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The Lunar Effect: How the Moon Affects Your Sleep

By Thomas Harrison   |   Posted in Sleep Research   |   Tuesday 5th May 2015

The Lunar Effect: How the Moon Affects Your Sleep

Gazing at the moon on a dark night can give an indescribable sense of wonder, calming all your senses and can put perspective on everything. This feeling of awe could fall into what is described as the ‘lunar effect’, which is the belief that the lunar cycle can influence the behaviour of animals and humans. Whilst a lunar effect may first appear to be a myth from ancient times, there is at least some scientific evidence to back up the theory – especially on the way you sleep. 

The moon and sleep The lunar effect

Theoretically, the moon phase does affect your sleep quality pretty much every single night, although in such a miniscule way that it won’t always be noticed, if at all. This is thanks to the hormone melatonin, which is responsible for feelings of tiredness, and its production is mainly controlled by how much light the eyes are exposed to. The brighter the moon, the less melatonin you’ll produce (ever so slightly), and research in 2013 at The University of Basel goes as far as to suggest that a full moon can even lead to a bad night’s sleep. The research found that the average time taken to fall asleep (more formally known as sleep onset latency) increased by five minutes during a full moon, and also found that brain activity relating to deep sleep dropped by 30% during a full moon, with the deep stages of sleep being the most important to our memory consolidation and repairing of muscles. What made these findings more surprising is that the participants had all other environmental and time-telling cues taken away from them in the controlled lab, so there were no windows to let moonlight in – yet their disturbed sleep still correlated with the lunar cycle, perplexing the medical researchers.

We all have a circadian rhythm, which is an ongoing cycle lasting roughly 24 hours. This circadian rhythm (or body clock) dictates the physiological processes of all living beings and is dependent on external cues, with the main cue being sunlight. According to Dr Christian Cajochen, who was one of the experts in the University of Basel experiment; “Lunar rhythms are not as evident as circadian rhythms and are thus not easy to document - but they exist…The impacts of the moon are often masked by influences in our environment like artificial light so most people may not sense them, but exactly how, or if, they are connected with circadian rhythms remains an area to be explored.”

Human behaviour

As touched upon, some early-day (and even some present-day) humans believed that the moon possessed a magical force, influencing human behaviour, fertility, and the full moon was sometimes blamed for acts of aggression and violence. This idea is where words like lunatic and lunacy derive from, with Luna being the roman goddess of the moon. Nowadays, we live in a society where horoscopes are still a staple part of newspapers and magazines, so there is clearly still an appetite for believing that the patterns in the sky can somehow shape our lives.

Studies finding a link between the phase of the moon and human behaviour are inconclusive, and accounts are often somewhat anecdotal, but there are a few noteworthy studies that have unearthed some interesting findings. For example, some research suggests that people are more likely to commit a crime during a full moon, and in 2007, Sussex Police Force even planned to deploy more officers during a full moon to compensate for the spikes in crime - according to a Sussex Police spokeswoman; “Research carried out by us has shown a correlation between violent incidents and full moons.” In 2008, New Zealand’s Justice Minister Annette King blamed a wave of stabbings in the country on the lunar cycle, so if senior crime officials considered the lunar cycle to be a factor in crime, then surely we should be taking the idea more seriously?

The tidal effect

You probably already know that the moon influences the tides, and it’s all to do with the gravitational pull that the moon exerts on our oceans. Imagine the moon being a gigantic magnet in the sky, water gets attracted to the moon thanks to its gravitational pull, and whilst this force is too miniscule to affect water in a bathtub, the force is much more visible in the vastness of an ocean, causing the water to bulge ever so slightly outwards towards the moon. At the same time, the water on the exact opposite side of the planet also bulges outwards, and that’s why we have two tides in a day.

Theoretically, the moon exerts a gravitational pull on the water in your body, leading some people to believe that when the moon is directly overhead, it will somehow interfere with the normal functioning of the body. If the moon can move millions of gallons of water when overhead, then why shouldn’t it also affect us if we’re over 70% water? The force is just too weak – a mosquito landing on an outstretched arm exerts more of a gravitational pull on your body than the moon does, and as mentioned, the moon only affects the tides because there’s so much water on the planet, and that miniscule gravitational pull is multiplied.

The moon illusion

Sometimes the moon looks huge, and other times it seems so small, but the reality is that every time you look up at the moon, it’s always the exact same size in the sky (although obviously less of it will be visible depending on the lunar phase). This is known as the moon illusion, and it’s an optical illusion which results in the moon looking larger when it nears the horizon than when it’s high in the sky (thanks to perspective). If you’d like to see more about the moon illusion, it’s neatly explained in this video from AsapSCIENCE.

