A Zero Gravity Sleep: How Astronauts Sleep in Space

A Zero Gravity Sleep: How Astronauts Sleep in Space

By Sophie Hecht from the SpaceFoamTM team

After a tiresome day of work, nothing is better than slipping under the covers and sinking your head into a cool and comfortable pillow. It’s an unburdening feeling where we let gravity do all of the work. But astronauts in space encounter a more difficult, zero gravity situation. As a company so passionate about science and sleep, we asked ourselves, how do you get a good night’s sleep in space?

Space has microgravity, which means there is a very small gravitational pull, but not strong enough for there to be “up” and “down”. As a result, astronauts feel weightless and can technically sleep in any orientation. Some strap their sleeping bags to the floor, the wall, or even the ceiling in order to mimic the way they sleep on earth. Others enjoy the free floating sensation and chose to let their bodies go in the air. There are various effects on the body when an astronaut choses to sleep that way. The limbs find a comfortable balance between stretched and flexed which is known as “the neutral point”. To try and achieve this feeling on Earth, try not moving under water in the deep end of a swimming pool and see how your limbs loosen (only if you are a competent swimmer!). Another interesting sensation, that may make some anxious, is the loss of stimulation in all of your limbs. Without a bed pressing against their bodies, astronauts can wake up from free floating sleep completely disoriented and convinced that they don't have arms or legs. (This doesn't happen if you're snuggly in your sleeping bag though).

In the International Space Station (ISS), there are sixteen sunrises and sunsets every twenty four hours, so it’s not always so easy to know when to sleep. NASA provides a daily schedule, which includes an eight hour break to sleep. Astronauts usually wear eye shades and close all of the shudders in order to block the sun, which will rise and fall a few times during their slumber. Like on Earth, astronauts may wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, or stay up late and look out the window. Various things, including excitement and motion sickness, can disrupt their sleep pattern. Astronauts have described having dreams and nightmares in space, and some have even reported snoring.

It’s not rocket science that healthy sleeping patterns are crucial to a happy mood and a productive day. Keeping your sleep schedule in sync with your body's circadian rhythm is the best way to prevent insomnia and fatigue. Whether you are an astronaut or not, make sure to get at least eight hours of sleep a night for a better, brighter you. Looking for a zero gravity sleep here on earth? SpaceFoamTM is made with a supportive and responsive Zero Gravity FoamTM which cradles your head and neck, providing you a feeling of weightlessness! Learn more about the SpaceFoamTM technology here.