If you love your bed and consider sleeping a hobby, then you could be earning some serious cash in the name of science. The French Institute for Space Medicine and Physiology (Medes) in Toulouse has announced a plan to pay 24 individuals €16,000 ($17,066) to stay in bed for two months straight as part of a study on microgravity. The study is led by the Centre National D’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and conducted in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA).
The French scientists are currently looking for 24 physically active, healthy, non-smoking men, aged between 20 and 45, to take part in the experiment. Furthermore, the men must have a body mass index (BMI) between 22 and 27. Half of them will also be given a cocktail of medicines — including anti-inflammatory drugs and antioxidant-rich food supplements — that should counter the effects of weightlessness on the body.
Dr. Arnaud Beck, the coordinating physician of the study, told the French newspaper 20 Minutes that the idea of the experiment is to simulate the weightlessness of the International Space Station (ISS). Since launching people into space is too expensive to explore the effects of microgravity on the body, scientists have to come up with other means to test the effects of prolonged periods of weightlessness on the body.
In total, the experiment will take three months. The first two weeks, the volunteers will be tested and examined before they are put to bed for 60 days with their head slightly tilted down six degrees below their feet. According to a CNES press release, this reclined position will simulate the effects of weightlessness by shifting blood towards the upper body, causing similar changes in blood volume, cardiac performance, and vascular resistance as one would experience in space. The 60-day period is then followed by a two-week rehabilitation program to study the effects this horizontal-living had on their bodies.
Harming people in the name of science
If we got you all excited and ready to send in your application, you might want to consider the drawbacks. It can damage your body in several ways, and might not be as easy and fun as it sounds. Think about it. Volunteers must remain in bed, with at least one shoulder touching the bed, and they cannot set foot on the ground. They’ll have to eat, wash, go to the toilet, and exercise without coming out of a lying-down position.
Bed rest studies are actually nothing new. Many people have been bound for extended times to a bed in space project experiments. Drew Iwanicki is one of them. In 2014, NASA paid him $18,000 to lie down in bed for 70 days to learn more about how bone and muscle might deteriorate in space. Vice ran a story on Drew Iwanicki during and after the three months in bed.
From the second Drew put his head on the pillow, he was fighting the minus six-degree angle and gravitational pull. He was often in pain (headaches, back, neck, and spine pain) and his digestion was not working properly. Apart from being bored and ready to throw in the towel, he struggled with anxiety episodes and was constantly on the brink of a mental breakdown.
Just before he entered the hospital, Drew had just finished his first Ironman race and was in top form. Not much of that immense strength remained just after the experiment. If the 70 days weren’t already a violent attack on Drew’s body, when he was finally allowed to stand up he almost immediately collapsed and had to go back to a horizontal position for another day. Would you put your body through all this stress in the name of science?
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