Moonstruck madness has long been relegated to the annals of folklore, but new findings raise questions about if the moon may actually hold some sway over human sleep patterns. At the very least, it would be a promising explanation for why you’re tired today.
According to folklore, the full moon affects human sleep. International researchers are trying to determine whether there is any truth to the belief. Studies by a team at Sahlgrenska Academy have found that people actually sleep 20 minutes less when the moon is full.
A Swiss research study conducted last year showed that the full moon affects sleep. The findings demonstrated that people average 20 minutes less sleep, take five minutes longer to fall asleep and experience 30 minutes more of REM sleep, during which most dreaming is believed to occur.
Different outcomeNumerous studies through the years have attempted to prove or disprove the hypothesis that lunar phases affect human sleep. But results have been hard to repeat. A group of researchers at the famed Max Planck Institute and elsewhere analyzed data from more than 1,000 people and 26,000 nights of sleep, only to find no correlation.
20 minutes …
Need for more studiesThough fully aware of the issues, Mr. Smith is not prepared to dismiss the results of the Gothenburg study.
“The rooms in our sleep laboratories do not have any windows,” he says. “So the effect we found cannot be attributable to increased nocturnal light during full moon. Thus, there may be a built-in biological clock that is affected by the moon, similar to the one that regulates the circadian rhythm. But all this is mere speculation – additionally, more highly controlled studies that target these mechanisms are needed before more definitive conclusions can be drawn.”
As with the endogenous daily cycle en trained to the sun, a monthly cycle connected to the Moon exists through a long period of unconscious observation by the body. But it remains something of a puzzle as to why humans are affected by the Moon. Knowledge of the tides is not important to humans in the way that it is to marine iguanas, say, which studies have also found to have lunar cycles.
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