How Do Astronauts Sleep?

3 min read

Last Modified 27 April 2021 First Added 1 September 2014

By Laura Barns

Here at Dreams we know that your sleep matters a great deal, so we tend to look at everything from the point of view of getting a great night’s rest. It’s only to be expected when you’re the UK’s leading bed specialists. So naturally, when the subject of space travel came up we started thinking about what happens at bedtime in a space shuttle or space station and the big question of exactly how do astronauts sleep?

Astronauts sleep where they like, as long as they’re secured

In space there is no gravity and while we imagine that floating around a spacecraft is fantastic fun, we bet it’s not so hilarious when you’re trying to sleep and you end up drifting off and bumping into something. That’s why astronauts sleep by having to strap themselves into seats or climb into sleeping bags and attach them to the walls. Aboard a typical space shuttle, astronauts can also sleep in the commander’s seat, the pilot’s seat or in specially secured bunk beds.

It’s just as comfortable to sleep vertically

On the International Space Station there are two small crew cabins, which are complete with a tied down sleeping bag and a large window to look out into space. So even if it’s not especially comfortable, the views are likely to be awesome. And because there is no such thing as ‘up’ in the microgravity environment, it’s just as easy and comfortable to sleep vertically as well as horizontally. As long as your arms and legs are secured to stop them hovering, sleeping in space means you can assume any position you want to.

It’s a well-known fact that memory foam was invented by NASA and developed for astronauts to absorb the impact of re-entering the atmosphere – but we wonder if their space shuttle bunk beds come equipped with memory foam mattresses, to help their crews get a great night’s sleep in space?

Trying to get 8 hours can be a problem

But wherever and however astronauts sleep, they’re scheduled for eight hours rest at the end of each mission day, so the amount of time spent sleeping is very similar to that on earth. The big difference is though that the sun rises every 90 minutes during a shuttle mission, which can naturally cause disruption to an astronaut’s sleep pattern. As can motion sickness, and the fact that you’re sleeping in close quarters with other crew members.  Which all means that trying to get the required 8 hours sleep in a space shuttle is probably not that easy.

A wake up call from Houston

If an astronaut does manage to get to sleep on a space shuttle however, he or she can look forward to being woken by special wake up music played at the appropriate hour by the Mission Control Centre in Houston. Usually they’ll pick a song for a different astronaut each day. In a space shuttle it’s not quite as varied or as much fun. They all get woken up with a simple alarm clock!

What are your thoughts on how astronauts sleep? Let us know in the comments!

About the author