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Supermoon circles the globe
July 26th, 2013
09:14 AM ET

Full moon may disrupt sleep, study says

You don't have to be a werewolf to feel restless when the full moon rises.

A new study in the journal Current Biology suggests that people tend to get lower quality sleep around the time of full moons, snoozing an average of 20 minutes less than they do during a new moon.

"If you ask people, at least in Switzerland, about 40% report feeling the moon during sleep, or they blame the full moon for bad sleep," said lead study author Christian Cajochen of the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel in Switzerland.

That's why he and his colleagues decided to investigate.

The study

The study included 33 healthy volunteers, between ages 20 and 74. Participants slept under strictly controlled conditions in a laboratory with no windows, so they had no way of seeing the moon. They stayed in the laboratory for 3½ days. Humidity and temperature were controlled.

Neither the participants nor the researchers knew, at the time of the experiment, that the phase of the moon would become part of the study. This decision reduced any bias that either group may have introduced regarding the moon but also presented the drawback that the study didn't look at all phases of the moon's cycle.

The data come from an experiment done 10 years ago; Cajochen and colleagues didn't analyze the results in terms of lunar patterns until several years after they did the study and waited to publish until now.

The results

The full moon was associated with a 20-minute reduction of total sleep time, the study authors found.

Researchers also found that it took about five minutes longer for participants to fall asleep around a full moon than around a new moon. Deep sleep was, on average, 30% decreased around the time of a full moon.

People sleeping in the lab nearer to the day of a full moon also had lower evening levels of melatonin, a hormone important to circadian rhythm that drives the body's cycles of day and night and, therefore, wakefulness and sleep.

"We have evidence that the distance to the nearest full-moon phase significantly influences human sleep and evening melatonin levels when measured under strictly controlled laboratory conditions, where factors such as light and personal moon perception can be excluded," the study authors wrote.

Study limitations

The number of participants in the study was small so the results may not apply to wider population. Also, the researchers didn't control what volunteers were exposed to in the week before the study; their individual environments could have influenced their sleep habits.

Generally, the methods and analyses in this experiment are solid, said Philip Gehrman, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the study.

In graduate school, Gehrman analyzed data about the sleep habits of older adults with Alzheimer's disease in nursing homes to see if lunar cycles had an effect. He didn't find one, but "the nurses would swear that the patients became more agitated and slept worse during a full moon," he told CNN in an e-mail.

Conclusions

The Current Biology study wasn't set up to find out why the full moon may interfere with sleep, but Cajochen speculated the human brain may have an internal clock that is somehow synchronized with the moon. Scientists already know about circadian rhythms. There may also be a clock that's driven by lunar cycles.

Some marine species have been shown to have reproductive patterns that sync up with lunar cycles, Cajochen noted.

"We don't know whether humans still have it and why," he said.

Further research would be necessary to confirm these findings for instance, functional magnetic resonance imaging could help scientists figure out what's going on in the brain during sleep at various stages of the lunar cycle.

To find more proof than this study, the experiment would need to be conducted over on a longer period of time, Cajochen said. Already this study required participants to be observed in the lab for 3½ days; to build on this research, people would have to stay in the controlled setting for at least 30 days to cover an entire lunar cycle.

"That would be the ultimate study, but it's going to be very expensive," he said.

More: Acting out dreams while asleep


soundoff (131 Responses)
  1. David M

    This study was flawed from the very beginning. "Participants slept under strictly controlled conditions in a laboratory with no windows, so they had no way of seeing the moon. They stayed in the laboratory for 3½ days. Humidity and temperature were controlled". Additionally this sleep study presented the drawback that the study didn't look at all phases of the moon's cycle. Therefore can we conclude, how in the world does anyone draw analysis that a full moon mitigates less sleep? Isn't this an example of how people feel during the full moon phase rather than lack of sleep. Just sayin...

    July 26, 2013 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bart Fargo

      If you think the article suggests that "a full moon mitigates less sleep", I'd say you didn't understand the thrust of it at all. Yes, the study relates to just how the full moon makes one "feel" even when they are unable to observe it and not conscious of any of its effects.

      July 26, 2013 at 19:48 | Report abuse |
  2. Eric B

    From a sciencetific point of few i highly doubt this in the modern day humans sleep inside. The only thing that changes under the full moon is lighting gravity and other factors stay the same so i fail to see how it may effect sleep.

    July 26, 2013 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bart Fargo

      From a non-scientific point of view I highly doubt that many people in the industrialized world do not have access to artificial lighting and still rely on the sun for all illumination. The only things that change under the sun are light and heat, other factors stay the same, so I fail to see why people living indoors in cities should still show circadian rhythms when technology has made such patterns obsolete.

      July 26, 2013 at 19:54 | Report abuse |
    • Mike the Massacred

      @Bart Fargo, -high five-

      August 13, 2013 at 00:00 | Report abuse |
  3. Tomek

    I only have teething problems during a full moon. But they are worth it...

    July 26, 2013 at 16:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. UncleJohn

    Ask cops, EMTs and ER staff if people act crazier during full moons and you'll get an earful of stories. I used to work in a mental hospital and we could tell the phases of the moon by the antics of the residents.

    July 26, 2013 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • legadema37

      I'm a retired teacher & many times kids become more disruptive & agitated during the full moon,especially the emotionally disturbed kids. Also, my late mom had Alzheimer's & the first time she got delusional & started saying she had to leave & go take care of relatives that were long dead,was on a full moon. She also started wandering out of the house on a full moon. From then on she became highly agitated & belligerent on every full moon. When we took her to a day care,we warned the people about full moons & they showed us how they had EVERY FULL MOON MARKED ON THEIR CALENDARS because a lot of patients got into fights,became disruptive,etc at that time.

