How Do Astronauts Sleep In Space?
You’ve probably fantasized about being an astronaut when you were a little kid, but did you ever wonder how do astronauts sleep?
Some of us sleep curled up in a fetal position and some of us spread all fours and look like a starfish when we nap.
Some of you snore and some of us can’t sleep because of you. But, have you ever wondered – how do astronauts sleep?
Do they have a gravity machine on-board International Space Station so they can lie down and get some shut-eye or are they resting in sleeping bags like a growing butterfly in their cocoon? Do they snore? Do they dream of Earth?
Now, we don’t know about you, but we asked all those questions (and more) and well, here’s what we’ve found out.
Dangers of sleeping in space
into outer space while they’re asleep. In fact, there’s little to no chance they even float away and bump their head on the ceiling because they sleep in a very secure sleeping bag, but more on that later.
Now, since floating away isn’t a real danger – what is?
Well, the biggest risk is suffering from hypoxia because of the lack of oxygen if the room isn’t properly ventilated. If there isn’t enough airflow, the carbon dioxide exhaled by the astronauts can quickly fill up their sleeping quarters and špotentially cause irreparable damage to their brains. As you might know, as little as five minutes is enough for permanent damage to brain cells due to a lack of oxygen.
However, this isn’t really a real concern since every crew cabin comes with more than one air vent and is very aerated.
Other dangers include potential nightmares (most likely brought about by stressful work) or motion sickness due to the weightless environment. Due to the nature of work, it’s only natural to assume that anxiety, stress or depression could be an issue up above the clouds. And, as you know, all of those things could cause nightmares.
Since the International Space Station is moving at a whopping 27,500 kilometres per hour, the crew spots about 15 to 16 sunrises a day. Not really good for the circadian rhythm, isn’t it? In a way, we guess you could say that the astronaut’s sleep pattern isn’t the greatest.
Finally, there’s noise and light. Even though there are window shades to prevent the light from seeping in, the sun shines really bright when you’re up there. After all, the ISS orbits at 254 miles above sea level (some space shuttle missions have reached even higher), and it’s not like there’s anything to stop the light from shining very bright. So, most astronauts sleep with a sleeping mask and some earplugs.
Do astronauts snore?
Yes, they do! Just like on Earth, some people snore in space too. Now, that may sound counter-intuitive seeing how there’s only microgravity up there and there shouldn’t be anything pulling down on your throat causing you to snore, but some reports suggest that there have been some snorers on board the ISS.
There’s actually a story of an astronaut who was woken up by his own snoring and it was so loud that he thought there was an intruder on the space station! No, we’re just joking. But that would be one hell of a story, right?
How do astronauts sleep in space?
Some people might think that not having gravity would be a great way to get a good night’s sleep, but in reality, it can actually be quite difficult to master space sleeping. Why? Because it takes time to adjust to sleeping in zero gravity. It’s that simple.
As for how they sleep – they sleep in a sleeping bag. Space station crews have dedicated sleeping bags inside of small crew cabins that are just big enough for them to fit.
To avoid floating, the sleeping bags are actually strapped to the wall, so some of the crew members actually sleep vertically!
Considering they’re performing critical tasks for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) all the time, it’s vital that they get a full night of sleep. And, since there really isn’t a night and day situation aboard the International Space Station – the captain and the other crew members are on a fairly strict sleep regimen that requires them to sleep full eight hours per mission day. However, we have learned that that’s not really the case and that most of them get six hours of shut-eye.
Can astronauts sleep on the stomach/back/side?
Yes, they can! Just like on Earth, an astronaut can sleep on their stomach, back, or side. It’s really up to the individual to find what position is most comfortable for them.
But, to be fair, since you’re usually strapped up vertically and there’s no such thing as up or down in a microgravity environment – it’s kind of hard to emulate those sleeping positions.
However, if the sleeping bag is strapped vertically – there may be some room to experiment with sleeping positions. Within the confines of a sleeping bag, of course. You have to remember that not only are the bags strapped – the astronauts are strapped, too.
Do astronauts need a pillow?
No, they don’t!
Seeing how there is no gravity, pillows are not necessary for space sleeping. However, some astronauts do bring a small pillow with them to make themselves more comfortable. Some of them have said that they’ve slept with their “head kind of Velcroed to a cushion” so it feels like they’re resting on a pillow. And, we get that. After all, who wouldn’t want a plush pillow to remind them of their super comfortable bed? We know we would!