Though there is no scientific evidence to support the popular belief that the full moon causes mental disorders and bizarre human behavior, a new study has found that lunar influence does in fact affect sleep.

The study suggests that the human sleep patterns are cued to the lunar cycles and a moon in its full glory can disturb a good night’s sleep.

Silvia Frey, a neurobiologist at the University of Basel in Switzerland stated,”A lot of people complain that they have bad sleep around a full moon. These are anecdotes, but you hear it from a lot of different people.

“So, we were sitting there on a full moon night and just discussing this, and we thought maybe we can go back in our data and align it with the date of the full moon. It was just pure curiosity.”

Link between sleep and full moon assessed
In order to establish a link between sound slumber and the moon, the researchers analyzed data of a 2000 to 2003 study on circadian rhythms and the sleep-wake cycle.

That study involved 33 healthy volunteers aged between 20 and 74 who slept for three and a half days in tightly controlled environment of a sleep lab with no windows. The subjects couldn’t view clocks or the moonlight.

For the purpose of the trial, their temperature and humidity were held constant. In addition, experts took the volunteers EEG readings and blood samples to monitor hormones and brain activity to determine their sleep patterns and duration of shut eye.

Revelations of the study
The analysis revealed brain activity related to deep sleep fell by 30 percent during the full moon phase. It was noted that subjects took five minutes longer than normal to fall asleep, and got about 20 minutes less sleep during those nights.

They also made less melatonin, the “body clock” hormone that regulates sleep cycles and makes people drowsy after dark. Moreover, the volunteers conceded that quality of sleep was poorer when the moon was full.

Queen’s University sleep researcher Helen Driver stated, “It might only be 20 minutes, but it’s 20 out of an eight-hour opportunity, and many people don’t get that full eight. Five minutes is not a big deal, 20 minutes is not a big deal, but it would be a big deal to insomniacs.

“One-third less deep sleep for normal people is fine, but for people with insomnia could have an added concern… they already have a tendency to worry about bad sleep cycles and now they’re worrying about another factor.”

The findings are published in the journal Current Biology.

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