ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HYPER-SLEEP

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hyper-sleep chambers

For storytellers and filmmakers alike, the future has been an ocean of possibilities – a way to grapple with our speculations of the unknown by portraying probable future as today’s fiction. Perhaps, you could even stretch it to say that sci-fi futuristic tales are pseudo simulations of what our world could be. One such staple has been on, putting humans in a state of suspended animation (deep-sleep) to send them for space expeditions. Prometheus, a prequel to the 1979 film Alien, floats along a similar plot where long space voyages are accomplished with the crew hyper-sleeping in hibernation chambers, only waking upon reaching the destination. When Alien was released, hyper-sleep was pure science fiction, but works in sci-tech are progressing faster than the fiction writers may have hoped.

 

Spacework, an aerospace firm set in Atlanta, is using a $500,000 grant from NASA to have hyper-sleep pods ready for the first manned Mars voyage in 2030, if not sooner.[1] Using today’s tech, the journey from Earth to the red planet would take about 180 days. Sustaining a crew for that long would need a lot of food, water and support resources, taking expedition expenses off affordability charts. Scientists and sci-fi moviemakers together reckon that a hibernating crew could stay alive with a lot fewer consumables, hydration or space. This could potentially slash the costs of interstellar missions and cut down the boredom of space travel. The cut in costs would also enable more resources to be put on Mars, instead of on the journey to get there.

 

So what is hyper-sleep anyway? Hyper-sleep or deep-sleep is an intended state of torpor, where metabolic and physiological activities of the human body are immensely slowed down, laying it in a form of pseudo-preservation. In this scheme, the body temperature would be reduced to low temperatures, for instance through nasally inhaled coolants. While the crew is in a hypothermic state, many sensors would be hooked on to them to monitor their vitals. In such a state, the crew would be fed through an IV tube. The liquid would contain all essential elements for a human body to function. In addition, a catheter (a flexible tube inserted into the bladder) would be used to drain urine. Because there is no solid consumption, bowel movement would stay inactive. Electromagnetic muscle simulation would prevent muscle atrophy. To wake the crew up, the coolant flow would be stopped. The idea is to keep members of the crew in this medically induced state in shifts to ensure the needs of the crew and ship are monitored and met.[2]

 

It also helps to refer to the torpor state as ‘therapeutic hypothermia’, which is now a fairly common procedure used by doctors for heart & brain surgeries and for keeping critical trauma accident victims alive until proper medical help arrives. Here, the body temperature is dropped by around 10 degrees Fahrenheit (12C) to accomplish a 70% drop in metabolic rate. [3] This sort of targeted body temperature [4] management is thought to prevent brain injury by decreasing the brain’s oxygen demand, among other reduced metabolic functions. Generally, these cases have patients staying in such a state for only a few days, with no scientific evidence doubling down on prolonged hyper-sleep states, the kind a space crew would need. There are also cases of non-hospital long-term hypothermia where accident victims have survived in snow or icy conditions for long periods of time and are revived unharmed when warmed very slowly. No, we aren’t referring to Captain America. Anna Bagenholm is a Norwegian skier who got trapped under a layer of ice for 80 minutes. 40 minutes in, her blood flow stopped and she died of circulatory arrest. It wasn’t until another 40 minutes later that they were able to get her out. Doctors then performed CPR for over an hour and used a special machine to warm up her blood and pump it back into her, bringing her back to life. Today, she is FINE, doing everything she did before this mishap. [5]

 

To bottom-line it all, progress in hyper-sleep is real and active. One that would last long enough to ship a human from Earth to another habitable planet in one lifetime would indeed be something to root for. Abundant research needs to be done and many questions remain to be answered, but the groundwork for turning the works of science fiction into a feasible reality is fast incoming.

 

  1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3592538/Astronauts-cyrosleep-Nasa-project-build-suspended-animation-chamber-deep-space-journeys-Mars.html
  2. https://www.geek.com/science/nasa-may-get-astronauts-to-mars-using-deep-sleep-and-intravenous-drips-1606052/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Targeted_temperature_management
  4. http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/how-does-body-temperature-affect-metabolism.html
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Bågenholm

 

Now that we’ve rocketed through time and space let’s land back on earth. Did you know that companies are installing sleeping pods in offices to let employees power nap? Read How about a sleeping pod at your workplace? to know more.

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