New study suggests human response to lunar cycles
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — If you didn’t sleep so well the last couple of nights, you might be able to blame it on the moon.
A new study, published this week in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, suggests that lunar cycles have some influence over human behavior, perhaps dating back eons, when the moon may ave synchronized human behaviors for reproductive or other purposes, much as it does in other animals.
Today, the moon’s hold over us is usually masked by the influence of electrical lighting and other aspects of modern life, but the study offers some convincing scientific evidence that humans still respond to the geophysical rhythms of the moon, driven by a circalunar clock.
“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,” said Christian Cajochen of the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel.
The researchers studied 33 volunteers in two age groups in the lab while they slept, monitoring brain patterns, along with eye movements and hormone secretions.
The data show that around the full moon, brain activity related to deep sleep dropped by 30 percent. People also took five minutes longer to fall asleep, and they slept for twenty minutes less time overall. Study participants felt as though their sleep was poorer when the moon was full, and they showed diminished levels of melatonin, a hormone known to regulate sleep and wake cycles.
“This is the first reliable evidence that a lunar rhythm can modulate sleep structure in humans when measured under the highly controlled conditions of a circadian laboratory study protocol without time cues,” the researchers said.
Future research could look more deeply into the anatomical location of the circalunar clock and its molecular and neuronal underpinnings. And, they say, it could turn out that the moon has power over other aspects of our behavior as well, such as our cognitive performance and our moods.