At the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI), researchers have developed a software package to assist astronauts, as well as anyone else working on a strange sleep schedule, to better prepare and manage their time. The application uses two modules – one that predicts a person’s physical response and the other prescribes when to sleep or when to get a cup of coffee.
The Circadian Performance Simulation Software (CPSS) uses complex mathematical formulas to predict how an individual will react to specific conditions. CPSS also allows users to interactively design a schedule, such as shifting sleep/wake to a different time, and predicts when they would be expected to perform well or poorly.
The second component, known as Shifter, then “prescribes” the optimal times in the schedule to use light to shift a person’s circadian rhythm in order to improve performance at critical times during the schedule.
The situation for International Space Station astronauts is complicated by the fact that they often face schedules that are not uniform. A shift in scheduled sleep/wake time, due to an event such as docking, could be as much as eight or nine hours, with the transition taking place over a short period of time.
With the basic software program complete, the researchers are now working to individualize the model. They want to determine what personal data are needed in order to provide recommendations for individuals. Klerman said the information needed could be as simple as age, or it could require more complicated data.