Post by Joanna on Oct 27, 2015 4:51:37 GMT -5
The Full Moon Brings Restless Nights
With a reputation for triggering the appearance of creatures of the night, a full moon has often been associated with restless sleep. However, new research has shown the lunar cycle influences the way we sleep far more than simply causing us to cower beneath the covers.
Scientists have found that people’s sleep patterns are attuned to the waxing and waning of the moon, even when they were unaware of whether it was a full moon or not. On nights when a full moon was present, volunteers spent 30 percent less time in deep sleep, took five minutes longer to fall asleep and slept for 20 minutes less.
While many might attribute such restless nights to fears of mythical creatures such as werewolves and witches that are said to appear during a full moon, the researchers believe there is a more biological reason. They also found that volunteers had lower levels of a hormone that regulates sleep on the days around a full moon. Professor Christian Cajochen, a chronobiologist at the University of Basel, said the effect may be a relic of our evolutionary past. “We didn’t look at the underlying mechanisms, so we have to speculate about why this might be,” he explained. “On full moon nights, there was more light and so in our past, the risk of predators was higher, so maybe we needed to wake up more easily. If you look in the animal kingdom, particularly in marine animals, they still use a lunar clock to synchronize their reproductive behavior. In humans I am not so sure we still need it, but you can still see the menstrual cycle of women, it is still roughly synchronized to the lunar cycle. In the past our reproductive cycle may have been linked to this lunar cycle, so perhaps this is biology telling us something. However, it is hard to see a use for it in our modern lives.”
Our brains are known to respond to the pattern of light and dark known as the circadian rhythm, but links to the lunar cycle have been studied less. Through history, the full moon has been linked to spells of madness and more recently to crime sprees and anti-social behavior. Many animals, including wolves and dogs, are thought to respond to the influence of a full moon, while midges also have their breeding cycle linked to the lunar cycle. The lunar clock was also thought to aid the survival of marine iguanas in the Galapagos Islands during times of food shortage. The position of the moon in relation to the Earth is also known to affect more fundamental processes such as the tides of the oceans.
Cajochen and his colleagues, whose research is published in the journal Current Biology, examined the sleep patterns of 33 volunteers who were monitored for three-and-a-half days as they lived, ate and slept in a sleep laboratory. The researchers monitored their brain patterns, eye movements and hormone levels as they slept. There were no windows or any way of telling whether the moon was full outside. When the researchers later compared these to the lunar cycle, they found that brain activity related to deep sleep dropped by 30 percent on the days around a full moon. The volunteers also reported their sleep had been poorer on the days when the moon was full.
“Our initial study was not looking at the lunar cycle but the circadian rhythm, so when we looked back at the data it was surprising to see this link,” Cajochen added. “It was often thought that it could be light from the Moon that led to sleep disturbances, but our volunteers couldn’t see the moonlight and had no information about the time of the day.”
Source: Richard Gray, The Telegraph, July 25, 2013.
See also “The Dark Triad: Creatures of the Night”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/4956/dark-triad-creatures-night
“Does the Full Moon Keep You Awake?”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/edit/7382
“The Full Moon Effect”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/6031/full-moon-effect