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Psychological Woes Could Arise During Interplanetary Spaceflight: Study
Date:1/7/2013

MONDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Prolonged spaceflight could have a negative effect on astronauts' sleep, performance and mood, according to a new study.

After monitoring a crew participating in a simulated 520-day mission to Mars, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the Baylor College of Medicine found prolonged confinement resulted in sleep loss, fatigue, stress, mood changes and conflicts. They noted these consequences must be addressed to allow astronauts to adapt to deep spaceflight.

"The success of human interplanetary spaceflight, which is anticipated to be in this century, will depend on the ability of astronauts to remain confined and isolated from Earth much longer than previous missions or simulations," the study's co-lead author, David Dinges, chief of the division of sleep and chronobiology in the department of psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine, said in a University of Pennsylvania news release.

"This is the first investigation to pinpoint the crucial role that sleep-wake cycles will play in extended space missions," he added.

On June 3, 2010, a 550 cubic meter confinement facility resembling a spacecraft was closed with a six-person international team of astronauts on board. The team was expected to conduct more than 90 experiments and other tasks so researchers could assess the effects of long-term space flight on their psychological and medical well-being.

To examine the astronauts' rest-activity patterns, performance and psychological responses, the researchers recorded their body movements and light exposure, and monitored changes in their activity levels, sleep, alertness and workload.

The study found that the team became more sedentary as time passed. Over the course of the mission they moved less and slept or rested more. Most of the astronauts also had problems with sleep quality, reduced alertness and altered sleep-
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