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"Making days longer than 24 hours- getting into the rhythm of Mars"

May 17, 2007

From a Harvard Gazette article that appeared online 05/17/2007

By William J. Cromie
Harvard News Office

People at a research hospital in Boston have been living 24-hour, 39-minute days. They were part of an experiment to show that the 24-hour human sleep-wake cycle can be adapted to other biological rhythms like the longer days on Mars.

And it appears to be a relatively easy thing to do. All that seems to be needed is two 45-minute exposures to bright light in the evening.

The shift was done at Brigham and Women's Hospital by Harvard Medical School researchers looking to help out astronauts who one day may spend a year and a half on Mars.

"Evidence of significant sleep loss and disruptions of circadian [24-hour] rhythms in astronauts and associated decreases in performance have been reported during space missions," notes Charles A. Czeisler, Frank Baldino Jr. Professor of Sleep Medicine. "In these situations, sleep and circadian disruptions could have serious consequences on the effectiveness, health, and safety of astronaut crews. Moreover, long-duration space missions may require them to be scheduled to non-24-hour light/dark cycles for extended durations of time. These issues emphasize the importance of developing effective countermeasures to maintain synchronized circadian rhythms."

Read the rest of the article.

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