Are You Affected by the Full Moon?

Have you ever felt differently when a full moon is shining brightly at night? Perhaps your sleep was disturbed or your mood changed? Or do you notice no changes whatsoever?

Posted: 9:10AM on Sep 9, 2019 | By Pynora


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The Effects of a Full Moon on Humans: A Closer Look

Posted: 7:23PM on Sep 27, 2019 | By Pynora

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For thousands of years, full moons have been on the hook as a harbinger of odd behavior. A full moon’s effects are said to cause everything from mania to epileptic seizures to the occasional unfriendly werewolf, documented in thousands of circumstances by medical and mental health professionals over the ages.

Although he wasn’t the genesis of such finger-pointing, the father of modern medicine himself may have propagated these beliefs. In the fifth century BC, Hippocrates wrote: “one who is seized with terror, fright and madness during the night is being visited by the goddess of the moon.”

What followed was a most interesting display of reactions to full moons. If one committed murder in England in the 1700s, a lesser sentence might have been obtained by claiming lunacy. And before the Salem Witch Trials, a lycanthropy panic swept across Europe. In Estonia alone, 18 men and 13 women were accused of morphing into werewolves under full moons, which brought them to their executions. Even the words lunacy and lunatic take their roots from the Latin word for moon (and the moon goddess herself)—Luna.

In the last 50 years, there have been innumerable studies that claim to debunk a full moon’s effect on anything than a higher-than-average tide. But dispersed in the mix, there are more than a few that highlight peculiarities worth noting.

So who is right—is a full moon the cause of strange occurrences and behaviors or is moon hype pure folklore? Let’s find out what the experts have to say.

A Full Moon’s Effect on Sleep

A woman is sleeping face down on a bedPeople have long reported difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep during a full moon. And even if one happened to get a full night’s sleep during a full moon, many declare a more sluggish feeling that contrast average days. And the increased lethargy isn’t closed off to those with transparent bedroom shades—even the most effective of blackout curtains still enclose some restless sleepers during full moons.

Many that claim a full moon affects sleep felt a wave of triumph after a 2013 report in the journal Current Biology supported their assertions. Meant to first and foremost be a simple sleep study, Swiss researchers stuck 33 volunteers in a sleep lab and measured levels of melatonin, time spent in deep sleep, and how long it took participants to fall asleep. A second look at the data a decade later set a new study in motion.

During the three or four nights surrounding a full moon, EEG delta activity during deep sleep took a 30% drop, while melatonin levels plummeted. Participants slept 20 minutes fewer and felt less invigorated the following day than on other days. Additionally, they rated the quality of their sleep 15% less than standard days.

A Full Moon’s Effect on the Emotions

Could restlessness play a part in alleged lunar madness? One study, performed by the NCJRS in Dade County, Florida, in 1978, constructed a detailed timeline of aggravated assault, traffic fatalities, suicide, and psychiatric emergency room admissions. The study, which took into account cases over the span of five or more years, matched each case with respective lunar cycles during the date of the incident. Shockingly enough, as the abstract states, “homicide and aggravated assault cases clustered around full moons.” Furthermore, suicide rates in the county were said to spike during full moon phases along with fatal traffic incidents.

But interestingly, psychiatric emergency visits were scant during full and new moons—but grouped significantly during first-quarter moons.

Some recent studies decided to measure a full moon’s effects on schizophrenics. Evaluations determined that violent or aggressive incidents involving schizophrenics rose by 1.8% during a full moon—but a more recent study diffused the former, finding no correlation.

Another study suggested that effects of the full moon on emotions didn’t reach a point of madness and crime, rather, the gravitational influence of the moon relating to biological tides created an interaction with human behavior, affecting the nervous system and potentially making a person more irritable or sluggish—depending on the individual.

A Closer Look at The Data

In another study in 1985, a pair of psychologists, James Rotton and Ivan Kelly, sifted through 37 published and unpublished studies about the moon’s effects on humans with a fine-toothed comb. After a thorough review, they concluded that the lunar cycle was entirely unrelated psychotic events and crime.

When the pair did find peculiar links, they concluded it was associated with external factors like the time of the week (more crimes A blurry shadow of a person trying to reach the moon's reflection in waterare apt to be committed during holidays or weekends). And for every study that uncovered a string of oddities when the moon was full, there was another that gave no such weight.

Does Full Moon Affect Sleep or Behavior?

It’s true—the studies are all over the map. Recent ones have gained notoriety for the measured effects on a full moon and sleep, but for every study that has findings on a full moon’s relations to behavior, there’s another that tells the opposite.

But these findings don’t—and likely will continue not to—stop believers from taking precautionary measures. If you were to stop in to have a conversation with emergency room nurses and doctors, they’re apt to tell you that a full moon is responsible for full waiting rooms, strange accidents, and violent incidents. Many police officers will echo these sentiments, blaming a full moon for weird behavior and an uptick in arrests. Even just a little over a decade ago in 2007, the police force in Brighton hired additional officers during full moons.

While both sides of the table will continue to preach definitive answers, one thing is certain—unusual stories concerning full moons won’t cease to exist, and there’ll most certainly be new and gripping tales of a full moon and its odd effects on humans in the future.

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