Full moon: a negative effect on sleep

Everyone has long wondered what effect the moon can have on the body and especially on the quality of sleep. A study published in the scientific journal Current Biology suggests that the moon could have a detrimental effect on the quality and pattern of your sleep.

The sleep of the participants studied under the magnifying glass

Through the study of 33 participants in a sleep laboratory, the researchers demonstrated several changes in sleep rhythms. The participants slept in a totally dark room without a window, so the effect of the extra brightness due to the full moon had no influence. Hooked up to monitors, the patients spent the night in the lab, allowing the researchers to record how fast they fell asleep, how long they slept, and their brain waves while they slept.

The participants spent three and a half days in the laboratory. Neither the participants nor the researchers knew that one of the factors studied was the phase of the moon. In reality, when the data was collected, the phases of the moon were not taken into account in the study. The research assessed factors such as melatonin levels, time to fall asleep, sleep duration, and participants’ subjective reports of how rested they felt. It wasn’t until ten years later that the researchers realized their data could be used to assess the effect of the phase of the moon on sleep.

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A negative effect of the full moon on sleep

Data shows that participants slept 20 minutes less during the full moon. It also took them an extra five minutes to fall asleep, but most importantly, their deep sleep was reduced by 30% compared to nights when the moon was not full. The results of the study assessing the disorders of the sleep during the full moon also showed a decrease in melatonin production in participants. Melatonin is an essential factor that allows you to sleep soundly throughout the night.

A lunar clock in our body not yet discovered?

The researchers point out that further studies are needed to confirm the relationship between the phases of the moon and sleep rhythms.

They speculate that the lunar influence on sleep could be related to the increased light you are exposed to before sleeping on full moon nights, or perhaps a lunar clock, which one would not have not yet discovered, and which would be similar to your circadian clock.

Other effects of the full moon on the body?

If the moon does have an influence on your sleep rhythms, the mechanism is not clear. Several studies have been conducted to assess the effect of the moon on epilepsy (seizures), psychiatric and emergency room consultations, surgical results and lack of sleep.

The results were surprising. Although caregivers in emergency departments and psychiatric hospitals associate the full moon with an increase in their activity, studies have not verified this observation. Doctors don’t make more mistakes in surgery and patients don’t have more seizures. Although a woman’s menstrual cycle is typically 28 days, the same length as the lunar cycle, no research has shown that a woman’s cycle begins or ends at the same time as the lunar cycle. On the other hand, more injuries were observed in dogs and cats on the three days surrounding the full moon.

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Maren Cordi: Lunar cycle effects on sleep and the file drawer problem. Current Biology: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014.05.017


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