When it’s your job to work in space, there is no such thing as a simple day in the office—and with all the challenges astronauts face, they also often struggle with a shortage of sleep. About half of all astronauts rely on sleep medication at some point in order to get shut-eye. NASA is hoping to change that with a deceptively simple solution: updating the light bulbs in the Space Station with programmable LEDs that change color to mimic a more familiar, earthly day and night schedule.

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Studies show that lack of sleep can result in mistakes, irritation and even depression. In Anchorage, Alaska, research revealed that hospital workers tend to make more mistakes during the darkest time of the year. This is because the human body relies on light to regulate the hormones that control the sleep cycle. Astronauts average only about six hours of sleep a night out of the 8.5-hours that they are allotted.

To address this, NASA intends to replace the Space Station’s fluorescent bulbs with a range of LED bulbs that will vary in color. The bulbs will switch between red, white and blue-tones according to the time of day in order to better simulate the cycle of day and nighttime. NASA hopes that this, along with sleep-training that the astronauts receive, will help address sleep problems in the Space Station.


images © NASA