Simulated microgravity affects sleep and physiological rhythms | Science & Technology

Simulated effects of microgravity significantly affect rhythmicity and sleep in humans, a new study from the University of Surrey finds. Such disturbances could negatively affect the physiology and performance of astronauts in space.

Previous findings have shown that astronauts exposed to microgravity, simulated via 60 days of constant bed rest at a six-degree head-down tilt angle, experience changes to physiology, including immune suppression, increased inflammation, and reduced muscle mass and bone density. However, a less-studied aspect of physiology concerning the effects of microgravity is sleep and biological rhythms.

Lead author Dr María-Ángeles Bonmatí-Carrión, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Surrey (currently at CIBERFES (Carlos III Health Institute), University of Murcia and Principal Investigator at Murcian Institute of Biosanitary Research, said:

“This is the first time that sleep and various biological rhythms have been evaluated from an integrative perspective in a head-down tilt bed rest protocol for this long (60 days). We are confident that these findings will serve in designing new protocols aimed at improving sleep and rhythmic robustness in space. In addition, our results can also be applied to other processes such as ageing or the impact of constant posture in our sleep and rhythms.”

In a study coordinated by the European Space Agency at the MEDES space clinic in Toulouse, 20 men completed a 90-day protocol consisting of two weeks of baseline, before 60 days of constant bed rest at a six-degree head-down tilt angle, simulating the effects of microgravity experienced by astronauts. The protocol concluded with two weeks of recovery.

To assess the impact of simulated microgravity, the research team analysed wrist skin temperature, motor activity, light exposure, and diurnal sleepiness throughout the 90-day protocol. Sleep was assessed through electroencephalogram (EEG) over a 24-hour time series during two days in baseline,…


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