The geophysical rhythms of the Moon affect human sleep even when in a highly controlled laboratory environment where the Moon’s light isn’t visible, new research has found. The researchers say that this is some of the first ‘convincing’ scientific evidence to back up the assertion made by many people that they sleep less, and more poorly, around the time of the Full Moon.
The findings show that even with all of comforts of modern life, such as artificial lighting, that the lunar cycle still exhibits a considerable effect on the mental/sleep patterns of humans — just as it does in most other animals.
“The lunar cycle seems to influence human sleep, even when one does not ‘see’ the moon and is not aware of the actual moon phase,” states Christian Cajochen of the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel.
The University of Basel has more:
In the new study, researchers studied 33 volunteers in two age groups in the lab while they slept. Their brain patterns were monitored while sleeping, along with eye movements and hormone secretions.
The data show that around the full moon, brain activity related to deep sleep dropped by 30%. People also took five minutes longer to fall asleep, and they slept for twenty minutes less time overall. Study participants felt as though their sleep was poorer when the moon was full, and they showed diminished levels of melatonin, a hormone known to regulate sleep and wake cycles.
This circalunar rhythm might be a relic from a past in which the moon could have synchronized human behaviors for reproductive or other purposes, much as it does in other animals. Today, the moon’s hold over us is usually masked by the influence of electrical lighting and other aspects of modern life.
“This is the first reliable evidence that a lunar rhythm can modulate sleep structure in humans when measured under the highly controlled conditions of a circadian laboratory study protocol without time cues,” the researchers state.
The researchers are next planning to investigate “the anatomical location of the circalunar clock and its molecular and neuronal underpinnings.” There’s the distinct possibility that lunar cycles also influence other aspects of human behavior as well — cognitive performance, moods, etc.
The new research was just published July 25 in the journal Current Biology.