A human transforming into a hairy, aggressive, four-legged monster under the light of a full moon may be a stretch of the imagination, but it seems a full moon can have a different effect on the human body. Prepare for the next full moon, because interestingly enough, it might have more of an impact on our sleep than we thought—leaving some of the smartest minds curious about this phenomenon. Here’s all the information we could gather on how a full moon affects sleep.
Sleep Worsens In The Days Leading Up To A Full Moon
Results from a recent study published in January 2021 have left researchers with even more questions after their hypothesis about sleep quality during nights with a full moon proved to be inaccurate.
For two lunar cycles, they tracked the sleep of 98 individuals from three different indigenous communities in Argentina using wrist monitors. The three communities were separated by no access to electricity, some access to electricity, and full access to electricity, with the expectation that the full moon would have less of an effect on the brightly lit communities.
To their surprise, results were consistent across all three communities. Another unexpected find was that, on average, people slept less in the 3 to 5 days leading up to a full moon rather than the brightest, full moon-lit nights.
In the pursuit to find more evidence, they carried out a separate but similar study tracking the sleep of 464 Washington college students using wrist monitors. Their findings? They yielded the same results as the study on indigenous communities, inferring that our sleep is, in some way, affected by the different phases of the moon, regardless of our exposure to artificial light.
Is Lunar Gravity Or Moonlight A Possible Cause?
Horacio de la Iglesia, Ph.D., lead researcher and professor at the University of Washington, explained to Healthline, “Obviously, sleep timing is synchronized with the moon phases, but we still do not know how this happens.”
Dr. Iglesia and his team theorize that gravity could be the cause, citing gravitational cycles in correlation with the lunar month (29.5 days) impacting our sensitivity to light on the nights preceding a full moon.
Other experts, like Dr. Steven H Feinsilver, director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, argue that the moonlight itself is the most likely culprit.
He told Healthline, “We all have a circadian rhythm, a built-in body clock; it doesn’t necessarily run a 24-hour cycle, and probably runs slower in most people — a 25-hour cycle,” and “light is the thing that really turns your brain on.”
Light Exposure Decreases Melatonin Levels
While researchers study the link between lunar cycles and sleep, there is one thing we do know. Light, whether it be sunlight, moonlight, or artificial, can block your body’s natural production of melatonin. Melatonin helps regulate your body’s sleep-wake cycle, and without it, you might find it more difficult to fall asleep at night.
If here and there you aren’t getting a full night’s sleep, it won’t have any significant impact on your long-term health. However, it’s important to maintain proper sleeping habits, especially if you’re getting less than 7 hours of sleep each night. Poor sleep has been linked to a slew of health complications such as diabetes, stroke, obesity, depression, low memory retention and memory loss, and a weaker immune system.
If you’re having problems sleeping, nip it in the bud early before it leads to mental or physical health problems later down the line.
Tips For A Better Night’s Sleep
Here are a few tips you can try to help lull yourself to sleep, whether you’re being kept awake by moonlight, stress or pain:
- Invest in blackout curtains to help block out exterior light coming from outside, such as the moon or an inconveniently placed streetlight standing outside your window.
- Follow a bedtime routine and go to sleep around the same time each night. This will help reset your circadian rhythm, and your body will begin to naturally recognize when it’s time to wind down for bed.
- If you experience back or hip pain during sleep, sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees to help ease the stress on your hips.
- For lower back pain, try sleeping on your back with a pillow underneath your knees to keep your body in proper alignment.
- Before bed, practice something relaxing that’ll help reduce stress, such as reading a book or gentle stretches.