In animals Animals and lunar cycle

For many nocturnal animals, the moon is probably the brightest object they’ll see in any given day, meaning it’s as important to them as the sun is to us – an interesting thought. One study found that during a full moon, cat and dog injuries significantly increased – the study found a 23% rise in cat admissions and 28% rise in dog admissions to emergency vet clinics.

The behaviour of the eagle owl is also affected during the full moon, and males will hoot more loudly and display a white patch of feathers which otherwise aren’t visible.

Whether or not you believe the idea that the brightness of a reflective rock orbiting the planet could somehow influence your behaviour, it can’t be denied that the moon has had a big influence on life on earth, and some theories suggest that without the moon there would be no life on earth. Don’t take the moon for granted!



Weird Sleep Experiments – Strange Journeys into the World of Sleep

Friday 1st May 2015

Weird Sleep Experiments – Strange Journeys into the World of Sleep

Sleep remains one of the most mysterious elements of life, with scientists continuing to debate the most fundamental questions relating to the issue. It’s hard to believe that there isn’t actually a scientific consensus on why we sleep, let alone the reasons behind many of the more complex areas of the subject.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that over the years there have been some downright bizarre experiments into sleep.

Here are some of the weirdest, featuring a chanting man in a summer camp dormitory, a Clockwork Orange-style eye-opener, the ‘Pillownaut’ and a remarkable example of the power of the mind.

Are you ready to go down the weird sleep rabbit-hole?  

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: Weird Sleep Experiments – Strange Journeys into the World of Sleep

20 #Sleephacks (You Can Try Tonight)

Tuesday 28th April 2015

20 #Sleephacks (You Can Try Tonight)

Struggling to sleep? Well, a good night’s sleep might be closer than you think – check out these easy #sleephacks that you can try tonight.

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: 20 #Sleephacks (You Can Try Tonight)

A Recipe for Sleep: Food & Drink to Naturally Induce Sleep

Monday 27th April 2015

A Recipe for Sleep: Food & Drink to Naturally Induce Sleep

Falling asleep isn’t an exact science – there are no right and wrong ways to fall asleep as long as your system works well for you – but are there any foods and drinks you could be implementing into your night time wind-down routine? 

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: A Recipe for Sleep: Food & Drink to Naturally Induce Sleep

Can You Fall Asleep in under a Minute?

Monday 20th April 2015

Can You Fall Asleep in under a Minute?

How long does it take for you to drift off? For some, it takes only a matter of minutes, but for others it can often be a real struggle. Studies give a varying degree of results as to what the average time to fall asleep is, with some claiming it to be a mere seven minutes, and others claiming it to be 20+ minutes. Being able to fall asleep in a matter of seconds would certainly make life a lot easier, but is it possible?

The time taken to fall asleep has a technical term – sleep-onset latency

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: Can You Fall Asleep in under a Minute?

Sleep in the News - Week beginning April 13th 2015

Friday 17th April 2015

Sleep in the News - Week beginning April 13th 2015

Week beginning April 13th
Let's see where sleep has made the news this week.

 

Category: Industry News

Read full: Sleep in the News - Week beginning April 13th 2015

Child sleep frustrations driving parents to tears… and to drive! Survey reveals the extent of bedtime battles

Thursday 16th April 2015

Child sleep frustrations driving parents to tears… and to drive! Survey reveals the extent of bedtime battles

Our latest UK sleep survey took on the thorny topic of child sleep routines, and revealed that parents often go to extraordinary lengths to get their little ones to sleep, that bedtime battles are an alarmingly regular event, and that the sleep deprivation-fuelled stress of the situation can bring everyone to tears – including the adults!

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: Child sleep frustrations driving parents to tears… and to drive! Survey reveals the extent of bedtime battles

Why It's Totally Natural for Teenagers to Be Sleepyheads – Parents Take Note!

Monday 13th April 2015

Why It's Totally Natural for Teenagers to Be Sleepyheads – Parents Take Note!

Teens and students are often victims of the spending-all-day-in-bed stereotype, and parents don’t need reminding how long a teenager can sleep for - but the surprising reality is that they do need more sleep than adults – it’s in their DNA, and it’s perfectly natural. 

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: Why It's Totally Natural for Teenagers to Be Sleepyheads – Parents Take Note!

