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Sleep, Circadian Rhythms, and Performance During Space Shuttle MissionsSleep and circadian rhythms may be disturbed during spaceflight, and these disturbances can affect crewmembers' performance during waking hours. The mechanisms underlying sleep and circadian rhythm disturbances in space are not well understood, and effective countermeasures are not yet available. We investigated sleep, circadian rhythms, cognitive performance, and light-dark cycles in five astronauts prior to, during, and after the 16-day STS-90 mission and the IO-day STS-95 mission. The efficacy of low-dose, alternative-night, oral melatonin administration as a countermeasure for sleep disturbances was evaluated. During these missions, scheduled rest activity cycles were 20-35 minutes shorter than 24 hours. Light levels on the middeck and in the Spacelab were very low; whereas on the flight deck (which has several windows), they were highly variable. Circadian rhythm abnormalities were observed. During the second half of the missions, the rhythm of urinary cortisol appeared to be delayed relative to the sleep-wake schedule. Performance during wakefulness was impaired. Astronauts slept only about 6.5 hours per day, and subjective sleep quality was lower in space. No beneficial effects of melatonin (0.3 mg administered prior to sleep episodes on alternate nights) were observed. A surprising finding was a marked increase in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep upon return to Earth. We conclude that these Space Shuttle missions were associated with circadian rhythm disturbances, sleep loss, decrements in neurobehavioral performance, and alterations in REM sleep homeostasis. Shorter than 24-hour rest-activity schedules and exposure to light-dark cycles inadequate for optimal circadian synchronization may have contributed to these disturbances.
Document ID
Document Type
Neri, David F.
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Czeisler, Charles A.
(Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston, MA, United States)
Dijk, Derk-Jan
(Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston, MA, United States)
Wyatt, James K.
(Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston, MA, United States)
Ronda, Joseph M.
(Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston, MA, United States)
Hughes, Rod J.
(Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston, MA, United States)
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2003
Publication Information
Publication: The Neurolab Spacelab Mission: Neuroscience Research in Space Results from the STS-90, Neurolab Spacelab Mission
Subject Category
Aerospace Medicine
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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