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Sleep Woes for Astronauts May Pose Risks in Space: Study
Date:8/8/2014

2 percent of nights during space shuttle missions.

"The ability for a crew member to optimally perform if awakened from sleep by an emergency alarm may be jeopardized by the use of sleep-promoting pharmaceuticals," Barger noted.

"Routine use of such medications by crew members operating spacecraft are of particular concern, given the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] warning that patients using sleeping pills should be cautioned against engaging in hazardous occupations requiring complete mental alertness or motor coordination, including potential impairment of the performance of such activities that may occur the [following] day," Barger said.

"This consideration is especially important because all crew members on a given mission may be under the influence of a sleep-promoting medication at the same time. In fact, on the four shuttle missions on which all crew members participated, all crew members reported taking sleep medications on the same night 6 percent of the time," she noted.

Study co-author Dr. Charles Czeisler, of Brigham and Women's Hospital, added: "Future exploration spaceflight missions to the moon, Mars or beyond will require more effective countermeasures to optimize human performance by promoting sleep during spaceflight. These may include modifications to schedules, strategically timed exposure to specific wavelengths of light and behavioral strategies to ensure adequate sleep, which is essential for maintaining health, performance and safety," he explained in the news release.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about sleep.

SOURCE: The Lancet Neurology, news release, Aug. 7, 2014

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