How Do Astronauts Sleep In Space?

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By Clayton C. Anderson, Quora

The brief answer to your question? I slept fine!

There is really no specific training that astronauts receive with regard to sleeping and sleeping conditions. As a matter of fact, the best advice I got for sleeping was from my STS-117 Shuttle Commander C.J. “Rick” Sturckow. He told me to bring a good book and don’t make any noise!

For those of you seeking more insight, my personal experience with sleeping in space was “dreamy.” No, I didn’t dream differently in space, but I did dream about stuff, just like I do here on Earth. I was part of a special experiment called “SLEEP Long” which required me to wear a special watch for the entire 152 day increment (and many days before I flew and after I landed).

The experiment (and the watch) measured light/dark and motion; providing the investigators with key information about when I was sleeping and to what level. Post-flight data revealed that I averaged about 7 hrs and 20 minutes of sleep over the 152 day mission - much more than I think I am getting on Earth. The watch data could tell them when I was restless, when I was in deep (REM) sleep...pretty cool.

My sleep station on ISS, the TeSS (Temporary Sleep Station) is no longer there. But it was a precursor to the sleep stations now on board the ISS in the US Segment (Node 2). The TeSS was quiet, dark and cold...I liked it cold! We had Russian-made sleeping bags that just needed to be tied at four corners somewhere—and in any direction—to keep us from floating around during our sleep period.

How Do Astronauts Sleep In Space?

The bags were lightweight and just warm enough—I slept clad only in a pair of boxer shorts. Many astronauts found it too cold on ISS and slept in an assortment of long johns, pyjamas and even stocking caps!

My nighttime routine consisted of never having a computer in my sleep station. Evidently I was a forward thinker for those pundits today who tell us to keep our electronic devices out of our beds! I did all my work outside in the lab, then turned off the Lab lights before entering my “bedroom (teeth brushed, toilet break taken, etc.).” I doffed all of my clothes, except boxers, then climbed into my sleeping bag, head to the ceiling (best position as the cold A/C vent would then blow my exhaled CO2 away from my face...a key consideration for sleeping orientation). I placed foam earplugs in both ears and then read Clive Cussler’s “Sahara” until my eyelids got droopy.

Funny thing. When your eyes get droopy in space and just start to close, your body relaxes and your hands release the book. But without gravity, your head doesn’t fall and then “jerk” back up when you realise you’ve dozed off. If you do awaken, your book is still floating there, right where you left it!

I never really took naps while on ISS. If I felt myself starting to drift, while working at the computer for example, I would go get something to drink or eat in hopes of raising my energy level. I did not want to sleep during the day for fear of NOT being able to sleep at night. It seemed to be an effective strategy for me.

Hope this helps! Keep lookin’ up!


About the author: Clayton C. Anderson, US Astronaut, Retired

How do astronauts sleep whilst in space? Is there any sort of training for them to prepare for sleeping conditions? originally appeared on Quora. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Top image: NASA