Having Trouble Sleeping? It could be the Moon

moon illustration

Does the Full Moon Really Have an Impact on the Human Body?

Without fail, when the moon is full, one can look on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media site – or message board – and find mom after mom, dad after dad, complaining that their children are having trouble sleeping. Either they are waking up with nightmares or are so wired that they are wide awake and unable to sleep. They aren’t alone. Many adults have trouble too. Much research has been done, many questions asked, but there aren’t many answers out there.

What is a Full Moon?

Wikipedia defines a full moon as a lunar phase that occurs when the moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun. More precisely, the site describes a full moon as “when the geocentric apparent (ecliptic) longitudes of the Sun and Moon differ by 180 degrees; the Moon is then in opposition with the Sun.”

Full moons are traditionally associated with temporal insomnia, insanity (hence the terms lunacy and lunatic) and various “magical phenomena.”

Sleep Patterns and the Moon

In a 2008 article for the Arizona Republic, Clay Thompson refers to a study a few years ago in which researchers from the Austrian Society for Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research studied the sleep patterns of 391 people from various European countries. They found eight percent of those surveyed had difficulty sleeping. On the other hand, 25 percent said they sleep unusually well when the moon is full. Why a full moon keeps some people awake apparently is a mystery.

The Moon’s Effect on Water and Gravity

Nicole, an author on The Baby Sleep Site (TM), recently wrote on the moon’s effect on a baby’s sleep, finding through her informal research that in theory the moon could have an impact. The moon, after all, affects the ebb and flow of liquids, including the oceans’ tides and the human body is made up of more than two-thirds water.

Scientists, however, know that the gravitational tug of a full moon on the human body is about as strong as a mosquito landing on your skin. Still, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence about people acting weird or being restless during a full moon.

In an article on the full moon and sleep, Healthcentral.com author Florence Cardinal notes that Shakespeare, in Midsummer Night’s Dream, referred to the moon as “governess of the floods.”

According to the Bible, there is “a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted.” Many calendars and almanacs carry moon phase planting guides and even fishing guides.

The Sleep-Wake Cycle

In the Journal of Affective Disorders in 1999, researchers suggested that before modern lighting, “the moon was a significant source of nocturnal illumination that affected [the] sleep–wake cycle, tending to cause sleep deprivation around the time of full moon.” They speculated that “this partial sleep deprivation would have been sufficient to induce mania/hypomania in susceptible bipolar patients and seizures in patients with seizure disorders.”

With all these many links to the moon, it’s not surprising, then, that when the moon is full, some suffer from insomnia, others suffer from strange dreams and nightmares and some sleepwalk.

The jury is out on the moon’s impact on sleep, though, as some babies and adults, for some reason, sleep better when the moon is full, even if it’s shining onto a crib or bed through an open blind.

Moon Myths

Robert Roy Britt, editorial director of Space.com, for his part notes that moon myths are just that because tides occur not just at full moon but also at new moon, when the moon is between Earth and the sun (and we cannot see the moon) and the planet feels the combined gravitational effect of these two objects.

So if you or your child find yourselves jumping off the walls – or bouncing on beds – during a full moon, you may not be alone. Scientists can’t explain it but rest assured (no pun intended) that you’re not alone.