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

Do you feel that when the moon shines brightest, things just don’t seem quite 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 moon has 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 even the numbers of children born.

There’s no scientific proof to back up any of these claims, yet many people still believe the moon is somehow involved.

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 in across various languages, the word lunatic 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 moonrise 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; some people 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.

Under highly controlled conditions, a small sample of 33 healthy adults was 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, it might also have an effect on humans since we are comprised mainly of 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.

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. Maybe there was in the past when the bright moonlight made us restless or allowed us to work later into the night.

But it’s something we left behind when we lit our houses and streets, and set about controlling our environment.

Or perhaps it’s a lingering legend from the days when something as 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.

It was the closest and largest supermoon in 86 years, and there were a lot of headlines written about it in the media: helpful articles on what to expect, whether you should 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.

182 thoughts on “Full Moon Insomnia: Does The Moon Affect Your Sleep?”

  1. Here I am unable to sleep at all, constantly tossing and turning. My body feels like it’s tired and wants to rest but I haven’t been able to attain a second of REM sleep or dream at all. I am 4 months and one week pregnant and perhaps it has more sensitive than ever and I cannot get not even a half hour of rest.

  2. well I am wide awake in south Australia with the full moon bright. 4:40 am have not slept, cannot sleep, maybe it could be my menopausal hot sweats or the moon or both I don’t know omg.

  3. I live in the Sierra mountains. I should’ve been sleeping well but I woke myself up multiple times with tossing and turning. Finally, around 4 am I got out of bed and saw how bright it was outside with the “super” moon illuminating all the snow. I put on my coat and walked outside to get a better glimpse of its position, and stood out there staring at it momentarily. It occurred to me that when the full moon rises earlier in the evening and passes across the sky above head, my sleep is not so disturbed. However, when it rises later and I don’t catch a glimpse of it before going to bed, it seems as though it will disturb my sleep to some extent in a range of ways. For example, it could be as subtle as a headlift and awareness of a bright moon outside then falling back asleep easily. Or, occasionally it will be the more agitating response of constantly tossing and turning as though I have childhood “growing pains” in my limbs until I must get out of bed and go outside to see exactly where the moon is in the sky.
    It’s now 5:30am, and I’m sure the moon has finally moved further along its path and away from me. My body doesn’t feel as agitated…I may even fall back asleep, finally

    1. So it’s March 19th 2019 @ 1:34 am when I found this site and started my reply with a tear in eye I know I’m not the only one out there. I’m 43 and from Southern Ontario Canada. I went to bed at 10:30 after a long day on the road traveling. But knowing what this evening was going to entail for me. Not by the Almanac but by accidentaly looking up in the sky when I stepped out of my car. Into the sky to see that translucent moon setting up its chess pieces ounce again for me. I know what the rest of the evening is going to entail. It begins with tossing and turning and the crazy abnormal thoughts and feels like a one-sided Punch & Judy show in my head. This is when I opened my laptop pored a Vodka and started my search and found this site. All my friends think I’m crazy when I mention the moon. I read the first post and here is my story about that bright person that don’t sleep until sunset.

      1. You are not crazy! Ha ha. I live in Winnipeg for the last 5 years, and yes, I feel strong lunar influence, agitation, insomnia. The funny thing is I KNOW it’s the moon, because during the day I can feel perfectly well, and as the night falls around the full moon, I feel agitated, snappy, and then unable to sleep for about 2-3 days, even when I wake up super early and am tired. Moon affects everything, it affects the plants, the sea, the animals– why wouldn’t it affect us? We are all synced with a monthly cycle. There are many things for which there is no scientific evidence, but that means nothing to me. We have intuition, people, that is tuned in directly with the cosmos, while the scientific instruments can only detect measurable things, and are hence extremely limited. It’s just like when people go to the doctor with all these symptoms, and the doc tells them nothing is wrong with them, because their tests read “normal”. Yet, human feel when we are in imbalance, and luckily some of us decide to do something about it despite all the scientific evidence against it:)

      2. Due to medications I take known to cause insomnia, I keep a record of their effect on my sleep as I’m also prescribed Ambien for nightly use. Without a doubt, my records show that 1 or 2 days before a full moon, I have difficulty falling asleep. Last night I basically couldn’t fall asleep until 7:30 am. You’re right, other people think we’re crazy, but I’m glad I found this site to know I’m not the only one. Except, I live in Ohio, not Canada.

  4. The moon, without a doubt, affects my sleep… Last night, for instance… I may have managed a couple of hours sleep. Tonight I will get even less sleep. It’s the same way every month for me.

    I have one friend who is a police officer and another friend who is an ER nurse. They BOTH have confirmed that the moon cycles affect human behavior. More crazy behavior during a full moon and more people in the ER with injuries due to fighting, stabbing and GSWs.

  5. It sure keeps me from sleep, has for years. Sometimes I’m short tempered and other times I feel more like I’m missing something from the past.

  6. I have always been affected by the full moon. I usually don’t even know till I toss and turn for hours. It never fails. Since a child I was amazed to see the full moon. I’m 59 now and never changed. The thing is I don’t know it’s a full moon till I can’t fall asleep then boom there it is. My heap pounds, it’s beautiful, I feel drawn to it. It kinda made me feel weirdly comforted to know I’m not alone.

