Influence of the moon on our behaviour
For the longest time, people have felt the influence of the (full) moon on their behaviour.
Especially on cloudless nights, many of us feel an urge to go outside and enjoy watching the full moon. Some will even go so far that they will go on a nightly hike or bike ride.
If this urge still persists today, how influential must the moon it have been in the past when we only could rely on light of the sun, moon and fire?
This is why so many people believe how lunar cycles can and do influence many other aspects of our behaviour and health.
The most persistent one is about its influence on menstruation cycles, fertility and even on the gender of babies. It's not too difficult to understand where this belief comes from: after all, a lunar cycle is almost as long as the average menstruation cycle.
However, until recently, scientists haven't been able to confirm most of the claims.
Only a short while ago it was confirmed how indeed, the full moon does have an impact on the length of our sleep. Even those who live in an urbanized environment, feel the effect of the full moon on their sleep cycle, even though it is far less pronounced than for indigenous people living without artificial light.
About time to explore whether the moon cycle really affects other aspects of our health and/or behaviour.
Can the moon really influence your health?The moon has held the human mind in its thrall since the dawn of time. Throughout the ages, peoples across the world have worshipped it as an important deity, believing it held real power to influence their lives — and their health. But is this really true?
The moon influences life on Earth and natural mechanisms in a way that must have seemed natural hundreds and thousands of years ago. At full moon, corals release eggs and gametes in a reproductive frenzy.
And the gravitational attraction between the moon and the Earth causes sea tides — the rising and falling of the sea.
Since the moon influences such mechanisms of life on Earth, people have also believed that it can affect various aspects of physical and mental health.
The moon and menstrual cyclesSome people still refer to menstrual cycles as “moon cycles,” and many remain convinced that there is a form of synchronicity between the phases of the moon and female menses.
Researchers still disagree on whether or not the moon is likely to influence menstrual cycles in any way.
The notion that the menstrual cycle and the phases of the moon are somehow linked derives from the concept that, on average, a menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, which is about as long as a moon cycle. The moon takes 27 days, 7 hours, and 43 minutes to complete one revolution around the Earth, and 29.5 days for a moon phase cycle.
In the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, various small-scale studies suggested that females’ periods and ovulation phases coincided with the “light” phase (in the leading to full moon), and the “dark” phase (in the leading to new moon) of the moon cycle, respectively.
Some of these studies also found correlations between moon phases, changes in the levels of melatonin — a hormone that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles — and the phase of the menstrual cycle.
Most periods are unlikely to “synch” with particular moon phases, except by coincidence. Menstrual cycles can last anywhere between 21–35 days, and their length can also change due to how age and stress influence hormonal balance.
The moon and sleepResearch seems to suggest that a full moon can disrupt sleep, though the evidence is still limited.
Popular belief has it that the full moon disrupts sleep, making people more prone to insomnia. There is something attractive about the notion that the moon could influence such intimate aspects of our lives.
Those for whom the full moon disrupts their sleep feel there’s something romantic about being woken up by moonlight.
But is there anything to this notion, or has it become a self-fulfilling prophecy for those people who have specific ideas on the influence of the full moon?
The evidence is not abundant and is primarily based on small-scale studies, but it does seem to suggest that the full moon can affect a person’s quality of sleep.
A study published in Sleep Medicine in 2014 assessed the sleep quality of 319 participants during different moon phases. This study found that during a full moon, participants had lower sleep efficiency. This means that they remained awake or in a state of light sleep for most of the time they spent in bed overnight.
It may be intuitive to blame sleeplessness on the bright moonlight and the lack of heavy drapes to block the moon light, but it may go further than that.
In an experiment done on 17 volunteers who were asked to sleep in windowless, dark rooms for a few nights, researchers measured changes in sleep structure, brain activity during sleep, as well as in melatonin and cortisol levels.
Years after the study was completed, the researchers decided to pore over the data again, and look for a correlation with moon phases.
The analysis the investigators then conducted suggested that immediately before and after a full moon, participants took about 5 minutes longer, on average, to fall asleep, and their sleep duration fell by about 20 minutes.
Their sleep was also lighter than usual, and melatonin levels also dropped close to the full moon.
The researchers could not explain these changes by exposure to bright moonlight since the participants slept in fully dark, controlled environments.
The lunar cycle seems to influence human sleep, even when one does not ‘see’ the moon and is not aware of the actual moon phase.
The moon and mental health
Another widely held notion has it that the moon influences mood and psychiatric health, and that the full moon, in particular, can make people more aggressive.
Recent evidence disproves the notion that certain moon phases could make people more aggressive.
In folklore, the full moon triggers the metamorphosis from human to wolf of the werewolf, a mythical creature that reflects our ongoing fascination with the “bestial” potential of humans.
English words denoting madness or eccentricity, such as “moony,” “lunatic,” or “lunacy,” all have Old English or Latin roots meaning “moon.”
One study from 1984 suggested that the rate of criminality was likely to increase on nights with a full moon.
More recent research, published in 2009, suggested that psychiatric facilities admitted more people during the full moon than usual. This small study, which looked at the records of 91 patients “with violent and acute behavioral disturbance,” found that 23% of these admissions took place during the full moon.
This “was approximately double the number for other lunar phases,” the researchers write in their study paper.
However, other research has contradicted the notion that the full moon makes people more likely to harm themselves and others. A study published in 1998 found “no significant relationship” between any phase of the moon and a rise in violent behavior.
In 2019, researchers from Switzerland and the United States analyzed the data of 17,966 individuals treated at 15 different psychiatric wards over 10 years. This study also found no evidence of a rise in aggression during the full moon phase.
"Beliefs that the moon influences human behaviour seem largely impervious to the fact that a great deal of research has failed to support them", the researchers warn in the study paper.
“The reasons for the persistence of such beliefs may not be found in a rational understanding but more in a primal, emotional desire to believe that we are not solely responsible for our own behaviors,” they write. They emphasize that in the future, we may all find it more helpful to look to our own biology and human context, rather than to celestial bodies, for answers.
While it seems that there is still not enough scientific evidence to confirm a large influence of the moon on our behaviour and health, we can still actively decide to be influenced by a full moon.
Here's some advice from a romantic soul!Plan a date night or some sort of romantic activity with your significant other.
Spend as much time out in nature as possible a few days before the full moon , while limiting your time with artificial light sources
Use grounding techniques by walking outside on bare feet, practicing yoga or whatever ritual which makes you feel balanced.
Allow your creative juices to flow! Maybe go to a couples’ workshop or do couple’s yoga together; this is a great time to unleash your originality and share in new experiences with your partner (or yourself).
Honor thyself. Wear something that makes you feel beautiful, go outside and dance under the Full Moon, or just smile at yourself in the mirror.
Practice tantra. While the Full Moon gives off a lot of exuberance, make sure to hone that in and slow down a bit to fully connect with your partner. Don’t move too fast and miss each precious moment; allow the pull of the moon to take you to new cosmic heights together.
Don’t resist; just go with the flow. Any resistance you feel will manifest itself elsewhere in your life, so just use this time to celebrate love, life, and the connection you have with the universe.
Create a space in your home for intimacy. Light your favorite-scented candles, buy some roses to place around your room, take a relaxing bath with a few drops of lavender or jasmine essential oils, and make sure your bed has comfortable sheets and pillows.