Can the Moon Ruin Your Sleep?

Your sleep may be affected by the phases of the moon. Learn how to stop the moon from ruining your sleep.

By Andrea Pisani Babich

The moon may be a quarter of a million miles away, but it is integrally linked to life on earth. In sixth grade, you learned that the gravitational pull of the moon, in conjunction with the sun’s pull, regulate high and low tides. But the moon’s power doesn’t stop there. The waxing and waning of the tides affect feeding behaviors, reproductive cycles for marine animals and those that live near the shoreline.

So, it’s no surprise that the moon may have an effect on how well you sleep. Scientists have found that people sleep more poorly around the full moon. In a study conducted in Switzerland, Christian Cajochen and colleagues found that the lunar cycle affected sleep and melatonin rhythms. Sleep disruptions were most evident around the time of the full moon.

Specifically, the study found that on the nights around the full moon, participants’

  • deep sleep decreased by 30%
  • time to fall asleep increased by 5 minutes
  • total sleep was reduced by 20 minutes
  • levels of melatonin, a hormone that controls the sleep/wake cycle, decreased

These disruptions were significant enough to have an effect on the way participants felt. All reported that they felt as if they hadn’t gotten enough shut-eye around the time of the full moon.

While a similar study published in the journal Sleep Med corroborated these findings, another study conducted two years later was unable to duplicate the results. Yet, the evidence was compelling enough to leave scientists asking the following questions:

  • Does the full moon actually cause sleep disruptions in modern man?
  • Did the full moon help shape early man’s sleep patterns?
  • Do human beings have a monthly sleep rhythm that merely mimics the moon’s 29-day cycle?

Is the Moon to Blame for Bad Sleep?

There are unanswered questions about why so many people suffer from poor quality sleep around a full moon. It isn’t clear if the full moon causes sleep difficulties or is merely coincidental with poor sleep in some people. Unlike the tides, people are not affected by the moon’s gravitational pull. And the studies that suggest a connection between the full moon and poor sleep were conducted in windowless settings absent of moonlight that might have given visual cues or disturbed the darkness.

Researchers believe that human beings may have a 30-day internal calendar of sorts that is somehow synched to the moon’s cycle. This “circalunar rhythm” may be associated with our more easily detected 24-hour circadian rhythms that regulate a variety of biological functions including our sleep and wake times and that association may be the key to explaining why it is so hard for many people to sleep well during the full moon.

Michael Hastings, a research scientist at the University of Cambridge who studies circadian rhythms, suggests that the connection between the moon and our sleep patterns may be an echo of our evolutionary past.” He explains, “If you were a hunter-gatherer on the African savanna, you may want to be out hunting at the full moon.” So early people may have simply evolved to sleep less around those times and that pattern eventually became hard-wired into our make-up.

But no one is really sure. Scientists agree that much more research is needed to fully understand the lunar/sleep connection.

What to Do When the Moon Disrupts Your Sleep

If you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter, you know how devastating it is to be robbed of your sleep. If you’re not prepared for the full moon and its effects, a night or two of diminished sleep can leave you feeling exhausted.

It’s one thing when your sleep disruptions are caused by a final research paper, the hot tamales you ate, or the type of covers you’re using. Simple lifestyle modifications can eliminate those problems and allow you to sleep better. But when your sleep disruption is caused by something that is 250,000 miles away, weighs 73.5 million million million metric tonnes (in other words “a lot”), and is bigger than all of Asia, there is little you can do to eliminate the source of your troubles. But you can arm yourself with information and take extra measures to ensure a good night’s sleep no matter what phase the moon is in.

Since we know that at least some people sleep less and have poorer quality sleep around the time of the full moon, a little bit of planning can help you be prepared if you are one of those people. You can expect 12 or 13 full moons each year, occurring approximately every 29 days. The U.S. Naval Observatory provides this handy tool to calculate the exact day (and time) of each full moon all the way until 2100 (in case you’re looking ahead a bit).

Once you have the full moon marked on your calendar, you can begin to pay closer attention to your sleep hygiene near those nights when your circalunar rhythm might keep you awake.

Improve Your Sleep Hygiene

  1. Go to bed at the same time every night including weekends.
  2. Have a bedtime routine that includes time to decompress by reading, meditating, doing gentle yoga, as well as the standards like brushing your teeth, washing your face, and slipping into your comfy PJs.
  3. Keep your room on the cool side, around 67°.
  4. Stay away from your electronic devices until morning. The light they emit will keep you awake.
  5. Spray diluted essential oils on your sheets and pillowcases or use a diffuser to fill your bedroom with the scents of lavender, chamomile, cedarwood, or valerian.
  6. Limit or eliminate caffeine from your diet.
  7. Sip a steaming cup of herbal tea blended with sleep-promoting herbs.
  8. Take a warm bath or shower.
  9. Block the light from the full moon with sufficient window treatments.

With your calendar in place and your impeccable sleep hygiene, you’ll be saying, “Full moon? Bring it!”

Now, enough of this lunacy. Go get some sleep.

We’d love to hear if your sleep is affected by the full moon. Share your story in the comments below.

Comments (0)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *