Full Moon Insomnia: Does The Moon Affect Your Sleep?

full moonCan you remember how well you slept the last time there was a full moon?

Do you, or someone you know, feel that when the moon shines brightest, things just don’t seem right?

If so, you’re not alone. Despite a lack of scientific evidence, millions of people believe that the moon holds an uncanny power over them.

In this article, I’ll be looking at why people feel the moon has such an influence over them, as well as studies that have been done into this worldwide belief.

Then you can make your own decision as to whether or not you think you’ll sleep differently when the next full moon comes around.

Not just superstitious people

Even casual exposure to the emergency services, law enforcement, teaching or social care will involve contact with firm believers in the adverse effects of a full moon.

From hospitals to police stations, the full moon will be blamed for everything from poor sleep patterns to an increase in accident numbers to sudden psychotic episodes.

Serious, professional, highly trained individuals are certain the moon affects us. In 2011, the World Journal of Surgery stated that more than 40% of medical staff believed lunar phases impacted on human behavior. However, a thorough statistical analysis didn’t back this up.

The constantly changing moon is the largest and most obvious thing in our night sky and the full moon begs to be noticed.

So perhaps it’s unsurprising that it’s been linked in the media to a rise in burglaries, changes in voting patterns, volatile stock market prices, more road accidents, less successful surgeries and the numbers of children born.

There’s no scientific proof to back up any of these claims, yet still people believe.

The Transylvania effect

The Transylvania Effect is a term first coined in academic literature in the 1990s. It describes the belief that the lunar cycle can produce both psychologically and physiologically disturbances in people and populations.

The belief that the moon exerts a direct influence on the body and mind can be traced back to pre-Christian times. Pliny the Elder, Roman author, naturalist, and philosopher believed that because the full moon caused heavy dew it must also make the brain become “unnaturally moist”.

That was how, he claimed, the moon caused both epilepsy and lunacy. Hippocrates noted that “no physician should be entrusted with the treatment of disease who was ignorant of the science of astronomy”.

And the word lunatic, across various languages has its root in the moon – the old English word for lunatic was monseoc, which literally means moon-sick.

In the 21st century we perpetuate lunar myths in our entertainment and our media. From books to films, from memes to light-hearted end of the world news stories, we constantly repeat the tropes of the Moon’s effect on behavior.

With the constant media repetition of an association between the full moon and human behaviour it is not surprising that such beliefs are widespread in the general public (Kelly et al. 1996)

Ancient Calendars

earliest lunar calenderThe very earliest calendars were based on the cycles of the moon, with the sighting of the new moon indicating a new phase in the year.

Marks on the walls of the prehistoric painted caves at Lascaux in France are believed by Dr Michael Rappenglueck, of the University of Munich, to be the earliest known calendar.

The series of dots and squares painted among the 15,000 year old drawings of bulls, horses and antelopes represent the 29 day lunar cycle.

Most pre-modern calendars were lunisolar, combining the solar year with the lunar year. The Julian calendar abandoned this in favor of a purely solar reckoning. However, the Islamic calendar opted for a purely lunar one.

It should be noted that lunar calendars have always been particularly popular among agricultural societies; this may well be the foundation for our belief that we sleep less during the full moon.

All full moons rise around the time of sunset. But the so called “harvest moon” and “hunter’s moon”, which occur during the agriculturally busy late summer and autumn in the northern hemisphere behave in a notable way.

They move across the sky in a way that means there’s no long period of darkness between sunset and moon rise for several days around the full moon.

So our belief in restless sleep on full moon nights may stem from a long held belief that we should be out working under the full moon.

Anecdotal versus strictly scientific

Anecdotal evidence for a lunar effect isn’t hard to find; it’s not uncommon to find people who swear they sleep poorly over the nights of the full moon. And moon madness stories from the front line of those who see humanity at its worst are surprisingly common.

We may publicly dismiss them, but privately we consider them because one captivating anecdote will always stick in the mind better than a host of scientific studies.

