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Casting Light on Astronaut Insomnia: ISS to Get Sleep-Promoting Lightbulbs

December 4, 2012

Scientific American reports that NASA is about to upgrade lighting in the International Space Station to adjustable LED lights designed to help curb astronaut insomnia, which is a continuing problem for astronauts who need to be alert while completing missions despite the challenges of getting enough quality sleep in space.

Findings by HMS researchers Beth Klerman and Steven Lockley indicate that the human circadian clock is guided by light, as sky blue light motivates the brain to suppress melatonin, and dimmer red stimulates melatonin production for sleep. Based on this research, the new lights will help regulate astronauts’ sleep by projecting sky blue when they need to be awake and alert, and red when they need to rest. Meanwhile, Drs. Klerman and Lockley will continue their research on Earth to see how great the effect of light can be, and whether it can help people to better perform complex tasks during night shifts.

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