Hooowwwl! Another full moon comes to our evening sky on April 4, inspiring many to talk of men transforming into werewolves and people going crazy.
Of course, it’s all hooey. There’s no scientific evidence we know of that supports any correlation between lunar cycles and human behavior.
That doesn’t mean the moon doesn’t affect us. There is evidence that suggests the moon’s phases affect our sleep patterns. Over the summer in 2013, Swiss researchers published a report in Current Biology that suggests when the moon displays herself to us in full, we get less sleep.
The finding was a bit of a sensation. As reported in the New York Times, Scientific American, and Time Magazine, the study drew its conclusions from an experiment in which 33 adult men and women slept in a sleep lab so their brain patterns, eye movements and hormones could be studied for a period of one week in a windowless room that didn’t offer up any external light or time cues.
The researchers discovered that when the moon was full, their test subjects got about 20 minutes less sleep after taking an average of five more minutes to fall into sleep mode. They also complained of lower quality sleep and being more tired than usual. At a hormonal level, the researchers detected reduced levels of melatonin, a substance made by a small gland in the brain to regulate our sleep and wake cycles.
The laboratory did not have windows, and thus the sleep disruption was not simply due to moonlight. Instead, some scientists have speculated that humans have an internal biological clock that follows a 28-day lunar cycle; intriguingly, women’s menstrual cycles last 28 days on average. Also, some have conjectured that men might have benefited from more time awake on nights with a full moon that allowed better visibility for hunting and fishing. However, while these initial results are tantalizing, the investigators warn that more carefully controlled and designed studies are needed to confirm the results, and to pinpoint exactly how and why the lunar cycle might impact sleep.
What do you think? Does the same moon that tells us it’s time for bed also keep us from finding sleep? Have you experienced any difficulty sleeping when the moon is displayed in full?