Friday, 9 August 2013

Scientific evidence for the affect the moon cycles have on us: full moon and sleep.

Can the full moon affect our sleep?

I am always keeping my eye open for  new research regarding our relationship to moon cycles. Whilst I know that a lot of us are plainly influenced by the cycles of the moon and I believe that we have a lot to learn by being more in tune with these cycles and learning to live in accordance with them. Science however struggles to explain this and because science cannot offer a hard and fast explanation people dismiss what they cannot prove.

This latest study reported in the July 25th online issue of Current Biology however lends another string to the scientific bow for belief in the fact that the moon cycles do affect our daily lives. This study looked at how the full moon had an affect on the length and the quality of our sleep.

The study was conducted by Prof Christian Cajoochen and his colleagues at Basel University in Switzerland and was conducted on a study of 33 volunteers in tightly controlled laboratory conditions.
The study was conducted in 2000 and over the next three years and did not originally set out to investigate a lunar effect. The researchers had the idea of doing the lunar analysis years later. The team looked back over all their study data, which included electroencephalograms of patients’ non-rapid-eye-movement sleep and hormone secretions related to sleep, and matched it up with a lunar calendar. They were then able to factor in the nights that had a full moon. Christian Cajochen, said: "A lot of people complain about bad sleep during moon stages, or they claim that 'it was the moon', and there's a lot of myth involved. We decided to go back in our old data to see whether we could effectively quantify such an effect."
http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/jul/26/moon-influence-sleep-studyWhen they went back to the original data they found that the volunteers took longer to nod off and had poorer quality sleep, despite being shut in a darkened room. The volunteers were unaware of the purpose of the study and could not see the Moon from their beds in the researchers' sleep lab. They each spent two separate nights at the lab under close observation.
The brain pattern, eye movements and hormone secretion of volunteers were studied while they slept. Participants were also asked for subjective assessments of their sleep quality Findings revealed that around the full Moon, brain activity related to deep sleep dropped by nearly a third. Melatonin levels also dipped. The volunteers also took five minutes longer to fall asleep and slept for 20 minutes less when there was a full Moon. It is a phenomenon already known in other organisms as the "circalunar rhythm", but has never before been shown in humans. These findings correlated with the volunteers' own perception that sleep quality was poorer during the full moon.
It seemed therefore that the full moon had a detrimental affect on the subjects’ sleep patterns and that had no correlation to the brightness of the moon since the subjects could not even see the moon, however somehow their bodies were being influence by the moon’s cycle.
Whilst this was a small sample size the results were very comprehensive. The group have now said that they would like to conduct a similar experiment to look at the influence on the full moon on sleep on a larger sample size. Cajochen says  "What I would like to do in the future is to increase the number of subjects and then to follow up each person through the entire moon cycle."
Other scientists seem keen to find answers as to whether a human circalunar clock exists. Michael Hastings a neuroscientist at Cambridge University studying circadian rhythms says "In evolutionary terms, it sounds plausible to me at least. If you were a hunter gatherer, you'd want to be out there on a full moon, not a new moon. It might be that there's something about suppression of sleep under those circumstances because you should be out hunting.
I think at best it's intriguing. There's a biological plausibility, if we take the hunter gatherer scenario, with regard to the mechanisms … It is such a striking and unexpected finding that replication by other sleep labs is absolutely critical."

According to Jeffrey Kluger at Science Time it does indeed seem likely that we humans do indeed have a built in internal mechanism that responds to our universe and to cycles such as the moon. “Rather, the answer is simply that we, like every other species on Earth, evolved on a particular planet with a particular set of astronomical cycles—day and night, full moons and less full—and our circadian systems adapted. It’s hard to say where the internal clock is in, say, a flowering plant, but in humans, it’s likely in the suprachiasmatic nuclei, a tiny region of the brain near the optic nerve involved in the production of melatonin, certain neurotransmitters and other time-keeping chemicals, all in a rhythm consistent with both its terrestrial and cosmic surroundings. Physically, human beings may be creatures of just this world, but our brains—and our behavior—appear to belong to two.”http://science.time.com/2013/07/25/how-the-moon-messes-with-your-sleep/#ixzz2bTrRrmAm

We are so influenced and bogged down by everything else that is going on in our lives that we have forgotten how to listen to our internal mechanisms. We have these natural abilities within us, to be able to respond to nature and what nature is telling us but we have forgotten how to respond and what we should be doing with the signals    We are given. This scientific evidence for the affect that our moon has on our lives and our behaviour is great as it proves something scientifically that many of us already believe is an important part of our lives. As more of these correlations are discovered we can hopefully realise how important our earth and moon are to us and how we need to listen to those signs we are given. Our ancestors perhaps needed less sleep when they were hunting on a full moon night. We however need that sleep and will not function on a restless night's sleep so we need to be prepared for that possible lack of sleep on the full moon. So be prepared, go to bed a little earlier, do some mediation, have some chamomile tea before bed.

Full moon blessings to you, make sure you go to bed a little earlier and allow yourself a little extra time to try and get the sleep you need on those full moon nights!


Here is a summary of the report abstract for anyone who would like more of the scientific explanations! “Endogenous rhythms of circalunar periodicity (29.5 days) and their underlying molecular and genetic basis have been demonstrated in a number of marine species [1,2]. In contrast, there is a great deal of folklore but no consistent association of moon cycles with human physiology and behavior [3]. Here we show that subjective and objective measures of sleep vary according to lunar phase and thus may reflect circalunar rhythmicity in humans. To exclude confounders such as increased light at night or the potential bias in perception regarding a lunar influence on sleep, we retrospectively analyzed sleep structure, electroencephalographic activity during non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep, and secretion of the hormones melatonin and cortisol found under stringently controlled laboratory conditions in a cross-sectional setting. At no point during and after the study were volunteers or investigators aware of the a posteriori analysis relative to lunar phase. We found that around full moon, electroencephalogram (EEG) delta activity during NREM sleep, an indicator of deep sleep, decreased by 30%, time to fall asleep increased by 5 min, and EEG-assessed total sleep duration was reduced by 20 min. These changes were associated with a decrease in subjective sleep quality and diminished endogenous melatonin levels. This is the first reliable evidence that a lunar rhythm can modulate sleep structure in humans when measured under the highly controlled conditions of a circadian laboratory study protocol without time cues.”