Go to the NASA Homepage
Fatigue Countermeasure Laboratory Left-Side Header Image
News Sidebar Header
Fatigue Countermeasure Laboratory Image Collage
Fatigue Countermeasures Laboratory News header
NASA's Dr. Erin Flynn-Evans Interviewed by CNN to Discuss the Sleep Challenges Faced by Astronauts on a Mission to Mars

In May 2023, NASA's Dr. Erin Flynn-Evans was interviewed for a Cable News Network (CNN) article to discuss one of the main challenges that astronauts will face during a prolonged mission to Mars. How will NASA ensure that astronauts are getting enough sleep? According to Dr. Flynn-Evans, "Sleep is intimately tied with performance, alertness, interpersonal communication and relationships", so it will be critical that crews are getting enough sleep. Beyond the basic challenges of sleeping in a zero-gravity environment, crews on future Artemis missions to the Moon, as well as future missions to Mars, will be subject to the tight sleep quarters of the Orion capsule, or future deep space habitat vehicles. Sleep in space is further disrupted by the lack of regular day-night cycles. The circadian rhythm, or body’s internal clock which helps to promote sleep and wake at the right times of day, requires regularly timed light exposure of sufficient intensity to facilitate adequate sleep.
Fortunately, NASA's Fatigue Countermeasures Laboratory, led by Dr. Flynn-Evans, is developing solutions and tools to help astronauts overcome these sleep challenges. Whether through observations of crews on the International Space Station (ISS), or through controlled sleep studies in simulated "mission analogs" on Earth, Dr. Flynn-Evans' team has been able to study participants to see how sleep disruptions can affect alertness and performance. One of the strategies to mitigate crew fatigue involves ensuring the crew have an adequate sleep environment, with regular light exposure that simulates sunlight. Other strategies include the maintenance of regular sleep schedules, and developing evidence-based approaches to shift sleep patterns when required. Future studies will look into factors such as caffeine intake, to determine how it affects alertness and sleep.
As NASA looks forward to launching a crewed mission to Mars, the Fatigue Countermeasures Laboratory will continue to work closely with Artemis mission planners to optimize the astronaut's sleep schedules and to ensure that future crew vehicles will be set up with the correct lighting and sleep accommodations.

Click here to see the full CNN article.

Commercial pilots in the cockpit of a passenger jet
NASA astronaut Josh Cassada is bundled up in his crew quarters on the International Space Station on March 2. Credit- NASA
Go to the First Gov Homepage
Go to the NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration Homepage
Curator: Phil So
NASA Official: Erin Flynn-Evans
Last Updated: May 17, 2023