Being an astronaut is no easy job. But the job gets tougher when insomnia strikes in. Astronauts usually get around six hours of sleep, but the hectic and demanding schedule due to the unusual environment increases the factors that contribute to sleep deprivation and eventually, insomnia. “The station is noisy, carbon dioxide is high, you don’t have a shower, there’s a lot of angst because you’ve got to perform. Imagine if you have a camera on you 24 hours a day,” says NASA flight surgeon Smith Johnston.
The effects of insomnia, such as irritation and depression, not to mention the tendency to make mistakes, are extremely dangerous in the space station, due to its closed and pressurized quarters. As a response, NASA is replacing fluorescent bulbs in the U.S. section of the International Space Station with high-tech light-emitting diodes that can switch between blueish, whitish and reddish light, according to the time of day.
In a particular study in a hospital in Anchorage, Alaska, the results show that nurses and doctors made more medical errors during the darkest times of the year. “When you have normal light coming through the windows of stores, and schools, and hospitals, people do better. They function better,” Johnston added.