According to the National Sleep Foundation’s (NSF) annual survey, both children and adults struggle with interrupted or poor-quality sleep. The reasons can be related to any number of things such as room temperature, light, noise, needy pets or the evening activities that preceded your head coming to the pillow.
But maybe you haven’t heard this one yet. The full moon. And this isn’t some crazy werewolf stuff.
A study in the journal Current Biology from 2000 indicates that a full moon can impact your sleep in a negative way, much like it does the mythical werewolf. Minus the fur and fangs, of course. In the study, 33 participants showed up at the sleep lab where they spent their nights for 3 1/2 days.
Interestingly, neither the participants nor the researchers were informed that one of the factors was the phase of the moon, which was full.
The participants slept in an extra dark room that insured no extra light from the full moon would be a factor, since researchers had already confirmed the affect of light on one’s sleep. They were hooked up to monitors that recorded how quickly they fell asleep, the amount of time they slept and their brain wave patterns during sleep. When the data returned, it showed that participants got 20 minutes less sleep during the full moon and it took them five more minutes to fall asleep.
The biggest find was that the participants experienced 30 percent less of that deep life-giving sleep on those nights when there was a full moon. Initially, this study was set up to evaluate melatonin levels and how they connected to sleep. It wasn’t until 2010 though when the researchers realized that this data could also be used to evaluate the full moon’s influence on sleep.
So it turns out that the full moon was just a lucky coincidence. But why does the full moon affect us this way? Is it the shiny disco ball in the sky effect that gets us going? Even if we can’t see it? Seems doubtful. If the moon does, in fact, influence our sleep patterns, the why behind it is still unclear and more studies are required.
There have already been several studies on the full moon’s effect on epilepsy seizure activity, as well as the numbers of psychiatric and emergency room visits.
The results have varied. Many healthcare workers in emergency rooms and psychiatric hospitals are convinced that a full moon brings an increase in activity and will batten down the hatches accordingly. And that may well be. But studies have not supported this observation.
There has also been no research demonstrating that women are in sync with the lunar cycles. Yet, like the aforementioned healthcare workers, more than a handful of women would dispute this; begging the question as to just how much research has been done in this area.
What has been linked to the lunar cycle is a greater number of injuries to dogs and cats in the three days surrounding a full moon. There is also an increase in hunting activity in nocturnal wild animals on days following a full moon. Again, no one is sure just why.
One result that the study evaluating sleep disturbances bears out is that during a full moon, there is a reduction in melatonin levels.
There does seem to be no arguing that melatonin is a key factor in your ability to sleep soundly, and it’s naturally regulated by your body when you are exposed to light and dark. But again, the participants were in a completely darkened room, so that still doesn’t explain why there would be a decrease in melatonin.
It’s just one of life’s great mysteries. For now.
To find out more about melatonin, click here.
Featured photo credit: The Moon by Sids1 via flickr.com