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High-tech sleeping bag could mitigate vision problems in space

Researchers have explored the effect of resting in a vacuum-equipped bag that eases the build-up of pressure in the head

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Getty/Edwin Tan

Scientists from UT Southwestern in the US have explored the effect of a specialised sleeping bag on the risk of astronauts developing spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS).

Describing their findings in JAMA Ophthalmology, scientists highlighted that the vacuum-equipped bag mitigated changes in the eyeball’s shape while lying down for 72 hours.

The sleeping bag is designed to pull down fluids that naturally accumulate in the head while lying horizontally.

UT Southwestern cardiologist, Benjamin Levine, shared that it is unclear how severe the effects of SANS might be during longer periods of space flight – such as a two-year Mars operation.

“It would be a disaster if astronauts had such severe impairments that they couldn’t see what they’re doing and it compromised the mission,” he highlighted.

NASA has documented vision problems in more than half of astronauts who have spent six months or longer at the International Space Station.

Some became far-sighted, had difficulty reading, and needed the assistance of crewmates while conducting experiments.