Full Moon Insomnia: Does The Moon Affect Your Sleep?

full moon

Can 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 very limited 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 is sometimes blamed for everything from poor sleep patterns to an increase in accident numbers to sudden psychotic episodes.

Some serious, professional, highly trained individuals are certain the moon affects us. In 2011, researchers published an astonishing figure in the World Journal of Surgery:

More than 40% of medical staff is convinced that lunar phases can affect human behavior

The team then looked into medical data to see if there were any notable changes on typically superstitious days, but found none:

Scientific analysis of our data does not support the belief that moon phases, zodiac signs, or Friday 13th influence surgical blood loss and emergency frequency.

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 – a 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 various languages, the word lunatic has its roots in the moon. For example, 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.

Ancient Calendars

earliest lunar calender

The 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 lunar 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.

Is there scientific evidence that the full moon influences behavior?

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, there’s limited scientific evidence to match the vast amounts of anecdotal stories and superstitious beliefs.

Research offers hope that the full moon affects sleep

Some interesting evidence comes from a research study in 2013, carried out at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

What made it interesting is that neither the participants nor the team in the lab were told what the study was about, because it wasn’t even the aim of the study at the time. The data was actually retrospectively analyzed later, when the researchers had the idea of seeing what data from a previous study might say about the influence of the full moon.

Another useful feature of the study is that the lab was darkened at the time. So not only were the participants unaware they were in some kind of moon + sleep study, but they would not have seen a full moon shining its bright light through a window either.

So the researchers were able to retrospectively analyze the effect of the full moon on the sleep of the 33 unaware volunteers. And on the nights that there was a full moon, they discovered that:

  • The volunteers took 5 minutes longer to fall asleep.
  • They had 20 minutes less total sleep.
  • They spent 30% less time in the deep sleep phase.

The study author, Prof Christian Cajochen, proposed that since the participants probably weren’t aware of the full moon, perhaps we are naturally attuned to the lunar cycle, saying:

The lunar cycle seems to influence human sleep, even when one does not see the Moon and is not aware of the actual moon phase.

Whilst intriguing, the research hasn’t been without criticism. Perhaps most importantly, 33 people is a small sample and subsequent research with more participants has not replicated the results.

Research shows no lunar effect

In 2014, a team of researchers took note of the Basel research and also re-analyzed the data from three large samples in different studies. The results didn’t back up the original research though:

…in a re-analysis of sleep electroencephalography (EEG) data in three large samples, we were unable to replicate their findings.

In 2015, Swiss researchers recorded the sleep of 2125 individuals using polysomnogram at home. Once again, they found no change in people’s sleep based on the moon:

Our large population-based study provides no evidence of a significant effect of lunar phases on human sleep.

And in 2016, a large international study looked at the sleep of 5812 children aged 9 to 11, in 12 countries.

Although they did find that overall sleep time was 1% less on average during full moon, they question how significant that really is, concluding:

In conclusion, sleep duration was 1% shorter at full moon compared to new moon, while activity behaviors were not significantly associated with the lunar cycle in this global sample of children. Whether this seemingly minimal difference is clinically meaningful is questionable.

Conclusion

red full moon

The belief that the moon can influence the human body may be largely founded on misconceptions then.

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.

There’s no established scientific link between the full moon and sleep patterns. Maybe there was in the past when the bright moonlight 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!

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.

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

  1. I wish there was something to help with this I have an almost 4 year old and since she has been born she doesn’t sleep during the full moon. I thought she was just hyper at first until I started tracking the moon phases. No joke every full moon she stays wide awake till about 5-6am and finally will crash out for a bit. I have joked saying she must be part werewolf. I honestly have never met anyone that was affected this much by the moon. The pattern is always consistent with the moon.

