Altered Sleep Time Difficult for Body

FEBRUARY 01, 2005

A study involving sleep for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) indicated that the body has a harder time adjusting to different sleep times than originally perceived. NASA has been instructing astronauts to begin going to bed 2 hours later than normal over a period of time to prepare for their desired sleep schedule. Reporting in Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine (December 2004), lead investigator Timothy Monk, PhD, said this may not be the best approach.

In the first phase of the study, the participants shifted sleep on 2- hour blocks, but the result was poor sleep quality and not being as alert. The results of this part of the study showed that the body only adjusts itself by 1 hour a night—not the 2 of NASA's current recommendations. The second phase of the study altered sleep in 30- minute blocks; the final phase in progress now will alter sleep in one abrupt movement. Dr. Monk said that the study can be applied to anyone who must change schedules.

"Many of us find that we have to change our sleep schedule, perhaps to accommodate work or school start times, or a change in our commute time," he said. "We often wonder if we should make the change all at once, or more gradually over several days or weeks. This research has the eventual aim of helping us make that decision."

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