Italian researchers sponsored by the Italian Space Agency and NASA have created a vest designed to monitor various biometric measures of astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The purpose is to gather data that researchers can use to try to understand why astronauts tend to have such poor sleep quality. The vest has conductors and sensors embedded in the fabric, designed to be comfortable to wear even while sleeping.
In addition to heart rate and respiration, the vest also measures movement (body acceleration) and skin temperature. It will also monitor the mechanics of the heart beats, including the timing of valve opening and closing, and contraction and relaxation times. One theory is that the microgravity conditions trigger abnormal activation of autonomic activity in the brain.
According to the researchers, about one out of four people in western cultures are affected by some form of sleep disturbances. It is possible that this space-based research may lead to new insights as well as more effective ways of testing and monitoring the sleep of subjects here on the ground.