Does the Moon Affect Sleep?

5 min read

Last Modified 14 October 2021 First Added 14 October 2021

By Lottie Salako

With the Hunter moon set to dominate our skies and Halloween fast approaching, superstition is on the rise. However, the idea that the moon can affect our sleep cycle is not just a scary story – a growing body of research has shown that lunar phases can impact sleep quality.

 

Many people experience sleep problems like insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness, during different moon phases. Although the specifics are still a mystery, studies have shown that the moon can cause you to sleep badly. Therefore, if you’re struggling to fall asleep this October, it may not be down to the heightened presence of ghosts and ghouls but the moon instead!

What are the different phases of the moon?

How the moon appears in the sky changes slowly across a 29.5-day cycle, either waxing (increasing in size) or waning (decreasing in size). This is because the moon orbits the Earth and the change in position changes the amount of light from the sun it reflects. For example, when it rises opposite the sun, we see a full, bright moon

There are 8 moon phases:

  • new
  • waxing crescent
  • first quarter
  • waxing gibbous
  • full
  • waning gibbous
  • last quarter
  • waning crescent

 

Can moon phases impact our sleep?

It’s well documented that the phase of the moon affects different natural processes as well as animals. The most observable effect to us is the daily changing of the tide. While the effects on humans are not entirely understood yet, there is promising research that documents how different moon phases affect sleeping patterns. The two most affecting phases are the full moon and new moon.

 

 

Full moon

The full moon is most associated with folklore and sleep problems. There’s no definitive proof of werewolves or moon sickness, but researchers have found that the full moon worsens sleep quality.  This is because it can reduce   (your deep sleep phase), increase the time it takes to fall asleep, and decrease time spent sleep.

 

New moon

Even though we can’t see the moon during the new moon phase, that doesn’t mean it isn’t having an effect. The same sleep problems documented during a full moon such as insomnia and restlessness are also seen during the new moon phase, which points towards a gravitational effect.

This also means that if you’re experiencing issues during just one moon phase, it’s more likely that other factors are affecting your sleep quality.

Stress can have a major effect on sleep

Why does the moon affect Sleep?

The full extent of the moon’s impact on Earth is not known to science yet. Therefore, researchers are still unsure as to why the moon affects sleep, but there are some leading theories.

1. Moonlight

Light levels are one of the most important factors when considering sleep patterns and sleep quality. Humans have a circadian rhythm, which dictates your wake-sleep cycle. Exposure to light affects this rhythm by changing your levels of the sleep hormone, melatonin, which means too much light in the evenings and at night can stop you from falling asleep as quickly as you usually do.

However, moonlight is only around 7% as bright as the sun, so it’s far more likely that artificial light, especially from TVs, laptops, and mobile phones is having a detrimental effect on your sleep cycle.

2. Gravity

One of the notable effects of the moon is its gravitation pull on the Earth and how it affects the ocean’s tides. Human bodies are about 60% water, so many people believe that lunar gravity would also affect bodily processes and human behaviour.

There is very little scientific evidence that the moon’s gravity has a significant impact on us, however, if you experience sleep disturbances during the new and full moon, this could be why.

3. Electromagnetism

The Earth is surrounded by an electromagnetic field, which has a very strong magnetic pull that extends out into space and interacts with solar winds and space particles. During the full moon, it passes through the tail of this magnetic field and causes it to become negatively charged, which can have effects on Earth.

While electromagnetic fields are invisible to humans, many animals are more sensitive to them, such as migratory birds that use magnetic fields to orient themselves. In recent years, it’s been suggested that humans are more receptive to magnetic fields than first thought (known as “microwave syndrome” or electromagnetic hypersensitivity), meaning that the moon could be responsible for these changes to sleep and behaviour.

 

4. Superstition

There’s a long and rich history of folklore around the moon and its mysterious power and if you believe that the moon affects your sleep, then there’s a good chance it will.

This is especially true around Halloween when scary stories are abundant and our fascination with the supernatural is at its highest. For millennia, humans have attributed many powers to the moon. We even have the word “lunacy”, which stems from the word “luna” meaning moon, and refers to the idea of moon madness. From werewolves to reports of increased crime rates during a full moon, people have always been suspicious of the effects that a full moon has on mood, behaviour, and sleep.

How to prevent the moon affecting your sleep:

Unfortunately, if the moon does affect your sleep then there’s not much that can be done. However, you can anticipate these disruptions and better understand your sleep pattern. Here are a few tips to combat the effects of the moon and have a more restful night:

  • Wear a sleep mask. This can help block out any light and increase the production of melatonin.
  • Incorporate a natural sleep aid into your evening routine.
  • Don’t stress about how you will sleep beforehand. Do a relaxing activity like taking a bath or meditation to get you in the mood for a restful night.

Take a look at more tips to improve sleep quality.

 

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