Sleep in the News - Week beginning April 6th 2015

Friday 10th April 2015

Sleep in the News - Week beginning April 6th 2015

Week beginning April 6th 2015

Let's take a look at where sleep is appearing in the news this week.

 

Category: Industry News

Read full: Sleep in the News - Week beginning April 6th 2015

How Moving House can Devastate your Sleep – Stress tops the poll of moving-related sleep-woes

Thursday 9th April 2015

How Moving House can Devastate your Sleep – Stress tops the poll of moving-related sleep-woes

Our latest survey into the sleep habits of the nation looked at how the process of moving house can impact upon sleep quality, revealing that the upheaval and stress of the situation can lead to an alarming loss of sleep in the short term. Of the 2,531 participants in our poll, some 74% said that their sleep patterns had been negatively affected by moving, making it an overwhelmingly common issue. Of those who suffered sleep loss, the average nightly disruption was a massive 3 hours and 59 minutes, lasting for 11 days – totalling 44.8 hours of lost sleep - more than enough to constitute chronic sleep deprivation. Considering the effects of such severe sleep deprivation perhaps it’s not surprising that 49% of respondents said that they never wanted to move house again!

When it came to specific reasons behind the sleep loss after moving house, the top five responses were;

  1. Stress – 49%
  2. Unfamiliar surroundings – 45%
  3. Noise pollution in new area – 36%
  4. Adjusting to living with partner / housemates – 28%
  5. Adapting to new bed / mattress – 15%

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: How Moving House can Devastate your Sleep – Stress tops the poll of moving-related sleep-woes

Sleeping with Hay Fever: Tips to Sleep Easier During Allergy Season

Thursday 9th April 2015

Sleeping with Hay Fever: Tips to Sleep Easier During Allergy Season

Spring is in the air and the weather is starting to get warmer – hallelujah! But the enthusiasm isn’t shared by everyone – some look at the spring and summer months with a certain sense of dread. Hay fever affects roughly one in four people in the UK, and is an allergy with no real cure. One area that is significantly affected by hay fever is sleep, and the endless sneezing and nose blowing brings with it many sleepless nights. 

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: Sleeping with Hay Fever: Tips to Sleep Easier During Allergy Season

Can You Learn in Your Sleep?

Tuesday 31st March 2015

Can You Learn in Your Sleep?

You’ll spend one third of your entire life sleeping. That’s an incredible amount of time to be asleep, and although that time is absolutely vital to your health and well-being, just imagine how useful being able to learn new things would be whilst you lay there oblivious to the world - imagine waking up and being able to speak a completely new language, or being able to recite a Shakespeare play from memory. The ability to broaden our knowledge during sleep has appealed to academics for a very long time, but it does seem like an implausible concept at first sight. Just how aware is our brain as we sleep, and would it be at all possible to learn new things subconsciously through the night?

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: Can You Learn in Your Sleep?

The Coffee Conundrum: Would We Be Better off without Caffeine?

Wednesday 25th March 2015

The Coffee Conundrum: Would We Be Better off without Caffeine?

It’s hard to know what to believe online when it comes to the health implications of what we consume. One week red meat is good for you, the next, don’t even go near it. The same can be said about coffee, and the debate is quite strongly argued: some are very protective of their coffee, seeing it as the precious elixir that keeps their lives together, whereas to others, it’s a disgusting and over-relied upon concoction that symbolises the needlessly fast-paced high-stressed lifestyles that so many people now live. But what are the facts? Would it be healthier if we stopped drinking coffee and/or caffeine altogether?

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: The Coffee Conundrum: Would We Be Better off without Caffeine?

Sleep in the News - Week beginning March 16th 2015

Friday 20th March 2015

Sleep in the News - Week beginning March 16th 2015

Week beginning March 16th 2015

Let’s take a look at where sleep has been appearing in the news around the world this week;

Category: Industry News

Read full: Sleep in the News - Week beginning March 16th 2015

5 Terrifying Sleep Disorders You Won't Believe Exist

Thursday 19th March 2015

5 Terrifying Sleep Disorders You Won't Believe Exist

Good sleep can be wonderful – there aren’t too many feelings better than when your head hits the pillow, with the peace of mind that for the next eight or so hours, nothing can get in the way of your well-deserved shut eye. But what’s surprising is that many aspects of sleep still baffle the medical world, and the world of sleep is such a complicated phenomenon that when things go wrong, they can go very wrong and sometimes in crazy ways. For some, sleep can bring with it some terrifying experiences - let’s take a look at some of the rarest and most unbelievable sleep disorders…

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: 5 Terrifying Sleep Disorders You Won't Believe Exist

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