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 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.

161 CommentsLeave a comment

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • As always, for so many years, I have insomnia tonight during the full moon. Riddled with increased anxiety, restless leg syndrome, depression, increased physical pain and feeling weighted; symptoms I do not have normally. I tried Advil PM however it is ineffective in solving the problem. Due to repeated experience, I strongly believe the moon cycle effects humans bodies and behavior.

  • I have been awake all night and at the moment I am not feeling tired? Which I was last night. Their is a full moon tonight and when thinking about it I realized the last few times there has been a full moon icant sleep

  • This is soooo starting to annoy me … every month without fail I CANT SLEEP leading up to the full moon!!!!! I don’t take note of it but then when I lay awake all night, tossing and turning I realise it . I take sleeping pills and physically try and wear myself out during the day just to find myself super tired the next day!!!! Is there any solution ? And it has gotten worse over the years!!! Can’t take it anymore!!!

  • I have been awake ALL NIGHT. Full moon in a couple of days. This is normal for me but more annoying than usual as I’m on a lovely three day break in Venice. Today is going to be very tiring

  • I’m getting very tired of not being able to sleep on the nights leading up and the night of the full moon. It’s happening every single time. I seem to wee more too… up 14 times last night. I mentioned this to my doctor and he just shrugged his shoulders at me! I’ve tried every method under the sun to try to sleep on full moon night but nothing works.. I dread it coming around. I’m relieved to hear I’m not alone… But I long for an answer or help just at this time each month :(

  • Yep for years now, and it’s has increased in potency over the years, full moon phases affect my sleep, during that week or so every month I wake up uncontrollably. I used to attempt to fight it, thinking it was the light, but found out on stormy weeks that wasn’t the case, I also have forgotten when a phase is about to start and heavy cloud cover hid it.. still I awaken. So now I don’t fight it, I get up, and don’t worry over knowing I’ll be tired on them evenings, at the height of a full moon, 2:30am or so is the worst it is for me, it builds up and then dies down, so for a little over a week each month I have sleep problems. Sadly nothing cures it, a blind, shades, drinking, drugs, nothing, so worry not, you’re not alone

  • I do not keep track of full moons, but my body does. I had no idea we had a full moon last night, but woke up after only 2 hours of sleep in pain, achy and could not get back to sleep. To kill time I got on the computer and told a friend that I bet we have a full moon because I am having one of those miserable nights again Looked it up and sure enough it is a full moon. My mom and I use to talk on the phone and she would say, “I couldn’t sleep at all last night” and I would say me neither. Then I would look on the internet and sure enough it would say there was a full moon. So scientific or not, there is something to it.

  • Cannot sleep…I didn’t know this is the time but I looked out of the window and see the moon. Im so restles… my partner sound asleep next to me. I wish I could do that!

  • My teenage son and I both have awful sleepless nights every full moon (while my husband and daughter sleep peacefully even on full moons). Years of this behavior is proof enough for me that some people are affected by the lunar cycles even unknowingly so bc this occurs routinely and we dont track lunar cycles. Even prescription sleeping pills, otc sleeping remedies and natural sleep aid supplements dont help us on full moons.

  • this is all starting to make sense… there I was blaming my awful mood and insomnia on my acupuncturist’s summer vacation (I’m seeing him once a fortnight for pre-menopausal symptoms). I just spoke to a colleague who remarked on my fatigued air and she told me that she couldnt sleep either, nor could her friends .. because of the full moon!
    drinking herbal tea and water today! +++
    ps Im a scientist have total respect for Carole’s comments last month!

  • Very restless sleep tonight and last night, more sensitive to it as I’ve given up alcohol for two weeks, my rising sign is the moon too

  • Unable to sleep. Took extra melantonin and 1/2 x25mg phenergan to help with no effect. Decided to check and found it was 26/08/18 full moon night. Obviously effect of moon on psychic, as noted previously (which is why I checked to see when full moon was due) weird effect

  • Me and just about everyone I know sleep poorly on a full moon, as you said emergency rooms are fuller and more hectic on full moons, and crime rates go up. So I think that due to the insufficient sample taken in 2013, there needs to be another sample taken, and this time from a very large span of people stretching among communities.

  • Goodness, I tossed and turned all night and just could not fall asleep but the funny thing is I could sit through work all day and function like any normal day when I have full 7 hours of sleep. It’s really strange and it usually happened when it’s full moon.

  • I’m in Texas, the full moon is out and I’m as awake as if it was mid-day. This happens with every full moon. I believe there must be a correlation. It can’t be just happenstance.

  • Hi,
    I had regular episodes of feeling emotional and anxious with no reason to explain as was not associated/linked to my periods all the time. I also had heightened PMT on some months and not others (as irregular). My cousin, who I hadnt seen for years was talking to me in one of these said episodes, whereby I felt so much emotional pain and was so angry it scared me. She asked me to look up into the sky. Sure enough there was a big full moon. I realised too, that I had nights of very little sleep and seemed ‘wired’ at these times. As a Christian, I knew everyone would think I had lost the plot, as these associative rumours fuelled by testimonies about the moon’s influence were just ‘new agey’ myths.
    Again, as a Christian, I am used to Scientific evidence being one of the ‘God’s of our times’ and have learnt that a lack of evidence means nothing in relation to things we are limited to test or measure. Lots of people know they are ill, yet highly scientific based forms of testing would suggest there is no evidence for this and it is a figment of the imagination. Even today, with all the technology we have, there is so much we don’t understand about quantum physics, the mind body link; the power of our words and thoughts impacting and mapping out situations and our individual experience, whereby we have often believed ourselves to be the victims of fate.
    Over 35 years I have studied theology, psychotherapy/psychology, anatomy and physiology. I control my medical diagnoses of ME (fibromyalgia and Chronic fatigue) with diet, prayer, meditation, exercise and challenging my thinking as and when necessary..but one thing I have yet to harness, so that it’s negative impact doesn’t rob me of a few days each month as it waxes and wanes is the Full moon and this is not a powerful associative placebo linked to myths and werewolves. This phenomenon is real, just like many other important and even essential truths that are bypassed or neglected or simply just beyond our powers to really know. After all, despite popular belief, we are not God and the resulting manifestations of our ‘progressive, science based’ modern world without acknowledgement of a creator is surely evidence of this..just look at the state of our society.

    • You sound like an amazing person, and your faith and wisdom is encouraging. Thank you for sharing, you beautiful soul.

  • I didn’t know people had sleep problems during full moons, I was just curious if I was the only person that couldn’t sleep during full moons, turns out I’m not alone. I couldn’t sleep today it was horrible

  • Last 2 days I haven’t been sleeping at night. There is no change or stress that would keep me up. Usually I sleep like a baby. I strongly believe it’s the moon energy that’s keeping me awake and giving me headaches. I don’t have any other medical issue that can cause this.

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