  2. I was put back on the night shift about 3 months ago – thank you COVID! Strange thing is that I slept so well during the day this week but the one night I’m off I couldn’t sleep at all due to being so restless, jittery and not being able to quiet my mind. I just figured it was because my sleep was off from work until I finally looked up the moon schedule at 5am… I have not always been like this but am like clockwork the past several years. I am an ER nurse and am very scientifically geared but surely someone can find proof about this and explain we are not ALL crazy or ware wolves!

  3. I am sitting here at 2.29 a.m. 3 days before a full moon, having been unable to fall asleep due to my over active mind. This happens regularly just before and during the full moon. I am unable to “switch off “ as easily and drift off to sleep, and often wake after an hour or so and cannot get back to sleep. The moon is hidden under thick clouds tonight, so no extra brightness in the bedroom. Seems I am not alone!

  4. No study will change what I know is real for me and has been as long as I can remember. I don’t even have to look at a calendar usually because, my body tells me 2-3 nights before a full or new moon, the night of and sometimes the night after, by this extra energy and I can’t sleep..it’s awful! I have even added darkening curtains, it doesn’t seem to help. Thanks for sharing. :)

  5. The last two nights i haven’t slept, because of the moon. I’m not aware of the moon and still, when i wake up once in a month i can tell “it was full moon last night” and it actually was.
    How come there is no actual evidence about this?

  6. I barely fell asleep an hour ago only to wake up just now wishing I could sleep some more. It’s like I’m tired and jittery but restless and unable to sleep. This always happens to me on the full moon! Its suck since I gotta go to work in a few hours and its impossible for me to nap when the suns out lol Even my grandfather and little brother were up all night unable to sleep. I thought I was alone but it’s good to see other moonsomniacs on here who can’t sleep on a full moon. Much love to you all brothers!

  7. I have always slept poorly during a full moon. Even when I couldn’t see the moon and when I had no idea there was a full moon. Sometimes I would only sleep a few hours, other times I wouldn’t sleep at all. The day before a full moon has also been a problem, but not the day after. I have had this problem since I can remember, but only made the connection in the last 30 years. (I’m 62) My wife calls it Werewolf time.

    1. Well Big Dave you and I were awake at the same time! This whole week of full moon has been a disaster, despite tanking myself up with red wine and herbal tea. The lack of sleep over several nights renders me useless. Its happened since I was a child.

  8. For me it is 2 nights before a full moon… every time… I can usually fall asleep but only for about 3-4 hrs and then can’t go back to sleep. Even the times when I am unaware of the timing of the full moon it still happens. Most every night I wake up a few times a night and go right back to sleep, but not 2 nights before full moon… I can’t just be subconsciously willing myself to not go back to sleep…

    1. I agree, last night was such a night, woke at 1:30 and that was it, I had no idea til this morning that we are 2 days away from July full moon.
      Happens all the time with me, 2 days before, and I am almost always oblivious to the date of full moon

  9. For decades, my sleep is dramatically impacted several nights a week before a full moon. I try not to be aware of the cycle, until I have a night where I can not fall asleep for hours, even though I am very tired. The next day, I look at the calendar and see that it is one week before the full moon. Then I email my brother, who is a medical doctor with the same moon/sleep affliction. Often when I open my email to do so, there is already one from him asking if I had the usual trouble the night before. One of his sons has the same thing. Interesting, and annoying.

  10. Restless to say the least. It feels like the moon is watching me, like a Shepard In the night. It is now 345 am est and despite my endless attempts, once again i failed.

  11. It’s now 02:58 (am) on 7th May, 2020 and I am wide awake, despite having only 3 hours sleep last night (night of 5th May).

    True, boredom and, to some degree, anxiety, has disturbed my normal sleep pattern ever since we went into lock-down in March due to Coronavirus. But the wide-awakeness I’m experiencing right now, is different in that it is not accompanied by the physical and mental irritation and ‘heaviness’ felt during the moon’s other phases since lock-down.

    Instead, I feel energised and my mind is pleasantly excited and enquiring. I experienced the same wide-awake alertness and positive mental, emotional and physical feelings during the nights of April’s super-moon, too. The only negative effects were a little sleepiness and sluggishness in the morning.

