Sleep, performance, circadian rhythms, and light-dark cycles during two space shuttle flights.

Division of Sleep Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.
AJP Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology (Impact Factor: 3.53). 12/2001; 281(5):R1647-64.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Sleep, circadian rhythm, and neurobehavioral performance measures were obtained in five astronauts before, during, and after 16-day or 10-day space missions. In space, scheduled rest-activity cycles were 20-35 min shorter than 24 h. Light-dark cycles were highly variable on the flight deck, and daytime illuminances in other compartments of the spacecraft were very low (5.0-79.4 lx). In space, the amplitude of the body temperature rhythm was reduced and the circadian rhythm of urinary cortisol appeared misaligned relative to the imposed non-24-h sleep-wake schedule. Neurobehavioral performance decrements were observed. Sleep duration, assessed by questionnaires and actigraphy, was only approximately 6.5 h/day. Subjective sleep quality diminished. Polysomnography revealed more wakefulness and less slow-wave sleep during the final third of sleep episodes. Administration of melatonin (0.3 mg) on alternate nights did not improve sleep. After return to earth, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep was markedly increased. Crewmembers on these flights experienced circadian rhythm disturbances, sleep loss, decrements in neurobehavioral performance, and postflight changes in REM sleep.

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