Time (and other sources) took this one set of results with a small sample size and went all gung-ho on it because it confirms what the common perception is – that the full moon affects it physically. I will withhold judgement, especially since there is no mechanism for such an effect and the data is not strong.
People have long reported that it is harder to get to sleep and remain asleep when the moon is full, and even after a seemingly good night’s rest, there can be a faint sluggishness—a sort of full-moon hangover—that is not present on other days. If you’re sleeping on the prairie or in a settler’s cabin with no shades, the simple presence of moonlight is an inescapable explanation. But long after humans moved indoors into fully curtained and climate-controlled homes, the phenomenon has remained. What’s never been clear is whether it’s the real deal—if the moon really does mess with us–or if it’s some combination of imagination and selective reporting, with people who believe in lunar cycles seeing patterns where none exist. Now, a report in the journal Current Biology suggests that the believers have been right all along.
Whoa… not so fast. I know you want to confirm what people have thought “all along” but this research has limitations.
The study was of 33 people over three years. Variables were measured: brain wave activity during sleep as measured by electroencephalograms (EEG); levels of melatonin, a sleep-related hormone; the amount of time it took subjects to fall asleep and the amount of time they spent in deep sleep; and their subjective reports of how rested they felt the next day. That’s not a big study.
The moon phase was not one of the variables measured in the study until it was plugged in years later. The effects seem small – a five minute average delay in falling asleep during the full moon and a shorter sleep span by 20 minutes, melatonin levels and EEG activity fell. Patients reported less refreshed. But there were flaws in the study. I can’t see them because I don’t have the paper but it’s worthwhile to remain cautious about this result. There is no mechanism to account for why this would happen. Gravity doesn’t account for it, in an indoor setting with people not paying attention to the moon phases, we can’t account for it by sight. So, I’m inclined to say it needs to be clarified better. And repeated.
I’ve looked at the history of full moon manias and as much as people SWEAR the moon phase affects people in bad ways, the data shows IT DOES NOT. Even if it did, in a tiny way, for a few people, the myths about crazies coming into the emergency rooms on full moon nights is utterly unfounded.
I must have been disputed on this fact a half dozen times after I have corrected people when they said “must be a full moon!” “Uh, no it’s not, and that’s a myth.” But they refuse to accept it. The moon is forever associated with lunacy, werewolves and bad behavior. One person with facts isn’t going to change the mind of the true believer.
[R]esearchers Ivan Kelly, James Rotton, and Roger Culver, in their study “The Moon was Full and Nothing Happened” (published in the book “The Hundredth Monkey and Other Paradigms of the Paranormal,” 1991) examined more than 100 studies of alleged lunar effects and found no significant correlation between phases of the moon and disasters, homicide rates, etc. Furthermore, there is no known mechanism by which the moon would somehow influence a person’s mind to make him more dangerous—except of course for his own expectations.