Ask yourself the following questions:

  • If you could watch one programme for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  • Suppose you went away to a desert island and you could only take three things with you. What would you take?
  • If you could be paid just for lying in bed, would you do it?

These are some of the things that might have been running through the participants’ heads before they agreed to take part in a bizarre-sounding experiment by NASA.

Recently, the world’s most famous space agency world launched their experiment in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA) at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR). To conduct their Artificial Gravity Bed Rest Study (AGBRESA), they’d been looking for volunteers to spend a whole two months just lying in bed while they researched the use of artificial gravity and how it could affect the negative effects of weightlessness on the human body.

 

Any specific requirements to take part? Yes, you had to be male or female and between 24 and 55 years old. ‘Hey, that’s me,’ you say. Oh, and you also had to be able to speak German. Still applicable?

 

Is it a waste of time? Not if you’re one of the researchers, whose findings will further their research and lend astronauts an extra hand. And it’s not if you’re one of the volunteers either: these people are receiving the equivalent of £14,000 for their troubles. Not bad!

Entertainment and experiments

It’s just pure non-stop bed rest while the scientists do their thing. Everything the volunteers do will be from the comfort of their beds. They’ll help with the experiments, shower, use the bathroom and follow leisure pursuits, such as watching the TV, all just lying down while the scientists recreate the conditions of being in a spacecraft.

Under scrutiny will be the participants’ cognitive abilities, the strength of their muscles, balance and cardiovascular operation. The scientists will restrict the movement of the candidates to reduce strain on the bodies and, as part of the testing, some will have to spin around in a centrifuge to get the blood flowing into their extremities.

Staying sane

Okay, so you’ve not applied to participate in the experiment — or maybe you have but weren’t one of the lucky chosen few. What if you were, though? How would you get through it? Being confined to your bed may sound like pure, unadulterated bliss to some, but surely even they would find themselves slowly — or rapidly — going out of their minds as time progressed. With that in mind — pardon the pun — here are a few tips to help you stay sane and entertained if you find yourself stuck in bed for whatever reason.

Meditation

Meditation is the classic stress healer and helps you to become aware of how you’re feeling physically. Strange as it sounds, the purpose is to observe discomfort and welcome it. By doing this, you’ll start to overcome the discomfort. Practise meditation for just 10 minutes each day and increase the length of your meditation time gradually.

Stretching

Whether the volunteers in the experiment will have the opportunity to stretch, who knows, but if you’re stuck in bed in the comfort of your own home, why not? Stretching will relieve tension and maintain your flexibility and range of motion. A quick search online will return plenty of results you can try in your bed. Be ready for quirky names like ‘Happy Baby’ for the stretches!

Take a course

Since you’re not really doing anything, you could put the time to productive use and do a little learning, so look for an online course. The internet has made learning so much more accessible and you can do all kinds of courses, from philosophy and marketing courses, through to languages, psychology and more. Best of all, you don’t even have to pay, if you choose a site such as Coursera.

Alternatively, if you don’t feel like doing some active learning, you can keep your mind busy with some simple reading. If you’re keen to get through books quickly, you may prefer to try audiobooks instead.

Relax

Beds are for resting in, after all. If you have a TV bed, make the most of it and put on a film, a documentary or enjoy a good box set. If you’re not feeling like watching the TV, listen to some soothing music, close your eyes and drift away. You might even find it therapeutic to do a little writing and start a blog.

Staying comfortable

Of course, comfort is a big factor in successfully completing the experiment, too. Participants could walk out and leave the scientists high and dry if they’re not going to be comfortable. You know how to stay sane, but what about being comfortable? Here are some tips on that front, too.

Change the linen regularly

Changing bed linen is a straightforward task, but it makes a big difference because linen can become dirty with food, skin, dirt and debris. The linen should be clean and well laundered. For maximum comfort, check how soft the fabric is and that the linen keeps you warm enough.

Ideally, bedding should be breathable so that the air can circulate and keep your temperature at a comfortable level. Incidentally, since you’re going to spend a lot of your time lying down, you’ll need a good pillow that supports your head and spinal column.

Groom well

Despite being stuck in bed, you still need to stay clean and well-groomed. Trimming long hair and any facial hair will prevent lice or bugs infesting it. Changing into fresh, clean clothes will stop germs or bacteria from doing any harm. Showering, and cleaning your teeth, will discourage hygiene problems as well as genuinely help to maintain your well-being on the positive side.

Observe good nutrition

When you’re in bed for a long time, you don’t want to be loading up with doughnuts and fast foods, as tasty as they may be. It’s better to observe a well-balanced diet. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Note, too, that you don’t have to observe the traditional big three meals a day. If it suits your physiology better, you can divide your intake up into smaller but more regular meals, which can help you to control your weight easier.

Fancy signing up?

Brush up on your German and there’s still the chance of some easy space bucks. The experiment may have already gotten underway, but NASA will be seeking out more budding bed-resters for the autumn stint of their experiment. You can take part in the test by emailing probanden-bit@dlr.de and stating your interest. The closing date for applications is 24 May, so get scribbling. It’ll be an incredible experience to write about in your blog!

Centrifuge image by Bernt Rostad, used and adapted under Creative Commons license 2.0