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Does the Full Moon Affect Sleep?

Do you find yourself tossing and turning during the full moon? You’re not alone.

 

A Swiss sleep study reports a link between our sleep patterns and the 29.5-day moon cycle.
 

After re-analyzing data from a previous study, researchers found a surprising link. Sleep disruption peaks in the nights leading up to and following a full moon.[1]
 

Unsplash Full Moon image
Does the full moon keep you awake at night?

 

The Original Sleep Study

 

The original intention of the study was to learn more about sleep patterns in general. Researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland followed 33 volunteers over the course of three years.
 

They took some measures to ensure external influences wouldn’t affect the results:
 

  • Participants followed a strict sleep-wake schedule a week before their session.
  • They weren’t permitted any caffeine or alcohol for a week before their session.
  • Their rooms had no exposure to external influences, ie. sunset, the moon.

 

Throughout the course of the study they collected a range of data, including:
 

  1. the time it takes to fall asleep
  2. total sleep time
  3. melatonin levels, and
  4. reports of how rested volunteers felt the next day.

 

The data collected contributed to the growing field of sleep research at the time. It wasn’t until recently that they considered another possible influence.[2]
 

Sleep Lab at University of Basel Switzerland
The University of Basel is an active participant in global sleep research.

 

A Lunar Awakening

 

10 years after the study the Swiss researchers were out at a bar – coincidentally on the night of a full moon. They were talking about the study when it occurred to them that they’d never formally considered how the moon cycle could impact sleep.
 

This inspired them to re-analyze the data.[3]
 

In doing so, they found that sleep patterns were prone to significant changes that corresponded with the 29.5-day moon cycle. Sleep disruption peaked closest to the full moon.
 

Here are some of their findings for the nights leading up to and following a full moon:
 

  • On average, volunteers took five minutes longer to fall asleep
  • They slept for roughly 20 minutes less
  • Melatonin levels were lower the next day
  • Volunteers reported lower energy levels the next day[4]

 

Full Moon and Wakefulness
The full moon wakefulness connection is another sleep mystery researchers are trying to solve.

 

Understanding the Full Moon Connection

 

The evidence points to a biological connection between humans and the lunar cycle, but we still don’t fully understand why.
 

What we know is that forces of gravity are not to blame. While the moon’s gravitational force has an effect on ocean tides, the impact on the body is negligible.
 

Researchers suggest that throughout evolution, our circadian rhythm has adapted to align with the 29.5-day lunar cycle. This doesn’t fully explain why, but does it need to?
 

There are so many mysteries to sleep that we’re slowly but surely starting to uncover. We may not know everything, but one thing we do know is that getting better sleep can have major mind and body benefits. Getting better sleep makes your waking hours better.
 

When the full moon hits, maybe it’s the universe trying to tell us to get some sleep.


[1] Landau, Elizabeth. “Full Moon May Disrupt Sleep, Study Says.” CNN. (accessed February 18th, 2018).
[2] Kluger, Jeffrey. “How the Moon Messes With Your Sleep.” TIME (accessed February 16th, 2018).
[3] C.P. Williams, Sarah. “Yes, You Can Blame the Moon for a Bad Night’s Sleep.” Science. (accessed February 18th, 2018).
[4] Landau, Elizabeth. “Full Moon May Disrupt Sleep, Study Says.” CNN. (accessed February 18th, 2018).

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