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Mars Time Ruins Scientists' Health

More than 250 NASA scientists working on the Mars Spirit rover mission are living on Mars time, a phenomenon that is creating one of the worst cases of collective jet lag on record. The time it takes for Mars to rotate on its axis--the length of a day--is 39 minutes and 35 seconds longer than Earth's rotation, so scientists must adjust their schedule that much later every day to keep up with Spirit. The shifting hours may seem like a nice excuse to sleep in at first, but by the time the three-month mission is over, scientists will have moved through the Earth day two full times and be coming around again.

This time shifting is a prescription for disaster. Humans were absolutely designed to synchronize with sunlight. We first developed the ability to bypass these normal rhythms with the development of the electric light bulb about 100 years ago. With the help of the light bulb, many of us are violating this important sleep cycle. Very few people appreciate the importance of getting to bed early, ideally before 9 p.m., and then sleeping long enough. NASA scientists can fool their bodies for awhile, but if they contacted a natural health expert they would soon find out that they are seriously compromising their long-term health. If you are interested in this subject an excellent book is Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar and Survival, which has many detailed references that expand on this concept.

Boston Globe January 13, 2004

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