In nature, we can prove lunar rhythms – for example, the triggering of the spawning of the coral on the Great Barrier Reef around the full moon in December. But with regard to humans, to date, no scientific study that indicates a lunar influence on behavior has stood up under scrutiny.

The closest a study came to actual evidence was a July 2013 project carried out at the University of Basel in Switzerland. The study suggested a correlation between the full moon and human sleep quality.

Under highly controlled conditions, in a circadian laboratory, a small sample of 33 healthy adults were recorded as having four minutes less REM sleep over the nights of the full moon.

Unfortunately, the results of the experiment have never been replicated, and the statistically small size of the sample casts doubt on the validity of the results.

Founded on misconceptions

red full moonThe belief that the moon can influence the human body is founded on misconceptions then, it seems.

Some suggest that because the moon has a profound effect on the tides then it must also have an effect on humans who are mainly water.

In actual fact, the moon exerts a very weak tidal force on uncontained water. Astronomer George O. Abell claims that a mosquito would exert more gravitational pull on your arm than the moon would on your body.

Yet despite the lack of scientific proof weary staff will often arrive at work blaming the moon for their poor sleep and their children’s difficult behavior.

What research does demonstrate, however, is that many people fall prey to a phenomenon that University of Wisconsin–Madison psychologists Loren and Jean Chapman termed “illusory correlation”.

That is, the perception of an association that doesn’t in fact exist. For example, many people who have joint pain insist that their pain increases during rainy weather, although research shows this to be untrue.

Conclusion

There’s no established scientific link between the full moon and sleep patterns or aberrant behaviors of any kind.

Maybe there was once, when the world was darker and the bright moonlight made us restless or drove us to work late into the night. But it’s something we left behind when we lit our streets and set about controlling our environment.

Or it could be that a firm belief in the influence of the moon is a psychological hangover from the days when something as magnificent and otherworldly as the full moon in the sky just had to mean something!

On November 14, 2016, the moon was closer to Earth than it had been since January 26, 1948. It was both a full moon and a supermoon and the next time it will be that close to the earth is November 25, 2034.

Therefore, the full moon of last November was the closest and largest supermoon in 86 years. The term supermoon is relatively new, coined by an astrologer in the 1970s. The media picked up on it in 2011 because it’s a lot more catchy than the term perigean full moon that the astronomers used.

There were a lot of rising headlines written about that supermoon, helpful articles on what to expect, whether to be worried and how to explain poor sleep.

And so the myth lived on.

Your thoughts

Do you feel that the moon influences how well you sleep? Does the full moon appear to affect your or someone you know’s behavior? Let me know in the comments below!

26 CommentsLeave a comment

  • 2AM and I’m awake. I feel tired but wired, like too much caffeine ( which I don’t drink). I’ve had trouble sleeping under a full and mostly full moon for years.

  • I’m just recuperating from a full moon hangover! I couldn’t fall sleep until about 3am between July 9 and July 10 and my daughter couldn’t sleep the night before that (meaning I also didn’t). I was physically tired but as others have stated “wired”. I wonder if some full moons are felt stronger than others. Where I live people take the moon cycles seriously, even choosing when to cut their hair based on whether it’s waxing or waning! Somehow these ancient, scientifically-unfounded beliefs are reassuring and comfortingly human.

  • yesterday and today , it’s full moon , and i’m not able to sleep , two days in a row without sleeping a minute , it was weird because i didn’t know why until i read this article and i believe it’s true

  • I do believe a full moon exerts some sort of force over me. Every single time there is a full moon, my sleep is far from sound…the rest of the time I sleep perfectly. Also, I have always been drawn to the moon, inexplicably. There may be no solid scientific evidence to support a full moon and human reaction to it, but all I know is, I certainly am affected…it can’t be a coincidence every time!

  • Me, my almost 3 year old, and 6 month old are currently still up! It’s 12:05 AM! Full moon is blaring through my living room window. The last 2 days have been late nights as well but tonight is bye far the worst. And none of us are going to bed any time soon, everyone is wide awake. I also am a believer in the full moon effect. We are more intunned with the world then we realize.