    I have questioned whether April’s (and last night’s and tonight’s) clear night skies and the moon’s subsequent brightness are playing a part in my wide-awakeness, but I don’t think they are. Besides, I was watching television earlier, with the curtains closed (and am in my office now also with curtains closed) so, whilst I may be unconsciously aware of it, I’m not physically affected by it.

    A few hours of TV in the evenings is my normal precursor to going to bed and I normally go between 22:30 and midnight, falling asleep straight away. But during these two super-moons, I’ve not wanted to go to bed before at least 01:30. And last night, I read until 04:30 before feeling sleepy enough to turn the light off – and was awake, and up, at 07:30 this morning. Yet here I am again, still wide awake and not feeling remotely sleepy!

    It is not only super-moons that affect me, however. I have always been enjoyed any full-moon’s ‘charm’: I am a poet and enjoy the mystery and awe of its pewter light (indeed, I found this site whilst doing a little research for a poem), but I am self-aware enough to know the difference between fancy and actual, physical effect. And, at 60 years of age, I also know that, whilst aging and menopause have changed my sleep patterns to some degree, it is WITH age that I’ve become increasingly susceptible to a full-moon’s affect on my sleep.

    Science, it seems, has not yet proven a link between insomnia and the moon’s phases, but I am still inclined to think there ARE links; ones that bear more on our psychosomatic responses rather than directly on our physicality.

    Psychological therapies use a client’s own metaphors to understand what is happening in the unconscious mind so perhaps a study that includes the thinking, ideas, disciplines and principles of the psychological, cultural and social sciences, and maybe even astrological/astronomical sciences, needs to be undertaken.

    The rich variety of metaphors associated with the language terms of each would, I am certain, offer up some interesting answers and channels of further investigation. For instance, isn’t it interesting that the word ‘corona’ is used in astronomy and here we are, in the middle of a Corona-virus pandemic, which happens to occur at the time of two super-moons, and everywhere people are reporting sleep disturbance?

    1. Like you, I had a sleepless night last night ( May 7). It comforts me to know that other people have trouble with full. moons and sleeping as it has haunted me since childhood. Unlike you, the energy I feel during the sleepless night is more restless and it feels like a firework inside me waiting to ignite. Today has been largely unproductive – not surprising during Lockdown! But usually I manage some exercise and housework, and study. I reckon the quality of the 2 hours of sleep I had was very poor indeed – despite preparing myself for it with herbal tea! ( Valerian) I am 72 and have noticed very vivid dreams during the last 7 weeks.

    2. I normally sleep well and long. Being that I’m a mom of three kids, I sleep while I can. But I’ve been up and down all night and now currently wide awake, with no intention of going back to sleep at 5am. And I know it’s because of the super moon 🖤

  12. I believe there is a link from my own personal experience with the lunar cycle and that of my children who are on the autistic spectrum. For example my 14 year old daughter is usually asleep by about 9pm and she’s currently still wide awake in the bedroom with her Dad 😔 She also has epilepsy which I’ve noticed can be worse during full and supermoon but this could be due to sleep deprivation causing the seizure increase. Her sleep, behaviours like stimming, scratching and nail biting and her seizure activity are all impacted in accordance with the lunar cycle. I’ve followed the pattern and if you asked many parents and carers of differently-abled children they would say the same.

  13. It is now 5 years since I started noticing that on days when the moon is about 80% full sleeplessness occurs. I cannot fall what ever I do. I really didn’t believe that the moon could influence my sleep behavior but I only happens on the days near full moon and full moon day. I do not sleep any sleepiness. Just wake as if my day just started..

  14. My dog and I have insomnia during the full moon…especially for the super moons….when I was not working the next day, I would meditate and we would both sit outside and absorb that beautiful powerful lunar energy…you are totally at one with the universe. Such a beautiful experience….but having to get up for work after no sleep for several days (because it affects both of us days before and after the actual full moon) not as fun as when neither of us need to get up!

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