manned spaceflightDisorders of sleep and circadian rhythmicity are characteristic of both advancing age and manned spaceflight.Sleep fragmentation, reduced nocturnal sleep tendency and sleep efficiency, reduced daytime alertness, and increased daytime napping are common to both of these conditions.

Recent research on the pathophysiology and treatment of disrupted sleep in older people has led to a better understanding of how the human circadian pacemaker regulates the timing of the daily sleep-wake cycle and how it responds to the periodic changes in the light-dark cycle to which we are ordinarily exposed.

These findings have led to new treatments for some of the sleep disorders common to older individuals, using carefully timed exposure to bright light and darkness to manipulate the phase and/or amplitude of the circadian timing system.

These insights and treatment approaches have direct applications in the design of countermeasures allowing astronauts to overcome some of the challenges which manned spaceflight poses for the human circadian timing system.

Researchers have conducted an operational feasibility study on the use of scheduled exposure to bright light and darkness prior to launch in order to facilitate adaptation of the circadian system of a NASA Space Shuttle crew to the altered sleep-wake schedule required for their mission.

The results of this study illustrate how an understanding of the properties of the human circadian timing system and the consequences of circadian disruption can be applied to manned spaceflight.

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Filed under: Clinical ResearchDaytime SleepinesshypersomniaInsomniaNarcolepsyObstructive Sleep ApneaRestless Leg SyndromeSleepSleep ApneaSleep Apnea EffectsSleep Apnea ResearchSleep DeprivationSleep Disordered BreathingSleep DisordersSleep ProblemsSleepwalking

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