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What Astronauts Can Teach Us About Sleep

By Holley | In Health & Lifestyle, Sleep | on March 27, 2014

Since I work for SpaceX, it’s not secret that I’m a big space nerd. I really value all we have learned as a result of our travels to space, and spend a decent amount of time reading about it. Recently Time.com author Eric Barker posted an article titled 4 Things Astronauts Can Teach You About a Good Night’s Sleep. Astronauts have to understand sleep very well, otherwise they may be putting themselves at risk while they’re on orbit, so obviously they’d be great references on sleep for us mere Earthlings. When you’re up in space, you don’t have access to normal cues that you would normally experience on earth (day and night), and their schedules rarely follow they typical 8 hour work day. When on orbit, an astronaut can experience as many as a dozen sunrises and sunsets in one day, so one can only imagine what that would do to their internal clocks. Cosmonaut Valentin Lebedev told a story about being sleep deprived while in space and he accidently “took fifty Earth-observation photographs through a closed porthole before realizing his error.” After this event, NASA decided to do more research on sleep and they discovered three things:

  1. You are a slave to external cues (light, dark, etc.)
  2. Your body doesn’t naturally stay on a 24 hour cycle (without any external cues, the body naturally drifts to about 25.4 hour days)
  3. You are not very good at judging sleep quality

Eric also did other research on sleep, including reading John Durant’s, The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health, which talks about how modern technology has disrupted our natural sleep cycles. What’s also interesting is research he found stating that people who go for 2 weeks with only 6 hours of sleep a night were the cognitive equivalent of being legally drunk.

After all that research, what does Eric recommend we do? He suggests four things:

  1. Maintain a consistent schedule, even on weekends
  2. Take an hour to wind down before bed
  3. If you don’t have strong day/night cues, add them
  4. Keep your bedroom dark, cool and free from noise

Check out the whole article here at Time.com. I know I don’t always take sleep seriously enough, and sometimes it’s hard with our hectic schedules, but with as seriously as we’re taking our health in other ways, we can’t afford not to take sleep seriously as well.


WOD 03.27.14

Mobility: quads and traps

Skill: double unders and front lever/ring work

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