The effect of the full moon on sleep patterns.
We humans love to blame the full moon for our behavior, whether we think nursing home patients become more agitated, or city-dwellers get more restless and up their murderous tendencies. In the past, we worried our neighbors might transform into hirsute Transylvanian creatures.
A new study just published in Frontiers in Pediatrics examined whether lunar phases can change the sleeping patterns of humans. “We considered that performing this research on children would be particularly more relevant because they are more amenable to behavior changes than adults and their sleep needs are greater than adults,” wrote researcher Jean-Philippe Chaput, Ph.D., of the Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Canada. Chaput’s expertise focuses on sleep, obesity prevention and healthy lifestyles.
For the study, Chaput looked at data on 5,812 children in five continents. This data came from children in a wide range of economic and socioeconomic levels. Variables such as gender, age, parental education level, date of measurement, body mass index, sleep duration, level of physical activity and total sedentary time were all considered. The data were collected over 28 months—28 lunar cycles’ worth—and divided into three phases: full moon (ah-oooo!), half-moon, and new moon.
The results? The moon did not seem to have much sway over children’s sleeping habits. Sleep duration remained very consistent around the full moon, compared to the new moon, with only about a 1 percent variant (there was an average decrease of 5 minutes of sleep during the full moon). No other activity factors were modified.
Five minutes sounds like a lot, but, Chaput wrote, “The only significant finding was the 1 percent sleep alteration in full moon, and this is largely explained by our large sample size that maximizes statistical power. Overall, I think we should not be worried about the full moon. Our behaviors are largely influenced by many other factors like genes, education, income and psychosocial aspects rather than by gravitational forces,” he added.
Still, there’s always more research to be done see how our biology may—or may not be—synchronized with the lunar and other natural cycles around us. I say, stay tuned, and until then, it never hurts to howl at the moon.
Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. Her latest book is Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!, a science and natural history “gross out” for young readers.