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Can't sleep? Blame the moon

Lunar cycles may impact sleep cycles, according to a new study.

By Sally Wadyka Jul 26, 2013 4:19PM
A full moon gets the credit -- or blame -- for all sorts of otherwise inexplicable phenomena. It supposedly makes pregnant women go into labor (witness the recent royal birth, which coincided with the full moon), wrecks your sleep, makes your dog go crazy and, of course, brings out werewolves.

But until now, there was little, if any, science to back up these claims. In a small study just published in Current Biology, researchers in Switzerland set out to test the commonly held belief that it’s harder to get a good night’s sleep when the moon is full. Researchers recruited 33 volunteers and analyzed them while they slept, monitoring their brain patterns, eye movements and hormone secretions. 

What they found surprised them. During the nights around the full moon, the study subjects took five minutes longer to fall asleep, slept 20 minutes less overall and had lower levels of the hormone melatonin (which regulates sleeping and waking cycles). Further, their brain activity related to deep sleep dropped by a whopping 30 percent.

Any syncing of our own biorhythms with the phases of the moon is likely an evolutionary holdover. These days we’re so surrounded by sources of artificial light that it’s easy to not even see the moon, let alone take note of what phase it’s in.

The researchers say they would like to delve deeper into this connection between lunar rhythms and human sleep cycles to find where in our bodies this circalunar clock exists and what its molecular and neural underpinnings are. By doing so, they hope to discover other aspects of our behavior and brain activity that may be influenced by the moon -- such as our moods or mental performance.

According to the calendar, the next full moon falls on Aug. 21. So rest up before then in preparation for a couple nights of more fitful sleep. Oh, and watch out for werewolves, too.

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44Comments
Jul 26, 2013 5:24PM
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Maybe in the past. We as humans, didn't sleep during full moons. Maybe they were used for other things such as hunting or parties.
Jul 26, 2013 7:02PM
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I like to be out during the full moon up North in the winter.  The moon is about 5 miles across and maybe 20 yards away, Northern lights wafting green and purple overhead, -30 degrees and the snow goes "crunch crunch crunch" when you walk.  Hook up 10 fast dogs and shoot down the trail with no light, seeing the puff of their breath with every stride.  Ahhh... nobody for 40 miles in any direction.  Gotta love it.  No mosquitoes.
Jul 26, 2013 7:07PM
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Anyone who works with children or in a hospital type setting can tell  you if its a full moon without even looking at a calendar.
Jul 26, 2013 6:51PM
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Well, humans are 2/3 water, and the moon controls the tides, so why wouldn't it effect humans?

 

Jul 26, 2013 5:45PM
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As Bob Seger said, "Shame on the moon".
Jul 26, 2013 6:41PM
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I knew moon beams and Jim Beam affected my thinking.
Jul 26, 2013 7:50PM
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A full moon changes many things around and on the planet earth  during it's cycle.... Many of the changes remain unknown to most earthlings
Jul 26, 2013 6:13PM
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Ooohh, blame it on midnight.  Ooohhh, shame on the moon!
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