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Moonsleeping bad for spacewalking

Day three of the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting offered news about Down syndrome and sleep cycles.

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3:47pm, November 17, 2008

Day three of the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting offered news about Down syndrome and sleep cycles

Melatonin by moonlight

Moonlight may interrupt astronauts’ sleep cycles by messing with their melatonin, a new study shows.

Sleep cycles are regulated by the type and amount of light that people encounter. When a person goes to sleep, the hormone melatonin circulates through the body to maintain a drowsy state. But if a light comes on, the body’s melatonin levels drop, causing the person to wake up.

Astronauts are notoriously bad sleepers, says Benjamin Warfield of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. They average just four to six hours of sleep a night when they’re on a mission and amass a huge sleep deficit. But no one knew how moonlight might be affecting this chronic lack of sleep.

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