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Smart earbud will measure how astronauts sleep

Smart earbuds measure how astronauts sleep

Ear EEG tech close up. Credit: Lars Kruse / University of Aarhus

Sleep is important for our health and well-being, and poor sleep can negatively affect our attention span, memory, decision-making, creativity and judgment.

Astronauts living in weightlessness with an artificial day-night cycle have trouble maintaining a natural circadian rhythm and normal sleep patterns. In fact, sleep is what astronauts complain about the most.

To avoid the negative short- and long-term effects of poor sleep, the Center for Ear-EEG at Aarhus University has developed a technology that can monitor an astronaut’s sleep in a non-invasive and discrete manner through the so-called “ear- EEG”. (ear-ElectroEncephaloGraphy). The technology will travel with Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen to the International Space Station to investigate the differences between human sleep patterns on Earth and in space.

The project is called ‘Sleep in Orbit’.

“Sleep is kind of a biomarker of our health and well-being. In fact, many diseases also affect the way we sleep, including a wide range of psychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. Overall, however, there is no clear correlation between perceived sleep quality and physiological sleep. But physiological sleep is crucial for our cognitive functions,” said Professor Preben Kidmose, head of the Center for Ear-EEG at Aarhus University.

He continues: “Today we know a little bit about how astronauts experience sleeping in space, but we don’t know much about how space affects their sleep physiologically. That’s one of the things we’re going to measure as part of this project. Our job is also to analyze sleep patterns and find the differences between how an astronaut sleeps on Earth and how they sleep in space.”

The ear EEG is a small device that is placed in the ear to measure electrical activity in the brain. Ear-EEG measures extremely small voltage changes on the surface of the skin in the ear, caused by electrical activity in the neurons of the brain.

Smart earbuds measure how astronauts sleep

The Center for Ear-EEG at Aarhus University has developed a technology that can read the electrical activity of the brain and map our sleep patterns, called ear-EEG. The tech is set to follow astronaut Andreas Mogensen on his next space mission. Credit: Lars Kruse / University of Aarhus

Sleep stages are by definition related to brain states and these can be judged based on the brain’s electrical signals.

“We’ve been developing ear EEG technology for over 15 years to measure brain electrical activity outside of a lab. And it turns out that ear EEG is extremely good at characterizing our sleep. This technology gives us a unique opportunity to measure long-term brain activity, which means we can start studying things that we wouldn’t be able to measure otherwise, for example, we don’t really know much about how our sleep varies over time and how it’s affected by our environment says Preben Kidmose.

The shielded and discrete placement of the device makes the method more attractive than traditional EEG measurements that use electrodes placed on the head.

Ear EEG is thus much gentler and less intrusive than traditional sleep measurements, making the technology ideal for long-term monitoring of sleep patterns without disrupting a person’s sleep.

“This project is important because in the future we will probably be in space much more often and have to stay there longer. And it’s important to understand how it affects our sleep. And to be able to make an accurate physiological characterization of the sleep will also help us discover how we can help astronauts get a better night’s sleep in space Professor Kidmose’s technology is a classic example of how engineering science is developing solutions that help people I’m really looking forward to seeing the progress of the project,” says Eskild Holm Nielsen, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Aarhus University.

The project, “Sleep in Orbit”, will explore the differences between sleep patterns on Earth and in space by using ear EEG sleep monitoring to ensure the best possible living and working conditions for astronauts.

Aarhus University will provide the project with the measurement equipment used to measure ear EEG, as well as the algorithms that will be used to calculate sleep stages. The actual data analysis will be performed at Aarhus University.

Provided by Aarhus University

Quote: Smart earbuds measure how astronauts sleep (2022, June 30) retrieved June 30, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-smart-earbud-astronauts.html

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