Some research has shown that people snore less in space. Today on A Moment of Science, we’re going to discuss what ramifications this has for us down-to-earth snorers.
Scientists recently monitored the sleep of five astronauts on the International Space Station, and discovered that weightlessness actually improves sleep. One common sleeping disorder, known as sleep apnea, happens when the muscles in your airway relax to the point that the airway collapses and closes. In other words, you stop breathing.
Your body then jars you awake so the airway can reopen. This only takes a few seconds, but the cycle repeats itself throughout the night and prevents you from reaching deep sleep. In weightless conditions, incidents like these were reduced by half. Snoring was virtually eliminated.
Many people spend up to seventeen percent of their sleeping time snoring, and weightlessness reduced that to one percent. This study is important because it shows that gravity plays a major role in sleeping disorders. Understanding how gravity affects the respiratory system, and how it acts differently on a person lying down than on a person standing up, will help scientists figure out how to help people who are having trouble sleeping. After all, sleeping disorders like sleep apnea increase the risk for things like high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, and–of course–auto accidents.