  • I can never sleep well when there is a full moon. I don’t even need to look from the window – I feel nervous, cant keep my eyes shut and in my head i feel pressure. I think that this must have some scientifical background. Moon affects oceans and people are made of 75%> water, so this might be a good start for a research.

  • I have never slept through the night or woke up rested on nights leading up to and just after a full moon. Also why i just googled it. And my kids….neither one sleeps well either….both just woke up..1207am!

  • I never sleep well when it’s a full moon! My guess is the brightness, as my bedroom is otherwise very dark. Currently on vacation at the beach, and Mr. Moon is full and bright over the ocean, looking beautiful! But in combination with not being in my own bed, and him in the night sky, I likely won’t sleep!

  • I struggle to get to sleep in the run up to the full moon and just after. The best way I can describe it is that I feel wired. I’m tired, but not as tired as I should be with the amount of sleep that I get.

  • I always know when the full moon is near because my sleep patterns change in a big way. I’m restless and typically wide awake until the wee hours of the morning. It takes me a couple of days to recuperate from my moon-hangover, but the quality of my sleep following a full moon phase is top-notch. Always have been mesmerized by the beauty and power of the big light in the night sky, so suffering through it for a few days a month is an fair trade-off for me.

  • I struggle with insomnia but when I looked out and saw bright full moon I had to Google if anyone else has been affected by the moon.I find the moon an amazing planet that God created. Night night to all insomniacs x I hate being tired from lack of sleep. G.A.D. 😪😫😔 God Bless to you ALL ❤

    • I too am having a hard time sleeping and so did my husband a half world away… I don’t think it’s coincidence! As a healthcare professional, I have always believed in the power of a full moon.

  • It’s just after 3 am haven’t slept . Googled full moon and sure enough 9 June. This isn’t the first time for me usually the day before affects me. I am a firm believer in this

  • Cannot sleep a wink spent 5 hours lying in bed before calling it quits and decided to go for a walk at 1.30 am only to find out that the full moon has struck me yet once again… Ireland 8 June 2017

  • When I was restless this morning, I wasn’t surprised when I looked out my window to see the full moon just past it’s apex in the East of its traverse across the skies with the shining Venus giving it the eye as if to say “Who’s the brightest in the sky?”

  • I have occasional bouts of insomnia, which are always much worse at the time of the full moon. It is about 3:00 am and I have been up since about 1:00 am, reading, playing games on my tablet, and feeling jumpy. I didn’t even realize it was the full moon until I looked out the window. Since it happens for several days every month, I firmly believe there is a connection for me.

    • Hi Kathy
      Thanks for your comment. It’s really interesting to hear your story. I guess if it only, and always, happens when there’s a full moon, there must be something going on there!
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Every night that i can’t sleep, tomorrow i realise, it was a full moon! Now, im getting used to it. I don’t even check calendars to see when the next full moon is, cuz i already now from my sleep. Glad to see im not alone.

    • Hi Lassnata
      Thanks for your comment. It was very interesting to read this, as it suggests that even without knowing it’s the full moon, it affects your sleep!
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Can’t sleep at all tonight, it’s a full moon in central nebraska and can’t sleep, not the first time for me either, just thought I’d research it a bit…. I’m not alone

  • I am a doctor. I myself have been insomniac on certain nights. Some years later i noticed that it was always the nights of waxing moon. i didnt pay much attention. later i read these things on internet that there are some other persons who have reported the same. The thing is we are affected by it, we feel it.

    • Hi there
      Perhaps you’ll find some useful tips on this website to help you. And if not, hopefully reading enough articles at night will send you to sleep…
      Regards
      Ethan

      • Full Moon can induce emotionally imbalanced people to act irrationally. One male college student climbed up to the dormitory of the college women students.Some of them were sleeping in the open hall. This student walked by without hurting any one but when the security was alerted he mercilessly hit this person when some of us interceded. He looked dazed and did not have an answer for his behaviour. some people get moony.

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