Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 30th 2013 Contents A32
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, July 30, 2013
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and advice
You don t have to be a werewolf to feel restless
when the full moon rises.
A new study in the journal Cell Biology suggests
that people tend to get lower quality sleep around
the time of full moons, snoozing an average of 20
minutes less than they do during a new moon.
"If you ask people, at least in Switzerland, about
40 per cent report feeling the moon during sleep,
or they blame the full moon for bad sleep," said lead
study author Christian Cajochen of the Psychiatric
Hospital of the University of Basel in Switzerland.
That s why he and his colleagues decided to inves-
The study included 33 healthy volunteers, between
ages 20 and 74. Participants slept under strictly con-
trolled conditions in a laboratory with no windows,
so they had no way of seeing the moon. They stayed
in the laboratory for 3 ½ days. Humidity and tem-
perature were controlled.
Neither the participants nor the researchers knew,
at the time of the experiment, that the phase of the
moon would become part of the study. This decision
reduced any bias that either group may have intro-
duced regarding the moon---but also presented the
drawback that the study didn t look at all phases of
the moon s cycle.
The data come from an experiment done ten years
ago; Cajochen and colleagues didn t analyse the
results in terms of lunar patterns until several years
after they did the study and waited to publish until
The full moon was associated with a 20-minute
reduction of total sleep time, the study authors found.
Researchers also found that it took about five min-
utes longer for participants to fall asleep around a
full moon than around a new moon. Deep sleep was,
on average, 30 per cent decreased around the time
of a full moon.
People sleeping in the lab nearer to the day of a
full moon also had lower evening levels of melatonin,
a hormone important to circadian rhythm that drives
the body s cycles of day and night and, therefore,
wakefulness and sleep.
"We have evidence that the distance to the nearest
full-moon phase significantly influences human sleep
and evening melatonin levels when measured under
strictly controlled laboratory conditions, where factors
such as light and personal moon perception can be
excluded," the study authors wrote.
The number of participants in the study was small
so the results may not apply to wider population.
Also, the researchers didn t control what volunteers
were exposed to in the week before the study; their
individual environments could have influenced their
Generally, the methods and analyses in this exper-
iment are solid, said Philip Gehrman, assistant pro-
fessor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania,
who was not involved in the study.
In graduate school, Gehrman analysed data about
the sleep habits of older adults with Alzheimer s dis-
ease in nursing homes to see if lunar cycles had an
effect. He didn t find one, but "the nurses would
swear that the patients became more agitated and
slept worse during a full moon," he told CNN in an
The current Cell Biology study wasn t set up to
find out why the full moon may interfere with sleep,
but Cajochen speculated the human brain may have
an internal clock that is somehow synchronized with
the moon. Scientists already know about circadian
rhythms. There may also be a clock that s driven by
Full moon may disrupt
sleep, study says
Some marine species have been shown to have
reproductive patterns that sync up with lunar cycles,
"We don t know whether humans still have it and
why," he said.
Further research would be necessary to confirm
these findings---for instance, functional magnetic res-
onance imaging could help scientists figure out what s
going on in the brain during sleep at various stages
of the lunar cycle. (cnn.com)
The recent "Supermoon" as seen in
Michigan, USA. Scientists have evidence
that during the full moon some people get
less sleep. AP PHOTO
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