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The moon and sleep

14-10-2013

The moon and sleep

You don’t have to believe in astrology to imagine that the moon can have an effect on your sleep. However, it has got nothing to do with how the planets’ positioning supposedly influences your life and everything to do with the brightness of the moon. The moon is like a big mirror hanging in the sky. At certain times of the month it is positioned so that there is virtually no light reflecting  back onto the earth, at other times of the month the entire half of the moon shines a powerful light down on our planet. The full moon is bright, very bright and it has been found to affect sleep.

The Bright Moon Light
The moon goes through a cycle every month, from full moon to no moon to full moon again. When it is full the moonlight is very powerful, making the night bright enough that you can walk around with no other light. This can be good if you are trying to get home and do not have a torch, it is not so good if you trying to get to sleep though.

Light and Sleep
Our sleep patterns are regulated by our body clock. This internal time keeping mechanism controls our waking and sleeping periods by releasing a number of different hormones to make us drowsy and wake us up. The body clock is set by light levels. It uses the natural rhythm of sunrise and sunset to synchronise your body with the outside world. This means that artificial light, and even moonlight, can play havoc with the body clock.

The Research
Scientists at the University of Basel in Switzerland think that they have found the first reliable evidence that our sleep patterns are influenced by lunar changes. They recently published a study, in Current Biology that shows brain activity related to deep sleep in volunteers dropped by 30 percent around the full moon. The study subjects also took longer to fall asleep and had shorter nights when the moon was full.

Lunacy By Way of Moon
The full moon has long been blamed for crazy behaviour. In fact, the term lunacy was coined in the 16th century to refer to an periodic form of insanity believed to be caused by the full moon. For many generations, people around the world have passed down tales of werewolves and other moon-related curses. Unsurprisingly scientists have spent years trying to discover a link between the moon and human behaviour. It seems that these latest findings could help ascertain that link.

The Moon and You
So what does all of this mean? Well the scientists are still divided. While some believe that the moon is actually disturbing peoples’ sleep others actually think that this change in sleep patterns is built in, on other words they think that our body clock has a monthly variation built in so that we are able to deal with the full moon. That it ‘knows’ we will not be able to sleep as well and therefore doesn’t make us as tired.

Either way, it seems that we should be prepared for less sleep when the moon is full.
 


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