    1. I agree with you. If I have a restless night, I always look to see if it is around the full moon and most of the time it is. I don’t get much sleep and if I do it is extremely light sleep. Tonight is a prime example!

  7. Georgina Livingstone

    This has only been with me the last four years that I’m really aware of. But I’m not a great sleeper and get up to urinate about five times and. never get a great nights sleep.

  8. I have sleep issues the day before the full moon and the day after the full moon. So hopefully tonight I will finally get a full nights rest. Three nights of insomnia and I’m about ready to drop. Every cycle this happens and I’ve had a hysterectomy years ago so this no longer my own cycles tied to the moon.

  9. I am awake and theres a full moon tonight, I usually sleep well. I’ve used to work in a nightclub and on a full moon there would be chaos compared to other nights. More fights and crazy behavior!

  10. Hello
    I sleep well under full moon actually even better. But I have noticed that when moon is 21-22 days old and does not matter what moon sign I find myself awake or restless all night long.
    I have been keeping track on that for 2 years already.
    I sleep only 4-6 hours every night and falling asleep takes usually max 3-5 minutes. No interruptions before alarm wakes. So I am tired no question about that. Have anybody experienced this or can explain better?

  11. I have a sleep monitoring app that pays attention to my breathing and how my body moves in bed. I’ve been tracking my sleep patterns every night for well over one year. I found myself reading this article due to the alarming upset in my sleep patterns due to the lunar cycle. I haven’t noticed it personally – I don’t pay particular attention although i love a gorgeous moon! So it was shocking to see this tracked data over such a long period of time.

  12. I am generally a good sleeper but have noticed this more and more recently. I have tossed and turned for hours and now wide awake, looked out the window and yep it’s a full moon ? I feel edgy and unsettled and unnaturally warm. Thank god it’s a Friday and I don’t have to get up tomorrow !

    1. I feel just saying I usually don’t even know that it’s a full moon. But I try to sleep in it for 3 AM then the next day someone says did you see the full moon.

  13. And so here I am. Not sleeping. Again. No surprises as to why. It’s a normal occurrence for me around a full moon and fed up tossing and turning I found my way here. At least I’m not alone lol

  14. What a relief it is to read the comments above. For as long as I can remember I have dreaded the full moon each month. At this time I am awake all night and at the most will sleep for an hour at 5:00 or 6:00 A.M. During those long nights I feel anxious and upset and wonder what on earth is wrong with me! Sleeping pills are of no help nor is exercising to the point that on any other night I would feel tired and fall asleep easily. I sometimes function fairly well the next day but there are also times when I am a complete wreck.

    1. Same here, it starts a couple of days before full moon and my sleep because very interrupted but still find some sleep, I don’t even think about the full moon , then out of the blue I simply fail to fall asleep and this get quite bad tossing and turning until I check the moon calender . 99.9% when check I find it’s either full moon night or a night or two before full moon . Last night 20th December was such a night and full moon is on the 22 December. No amount of exercise helps . A night following full moon my sleep gradually returns. It’s such a nuisance I have come to accommodate in my life

  15. I often notice in hindsight that my sleep always suffers around full moons. But I also happen to be about a week away from my monthly cycle when the full moon is out, so I ultimately believe my insomnia to be linked to premenstrual symptoms rather than a phenomenon in nature.

    I just didn’t know until recently that insomnia was a possible premenstrual symptom, so the most plausible explanation had been the full moon influencing me.

  16. Coming up to a full moon I get agitated but more aware less tired ever since I can remember I don’t need to look at the lunar cycle I just know and when it’s a full moon I don’t sleep until it’s over

  17. I’ve had general insomnia for many years. I learned to accept it and say to myself “When I’m tired enough I’ll sleep.” However, my fatigue effected my ability to function at my best and I worried about the long term effect on my health. I searched high and low for a healthy remedy that worked for me. After many years, finally found something healthy that works consistently for me, except during the full moon. 2 nights ago I was dead tired and expected to fall asleep fast. 3 hours later at 2 AM, still wide awake, and frustrated, I pulled back my dark curtains to check outside, discovering it was a full moon. I thought “Of course!” Gave up and got up. My natural remedy has worked for me consistently for a year now, except, also consistently, during a full moon.

  18. Well I am definitely suffering from this phenomenon, but I’m a physicist so I’ll leave the astrology nonsense at the door. I think that there is something to be said for the brain recognizing the specific photon frequencies from the sun, I believe this activates the brain like a header signal in electronics. So for most people I would say the reflected rays from the moon are just waking you up like the sun and certain people are definitely more sensitive to that.

    Something else that occurred to me, and is the reason I am posting, is that I have had a case of parasites living in my liver, pancreas, and GI track. Modern medicine eventually found and solved the problem however these parasites where regulated by the phases of the moon and would lay eggs during the full moon so I, in turn, would be sick all night on full moons. I wonder if there are more common bacteria / parasitic organisms in the human body that could be excreting toxins on full moons which in turn effect neuro-chemical responses and whatnot.

  19. I never usually have a problem sleeping but here I am reading this at 3am (UK Time) on a night when there’s a full moon. I slept for just over an hour and woke up thinking it was around 6am but it was 11:30pm.
    I’m still wide awake 3.5 hours later and as I said, I never usually have trouble sleeping!

    I’m convinced that the moon has an effect on us based on the amount of water in our bodies, although I have nothing to prove it.

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