This is no Twilight tale, but the moon in its full form actually has an effect on your sleep. Sure, there are no vampires or werewolves involved, but you might find it difficult to slumber, and science explains why.
Affecting the ocean tides and the earth's gravity, the full moon, surprisingly, has a pull on your drowsy eyes. At night, when the dark sky is much brighter – thanks to that round gold coin that shines among the stars – along comes insomnia. Scientists relates this sleeping phenomenon in various research. One of them is a 2013 study that followed the lifestyle of 33 adults over a stretch of three days. In this study, they found out that during full moon nights, these subjects took longer time to fall asleep and had less sleeping hours among the other nights. This was soon known as the Cajochen study, named after Christian Cajochen, who spearheaded the research.
Participants slept in a completely darkened room – one without windows – so that the light from the moon will not be a factor. Each patient is monitored, allowing researchers to take note of their brain patterns, hormone levels and hours sleep. Here, researchers discovered that during full moon, electronencephalogram delta, an indicator of deep sleep, decreased by 30% during non-REM stages. This meant 20 minutes less than normal sleep, thanks to diminished melatonin levels and decrease in sleep quality. This result was the first evidence that the moon has an effect on the body while sleeping.
Two years earlier, the World Journal of Surgery has stated a similar fact. According to its research, 40% of medical staff somehow believed that lunar phases had an impact on lunar behaviour. Unfortunately, there weren't any numbers to back it up. There was, however, the Transylvania Effect, a belief that lunar cycle can also affect the mind and body of people and animals.
It was superstition that has long intrigued the scientists whether there is a real correlation between celestial bodies and human beings. In 2015, a study similar to Cajochen was done. Sjödin, a member of University of Copenhagen's Department of Nutrition, led a study that examined 785 Danish children between 8-11 years during various lunar periodicity. During the full moon period, the children were less active, slept longer, and had higher insulin resistance compared to days around half moon and full moon.
As it appears, the effect of full moon on adults and children's sleep and metabolism is different. But, in 2014, another study seconded Cajochen's findings. Members of the Institute of Behavioural Sciences in Semmelweis University, Budapest conducted a cross-section analysis between 319 students who have been referred for sleep study. These were individuals with sleep apnea and hyopopnea. In a one-night polysomography, the researchers discovered that the greater demography of the patients had less quality, short-period sleep during full moon.
Why does this happen? The basic explanation dates back before the invention of light, where humans relied on the moon to provide illumination at night. When the moon shines at its brightest, the human's melatonin levels drop low, thanks to its exposure at the light. But, other than that, scientists believed that lunar cycles affect our overall circadian rhythm. One of them, Molecular neurobiologist Malcolm Von Schantz, disclosed that it is possible that the moon's gravitational pull affects our physiology. Or that we innately have a clock that keeps track of the moon phases.
These studies are not yet conclusive, and the real answer to the intriguing question is still out there, but the thread of the fact is this: the human body is quietly attuned to the moon’s cycles. Nature had its own secrets, but scientists are on their way unravelling the key to harmonizing with it and finding ways to better sleep.