Astronaut insomnia is somewhat legendary at NASA, with astronauts popping sleep pills with regularity and averaging only six hours of sleep a night, far less than the eight and a half hours they're technically allotted. This can cause serious problems as fatigue sets in. To help matters, NASA is embarking on a major mission to change all the light bulbs on the space station.
The right type of light can work wonders for people whose circadian rhythms are messed with by working in (or through, as it were) space. Scientists working on Mars missions have to live on Mars time, for instance, which causes great consternation as sleep schedules constantly shift. But a recent study by Steven Lockley at Harvard University found that blue light and efficient "sleep hygiene," as it's known, can improve matters.
This is partly because of the relatively recent discovery that mammal eyes have a special time-telling ability. Photoreceptors in ganglion cells at the front of the retina are not used for vision, but are able to detect light at the blue end of the spectrum (which we learned about in Lockley's Mars blue-light study this fall). These cells help the body calculate time, and stimulating them can affect a person's perception of day and night. This works in part by interfering with the production of melatonin.
On the ISS, astronauts' ganglion photoreceptors are constantly stimulated by the 90-minute cycle of sunrise and sunset--and the constant presence of the station's interior lighting system. The result could be less melatonin production, and therefore fitful sleep.
NASA plans to swap out 85 fluorescent lights on the U.S. portion of the orbital lab and replace them with special diffused LEDs, which can filter light into different hues. They would provide white light during work hours, bluish light in the morning or when it's important that astronauts wake up for an emergency, and reddish light to help them sleep. Scientific American reviews the effort by Boeing to build the new lights, which would be installed by 2015.
Lockley, who conducted the Mars blue-light study, is also studying the efficacy of the new lights. Meanwhile, electronics giant Philips recently announced its new Hue bulb, which can be tuned to the red or blue end of the spectrum using a smartphone. So it's possible lights like this will be prevalent on Earth as well as in space.
Still, as the SciAm article points out, the reasons for astronaut insomnia are many and varied, encompassing anything from Houston-Moscow command center time zone shifts to stale air and constant noise. New light bulbs won't change any of that, unfortunately.
NASA needs to consider adding a special spinning sleeping chamber that simulates 1g gravity I have drawn out scamatics for this and the design is feasible and would prevent bone loss, muscle dystrophy and help with insomnia.
Whether we see or not makes little difference when you consider that it's common for blind people to have a very good internal clock. We can train our stomachs fairly fast, and the ability to wake from it's shrinking. Noise is generally fine, provided it's typical. Vibrations are probably very hard to get used to in space though.
I'm probably just weird, but when I was a teen, my b.o. would wake me in time for shower like clockwork. Of course I was showering twice a day. That probably had something to do with it.
Megamind's 'Forget Me Stick' would be effective to put them to sleep, but waking...
This article is very illuminating and the changing of the lights is a bright idea so the astronauts can get better sleep so they can focus on the day time task and not be dim witted, lol. ;)
Calescape808......you are not the first to have thought of this...one problem you overlooked....what do you call a spinning wheel of mass ? A gyroscope. Your idea would require a spinning wheel of equal mass rotating in the opposite direction to counter-act the gyroscopic effects. Most likely your concept would overwhelm the station gyros causing them to fail and the station to start spinning out of control. This is why you don't see NASA building a rotating wheel type space station. The mass on the hub would have to be evenly distributed or the rotation of the space wheel would be like a tire out of balance and the station would wobble and bobble and go out of control.
Robot - Excellent use of clarifying terminology! ... Illuminating... Bright... Daytime... Dim... Lol
After having sex there are sleep inducing chemicals released in men's bodies, indeed it is a common complaint from women that after sex men have a tendency to roll away from them and doze off instead of engaging in love chatter.
The solution to the sleeping problem in 'space' would be to have a 600 km above the ground flying 'sex ranch' of Nevada type, next to the space station. Get ready for the tight skirts and high heels in space. Any enterprising girls ready to get blasted off ? Until this smart idea comes into fruition the men 'up there' should just pair with their lap-tops, find some stimulating pictures and then w... off before going to sleep. The chemicals will get released.
well. What else I can say : no matter what we will say. everyone will do what they want if they have access to it. :)