Spending many days in bed might sound like a dream come true for some, but most participants agree that boredom and monotony set in after a few weeks.
Daily routine is important. Generally, participants are expected to be awake from 08:00 to 22:00. Everyday actions such as getting dressed take up a lot of time when you are not allowed to stand up to do them.
Daily showers are a time-consuming but necessary activity. Depending on the study, participants are allowed or expected to exercise at certain hours. Of course, these activities require that the participant stay in bed with their head down, so special exercise equipment and showers are used.
Medical tests and questionnaires take up a large part of the day. In a typical bedrest study much research requires continuous data collection. Doctors monitor blood pressure, heart rate, nutrient absorption, energy expenditure, bone mass and even the participants’ mood.
Diet is strictly controlled, so eating popcorn in bed during a film will usually not be allowed. From start to finish, participants will often have very little choice as to what they can eat or even when they are allowed to eat. All in the name of science.
Most bedrest studies are quite lenient in allowing the participants entertainment and distractions. Books, televisions, computer games and the Internet are usually allowed. It is in the scientists’ best interest to get the participants to stay with the project until the end.
Participants are encouraged to set themselves a goal such as learning a new language or writing a book. Having a long-term activity helps them to get through the monotony of living in the same room with your head tilted down.
Depending on the study family and friends are allowed to visit just as in a hospital and can offer a welcome distraction.