July 7, 2006

A device to study the sleep patterns of astronauts was launched with the space Shuttle Discovery on the 4th of July. Part of a study on sleep in space, it will spend 150 days being worn by astronauts in orbit before making the voyage back to earth on the Russian spacecraft Soyuz, according to a report posted on IrishExaminer.com.

Astronauts typically average only 6 hours of sleep per night in space and must endure an orbital dawn every 90 minutes, which makes poor quality of sleep a major issue for them. Insomnia is also a prevalent symptom among astronauts. Up to half take hypnotic medications for several days in flight during some shuttle missions. In addition, previous research has shown that approximately 25% of space-crew members experience dramatic impairment in the quantity and/or quality of sleep during both short and long missions. The researchers hope to use the information the device will gather to improve the sleep of astronauts during missions.

The experiment, called Cardiac Adapted Sleep Parameter Electrocardiogram Recorder (CASPER), was formulated by two University of Limerick researchers. View the whole article at http://www.irishexaminer.com/breaking/story.asp?j=187473358&p=y87474x64&n=1874 .