If you think you have trouble sleeping in your bed, try sleeping in a microgravity environment, strapped into a sleeping bag as you orbit the Earth at 17,000 miles. Astronauts find it difficult to maintain a normal sleep pattern under the artificial day-night cycle, which leads to poor sleep habits.
to observe Astronaut sleep patternsA group of scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark have designed a small device to measure how astronauts experience sleep in space. The device is called an EEG (electrocardiogram) and can be worn on the ear similar to a headphone. Once plugged in, an electroencephalogram of the ear will monitor the electrical activity in the astronauts’ brains while they sleep. It works by detecting very small voltage changes on the surface of the skin inside the ear, which are caused by electrical activity coming from neurons in the brain, According to Aarhus University.
“In the future, we will likely be in space a lot and will have to stay there longer. It is important to understand how this affects our sleep,” Eskild Holm Nielsen, dean of the Faculty of Technical Sciences at Aarhus University, said in a statement. A careful physiology of sleep will also help us figure out how we can help astronauts sleep better in space.”
Astronauts are often crammed into rooms as small as telephone booths, stuffed inside a sleeping bag attached to the wall. They also operate on a fake day/night schedule that is enforced by changing the space station’s lighting settings from light to dark to ensure they get between 6 and 8 hours of sleep each day. Other than that, they lack the everyday comforts of resting their heads on a pillow because, well, there’s no attraction to keeping their heads low, let alone the feeling of having a blanket covering them.
The EEG will be used by astronauts on board International Space Station, as well as here on Earth to measure the difference in your sleep patterns between Earth and space. The data will help scientists learn how being in space affects astronauts’ sleep on a physiological level, which may affect their cognitive functions, such as decision-making ability, memory, judgment, and attention span. Scientists are also curious to measure how different environments affect a person’s sleep patterns.
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