      August 16, 2013 at 22:38 | Report abuse |
  5. Farmer John

    I thought it said "Full moon may disrupt SHEEP", and I said to myself no wonder i ain't getting none during the full moon!

    July 26, 2013 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jim Dolan

      Hilarious.

      July 26, 2013 at 21:26 | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      When you place a person in a "Controlled environment" you change their normal surroundings, habits and thought patterns. This biases the study immediately. And for all you " Full Moon effect" idiots, time and time again, surveys and statistics have proven no change in human behavior .....Unless you're a werewolf of course?

      July 27, 2013 at 21:46 | Report abuse |
  6. Hugh_Mann

    I guess that's why we need million dollar "studies" to tell us what we've already known for the past 100,000 years

    July 26, 2013 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Maz1

    Not sure how a 3.1/2 day study on a small sample group can produce conclusive results but one thing for sure..the moon (Lunar) definitely has an effect on the mind and body and contributes to the origin of the word "Lunatic"

    July 26, 2013 at 17:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. drturi

    Google Full moon disrupt sleep, Dr. Turi says and find out how science steal information from the Internet!

    July 26, 2013 at 17:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. drturi

    Try to google "Full moon may disrupt sleep Science Steal From the Internet… dr. turi" too

    July 26, 2013 at 17:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Some Muslim Guy

    Only happens on ramadan. ramadan is a hidden secret, the 30 days of the year and every year starting 10 days earlier. Many scientists don't understand the month is very important and the way Ramadan starts it ends in similar temperatures. For example if it starts with rain, it usually goes entire month in similar temperature, same if it starts with really hot weather it ends similarly. there are so many secrets of Ramadan that even modern scientists don't quite understand yet. This is why it is important for Muslims because God chose these 30 or so days because they are very special time of the year and have significant meaning.

    July 26, 2013 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • megaloteras

      Then why do muslims kill each other during Ramadan?

      July 27, 2013 at 02:09 | Report abuse |
  11. Lew

    I don't sleep well at all during a full moon. I wake up, usually naked and beat up. There's hair everywhere and my face is covered in blood.

    July 26, 2013 at 18:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ignignokt

      As long as your butt doesn't hurt you're ok .

      July 27, 2013 at 01:08 | Report abuse |
  12. YeahRight

    Bright light tends to disrupt sleep.

    July 26, 2013 at 18:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. upnorthminn

    Moonitics taking the study?

    July 26, 2013 at 18:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. No Way

    No wonder those damn werewolves don't go to sleep.

    July 26, 2013 at 19:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. brad1001

    This study reminds me of the scene in Ghostbusters when the men are planning what to do after being thrown out of the University for shoddy studies and practices. " You've never worked in the private sector, they expect RESULTS " .. this kind of study is typical of academics. Nonsense.

    July 26, 2013 at 21:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

    A better study would be to see what happens to humans when they sleep on the moon. Have we really ever actually been to the moon anyway? Don't laugh. I was a kid when we landed on the moon and always believed we did until my daughter shared a web site with me that gives about 10 or more explanations to certain things that we've always taken for granted. I was actually very skeptical that we ever really landed humans there after I carefully read each factoid. There is a CNN reporter I saw that said he had dinned at the Armstrong residence once and he couldn't help but notice how the first man to have landed on the moon shunned him and really did not want to discuss specifics. Later, the reporter ran into Neil Armstrong at an airport and waved and said "Hello, remember me from CNN?" He said Armstrong got out of there quickly in the opposite direction without acknowledging the reporter whom he knew had eaten dinner with Armstrong and his family. That is very peculiar behavior unless the reporter had bad breath or was just annoying to Armstrong. Or, maybe Armstrong has kept the truth sealed in his little NASA head for 4 decades and doesn't want to answer the tough questions. Also, why did NASA come out a few years ago and tell the world that they destroyed the original NASA moon landing tapes after digitizing them????? Anyway, I like the moon and so does everybody else I suppose. It's always romantic on a warm summer's eve and looks so content in the night sky. Good night everybody. Sweet dreams.

    July 26, 2013 at 22:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Portland tony

      Armstrong wasn't the only person who was involved in the Apollo Project. Nor is he the only person to dislike certain CNN reporters. I, along with thousands of fellow techs built, tested and validated the engines and the module. No faux moon landing. It was real!

      July 29, 2013 at 16:19 | Report abuse |
  17. Ignignokt

    I know one thing for certain . I dream vividly around the full moon during sleep . Usually it's a couple of days before or afterwards .

    July 27, 2013 at 01:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. samsart

    I worked in medicine for 36 years. Didn't need a calendar to know which phase the moon was in. About two days before the full moon, the day of the full moon, and two days after- the patients would be much more agitated, the types of injuries, etc became very bizarre. It's only logical that the gravitational pull of the moon affects humans as well as animals , as much as it affects the tides. This is not news- disrupted sleep around and during a full moon.

    July 27, 2013 at 09:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. gil

    Jerusalem is capital of Israel

    July 27, 2013 at 18:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. mim

    Been known for eons. But also brings out the best in humans. Not.

    July 28, 2013 at 08:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. aquaman

    it absolutely does. It causes a tidal bulge in my water bed and won't let me sleep...........

    July 28, 2013 at 09:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Name*Jp Nicolais

    Lunar cycle led me to technique described in my ebook, Simple Sleep Solutions (Amazon.com). Able to minimize monthly disruptions.

    July 28, 2013 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Roy Hill

    The rumor is it has to do with the magnetic pull of the moon on water. Water swells and people have a large percentage of moisture content.

    September 24, 2013 at 00:44 | Report abuse | Reply
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