Does the moon influence our sleep? This is what science says

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Yes, the moon – it is said to have some magical powers. Most often, we hear that it hurts our sleep. But does it? It seems that science has now actually found an answer!

Does the moon make us sleep worse?
The moon holds a great fascination for many people. While some people completely follow the lunar cycle and, for example, cut their hair only according to the lunar calendar, others, in turn, feel the full moon very strongly when they can’t sleep at night and toss and turn in bed for hours. The myth that the moon strongly influences our sleep quality has persisted for many, many years. But is there any truth to the theory at all?

For decades, scientists have disagreed on whether the moon influences our sleep or whether psychological phenomena such as self-fulfilling prophecies are behind it. Researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle have now looked into this issue. And the results are arousing interest because the study suggests that you sleep worse during a full moon.

To scientifically prove the moon-sleep theory, the team around Horacio de la Iglesia and Leandro Casiraghi studied the sleep behaviour of several groups over two lunar cycles. One group of subjects lives traditionally and without access to electricity. A second group lives in communities with limited electrical infrastructure, while the remaining study participants reside in urban areas.

While previous studies have often relied on data from sleep labs or had subjects keep a sleep diary, the Seattle experts used small devices that participants wore on their wrists for several weeks. More precisely, sleep sensors were attached to measure the nighttime behaviour of the participants’ bodies. This made it possible to record their sleep-wake rhythm extremely specifically.

The result: in all groups, the test subjects fell asleep 30 to 80 minutes later than usual on the nights before the full moon. They also exhibited 20 to 90 minutes less sleep. This result was repeated in the next lunar cycle as well. “We see a clear modulation of sleep by the moon, with later sleep onset and shorter sleep duration in the days before a full moon,” Horacio de la Iglesia says in the study description.

“Inner clock” could be responsible
The scientists also provide a possible explanation for this phenomenon in the study. “We hypothesize that the observed patterns are an innate adaptation that allowed our ancestors to take advantage of this natural source of evening light that occurred at a specific phase during the lunar cycle,” Casiraghi says in the study.

All is well and good, but how can we explain the effect on subjects surrounded by brighter artificial light which often don’t even notice the full moon? A possible explanation from the expert: There could be a connection with the “internal clock.” However, this is only conjecture. Therefore, the researchers suggest that this should be investigated in greater detail in future studies. By the way, the next full moon awaits us on March 18. Anyone who lies awake again then will at least now know that not everything is just psychosomatic.

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