The Insane Solution:
Duct tape. It really can fix anything!
NASA has detailed, written instructions for what to do in the case of a crew member posing a threat to themselves or others, and said instructions can be paraphrased as, "Straddle them like a rodeo cowboy and hogtie them."
In detail, the procedure says to: 1) Duct tape their wrists and ankles. 2) Use bungee cords to tie them down like you're a Lilliputian and they're Gulliver. 3) Shoot them full of tranquilizers, and 4) "Talk with the patient while you are restraining him. Explain what you are doing, and that you are using a restraint to ensure that he is safe."
Holy shit. Michael Bay ... was right?
It seems like maybe that last step should've been mentioned sooner.
The Problem: Sleeping Well In Space Is Damn Near Impossible
Astronauts can't sleep for shit. A 10-year sleep study performed by Harvard Medical School, the University of Colorado, and Brigham and Women's Hospital studied more than 8,000 nights of astronaut sleep and found that, while on a mission, astronauts get a good two-and-a-half hours less sleep per night than they're scheduled to. It seems that the combination of strapping yourself into a sleeping bag on the wall while watching the sun rise 15 or 16 times every day wipes out your circadian rhythm. Who could have known?
"If we can squeeze a few more orbits in per day, we could throw a pretty sweet rave."
The Insane Solution:
Take a shitload of mind-altering drugs to sleep, then take an additional shitload of mind-altering drugs to wake up.
The vast majority of astronauts on space shuttle missions or aboard the ISS have taken zolpidem at least every other night to help them sleep. You may know zolpidem better by its trade name of Ambien, which you may know even better as the sleep drug that can cause you to eat buttered cigarettes, go on a vehicular manslaughter spree, or shoot up a goddamned nursing home. Even when it's not causing folks to behave like hellspawn in their sleep, Ambien comes with a laundry list of side effects. It's the type of medication that could convince you that the ship's computer is attempting to murder you, or that the space baby is real. The space baby is real.
Tim Boyle/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"Stop taking if you start hearing 'Also sprach Zarathustra.'"
But wait, there's more! When astronauts are feeling tired (perhaps from all the sleeping pills), they also pop handfuls of uppers, such as Modafinil, to "optimize their performances, no matter how fatigued they feel." Modafinil can cause visual hallucinations and -- why the fuck not? -- insomnia, which leads us full circle right back to the encapsulated possession known as Ambien.
Here's to hoping mission control never forgets to stock up on the duct tape and tranquilizers.
Nathan likes to write songs with his imaginary friends. You can follow him on Twitter.
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