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October 05, 2018
Life in space is drastically different from life on earth, and zero-gravity sleep is one thing that every astronaut must adjust to rather quickly. The lack of gravity allows for some fun times floating around the space station or venturing out for a moon walk, but what happens when the day comes to an end and those astronauts are exhausted from all of that floating? Do they climb into a sleep chamber, get comfy in an astronaut bed, or relax with a space sleeping bed? The reality of sleeping in space may surprise you, so let’s take a closer look.
Since gravity prevents an astronaut from lying flat on a bed and resting their head on a pillow, an astronaut bed is quite different from the beds that are commonplace here on earth. According to NASA, most astronauts sleep in crew cabins, and each cabin is equipped with a space sleeping bag. The cabins offer just enough room for one astronaut to tuck in for a night of sleep, but they also have windows, computers and a bit of room for toys and other personal items that allow each space worker to feel more at home.
Do you want to look inside a real-life sleep chamber? Commander Suni Williams released a virtual tour of the International Space Station, which starts with an exploration of the station’s four sleep stations. There are four stations positioned in a circle. This means that an astronaut must climb under the floor to enter one station, into the walls to reach two of the stations, or up into the ceiling to reach the fourth station. Suni states that resting on a space station bed feels more like standing up than lying down, but she also claims that the space sleeping bag is rather comfortable.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, known for his videos on how astronauts accomplish day-to-day tasks up in orbit, also has a video on sleep is achieved.
When there aren’t enough space station beds for each member of the crew, astronauts may attach themselves to a wall or chair when it’s time to sleep. This prevents the constant floating motion, but astronauts still must get used to sleeping in a sitting position or with the sensation of standing up against the wall. The enjoyment of crawling under the covers in a horizontal position is a pleasure that they can look forward to enjoying once their mission is complete and they return home.
According to one former astronaut who had the pleasure of spending time in space, zero-gravity sleep gives you a lot of options. You can sleep on the floor if you strap into a sleeping bag, which is similar to the bags that you may sleep in while camping on earth but with some added straps. You also have the option of sleeping on the ceiling, which delivers a new perspective on the world. Some astronauts even sleep without strapping themselves down, allowing their bodies to enjoy a gentle float as they snooze.
When you consider all the differences between life on earth and life in space, adjusting to zero-gravity sleep is probably not the most pressing concern for an astronaut. They may have more concern over the dehydrated foods that they are forced to eat and the heavy load of work that they must complete each day in order to fulfill their mission and get back to earth.
You may still feel a bit more thankful tonight as you climb into your comfy bed and get ready for a good night of sleep. Regardless of the condition of your bed, it could be worse. You could be attached to the wall in an astronaut bed.