, released by NASA in late 2016, describes how researchers are trying to find out how different light spectra can be used to help astronauts both be more alert when needed, and get a better night’s sleep.

The new study is called the Lighting Effects Study, and, as a first step, it’s replacing old fluorescent lights on ISS with special LEDs that can be shifted into low-, high- or normal-intensity modes to match the astronaut’s need for more alertness, or to prepare for a long snooze.

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