Why Life On Mars Would Seriously Mess With Your Sleep

From a lack of air and drinking water to solar radiation, theoretical Mars pioneers face any number of potential obstacles to colonizing the red planet.

Now, scientists have found something else to add to the list: seriously messed-up biological clocks.

One day on Mars — which scientists refer to as the solar day, or “sol” — is 37 minutes longer than a day on Earth. This means that our Earthling circadian rhythms don’t match the red planet’s rotational speed.

A team of European scientists recently demonstrated why that could be a problem. It’s important to have a biological clock that is in sync with the planet’s rotation, their research suggests.

“If we ever do get to the red planet, I suspect we will be faced with body clock problems,” Dr. Andrew Loudon, a biologist at the University of Manchester and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement. “Those people with abnormally slow body clocks would be best suited to living there.”

Circadian rhythms are the body’s natural cycles of rest and waking, which tend to follow roughly 24-hour light-dark cycles. These natural rhythms — which play a role in biological functions including brain wave activity and hormone production — can be disrupted by things like jet lag and night shift work.

For the study, the researchers compared mice with healthy, 24-hour circadian clocks to mice with a genetic mutation that caused them to have shorter, 20-hour circadian clocks. They then released all the mice together into outdoor pens with freely available food, and studied how the population changed over the course of 14 months. Over several generations, the researchers found that the mouse population came to be dominated by mice with normal, 24-hour circadian rhythms.

In other words, the mice with healthy biological —> Read More