Healthy sleep - 4 tips from astronauts

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Who is the best at sleeping? Of course, the astronauts. In this article we will tell you how to solve the problem of lack of sleep and restore a healthy sleep .

On duty they have to. After all, most of the time they are cut off from the outside world, and, consequently, from familiar external signals that usually remind us of what time of day it is.

Cosmonauts working in orbit observe sunrises and sunsets by no means once a day, as a result of which their circadian rhythms go astray.

When you are in a tin box floating through the cold darkness of space, a lousy dream is provided to you, and it can have very sad consequences.

Roughly speaking, due to lack of sleep, you will not even notice that, for example, you are not photographing the Earth, but the walls of the ship. Yes, sleep deprivation is a real problem.

Excerpt from “Bold Initiatives: Polar and Space Research. The life of scientists in isolation " :
... Cosmonaut Valentin Lebedev said in his diary that he often made oversights the day after he went to bed late; once he took fifty photographs of the Earth through a closed porthole before he realized his mistake.
NASA set about serious research.

3 great ideas

NASA representatives quickly realized a few points:

1) You are a slave to external signals

Without sunshine, darkness, and other situational alerts, you may lose your ability to adjust your sleep time.

Excerpt from “Bold Initiatives: Polar and Space Research. The life of scientists in isolation ":
Environmental signals, for example, sunlight and its absence at night, as a rule, represent certain landmarks; having lost them, people gradually begin to go to bed later and stay awake longer and longer every night.

2) Your body will not withstand activity 24 hours a day

Ultimately, your sleep and wake cycle can go completely out of control. If you do not pay attention to the changes, your circadian rhythm will start at 25.4 hours per day.

Excerpt from “Bold Initiatives: Polar and Space Research. The life of scientists in isolation ":
If the individual is in isolation from any time reference, the sleep and wake cycle and body temperature rhythms shift every day to later hours. You go to bed all later, the circadian activity of the body is disrupted. There is an autonomous daily rhythm. So the cycle of an individual’s sleep and wakefulness can shift by about 10 hours a week in the absence of social time guidelines and environmental factors ... In extreme cases, the cycle will continue.

3) You do not really evaluate the quality of sleep

If you think that a dream in the light does not affect you in any way, you are mistaken . It is likely that you will not even notice a decrease in activity the next day.

Excerpt from “Bold Initiatives: Polar and Space Research. The life of scientists in isolation ":
... Many people mistakenly believe that all people adapt to their usual sounds, and they are not affected by noise during sleep. In fact, most people's sleeps are disturbed by the most familiar sounds. Some do not even wake up and do not realize what is happening while the quality of their sleep is declining.
This information is more valuable than you think. Why?

We are all astronauts now

As John Durant points out in his fascinating new book, The Age of the Paleolithic: Ancient Knowledge of Health , thanks to modern technology, comparison of ordinary people with astronauts is currently quite appropriate.

Excerpt from The Age of the Paleolithic: Ancient Knowledge of Health:
Today we are completely dependent on the artificial signals of modern life. Now by the word “light” we mean not the sun, but artificial lighting, the light from the TV screens and computer monitors. The temperature no longer depends on the cooling cycle at night and warming during the day. It is supported by a thermostat. As for communication, we live in isolation, we minimize contacts with real people, but at any time of the day or night we can chat online, watch TV, listen to the radio. Now that there has been complete confusion with our circadian rhythms, we are trying to regain control with stimulants (caffeine, nicotine) and depressants (alcohol, sleeping pills). Is it any wonder that a third of Americans are chronically sleep deprived?
You probably think that all this does not concern you or, at least, does not affect you too much.

You are wrong. Remember point 3.

Studies in which ordinary people participated showed the same results. After 2 weeks of a 6-hour sleep, you can be compared to a person intoxicated:
... At the end of the second week, the subjects were weakened just like those who in another Dinges study were deprived of sleep for 24 hours in a row. Their condition could be compared with the state of intoxication.
But what did the chronically lacking sleepers say about their well-being? “I don't notice anything unusual.”

Even after 14 days of research, they claimed that drowsiness had no effect on them. In fact, their activity has decreased. In other words, people who do not get enough sleep do not realize how much they need a healthy sleep. We are not as invulnerable as we think.

So if your activity has decreased due to sleep problems, you can not guess about it. However, this problem does exist.

So what kind of answers does NASA offer us?

What needs to be done?

In the past, I studied the results of sleep research and documented my experiments. Now add what we know about the astronauts.

Given that you probably won’t be awakened by a Skylab rocket engine or the sounds of the expanding and contracting hull of your ship, I reduced the recommendations to four points:
  • Make a schedule for yourself, even on weekends. Remember the problem of autonomous circadian rhythm. If you do not follow the regime, the sleep phase will begin to delay.
  • Relax an hour before bedtime. Yes, you have a lot of work. But your time is no more valuable than the time of the astronaut. So set aside an hour to rest.
  • Let the contrast between day and night be clearer. It’s great if in the morning sunlight enters the room. Dim the light at night. Turn off electrical appliances before bed. You can also use various applications for convenience, for example f.lux .
  • Let your bedroom be dark, cool and quiet. Even if you think that “the light does not bother you” or “the noise is not so strong”, all this can lead to a decrease in the quality of sleep.

Durant offers another good piece of advice that I follow: do not set the alarm for the morning; set it at night as a reminder that it is time to go to bed.

Excerpt from The Age of the Paleolithic: Ancient Knowledge of Health:
It is useful to set an alarm not to wake up, but to go to sleep. Set an alarm so that it works an hour before bedtime. When it rings, finish any work on the computer, turn off the TV, turn off the unnecessary light and begin to prepare for a new day.
This method will not allow you to fool yourself and give you the opportunity to wake up naturally. (Even if “naturally” occurs on the surface of the moon.)

PS We recommend another article on the topic - Zen of Early Awakenings: 10 ways to consolidate the morning ritual.

Translation by Vyacheslav Davidenko, founder of MBA Consult

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