Prepared by Eric Watkins
Sustaining the proper quality of sleep is problematic for astronauts conducting long-duration space operations. These space missions pose many challenges to the health of the crew and success of the overall mission. In addition to hazards of the space environment, such as radiation exposure and the effects of microgravity on the human body, poor sleep habits and practices amongst crew members can result in sleep deprivation or disturbances in crew performance.
Astronauts that are in training for future space missions often have to spend ample amounts of time in preparation for their mission. As their circadian rhythms are subject to change while in space, training often involves altering their current sleep cycle to match what might occur during space travel. Furthermore, submarine and arctic operation crews often encounter a lack in performance compared to their normal living environments. This reduction in performance may result from changes in crew member’s sleep patterns and quality of sleep, which often occur when relocating to new or different environments.
In a 2-week simulation of Mars at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) located in Utah, this research study will evaluate the changes in sleep patterns during an isolation and confinement between crew members. This research is also building upon research that was conducted during the 2012/2013 MDRS field season. Data is currently being collected using measurements that consist of actigraphs, sleep journals, and the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). The PSQI is an assessment tool that is being used for tracking sleep habits.
Devices used to measure physical activity, called actigraphs, have already been used prior to the arrival at the MDRS. These devices will also be used during and after the 2-week session at the MDRS. The actigraphs are able to collect various types of data on a daily basis such as calories burned, amount of steps taken, quantity of sleep, weight, water consumed, most active (min) per day.
The sleep journal consists of a six-week chart of dates commencing 2-weeks before, during, and after the session at the MDRS. This will allow crew members to keep track of the in/out of bed time per day. As a subjective measure, it will be compare to the actigraph data collected throughout the study. The only problems that have arose are forgetting to turn actigraphs on/off of sleep mode and data transferring via Wi-Fi due to the limitations in internet usage.