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Science Friday, July 26th 2013 at 1:20 pm

Maybe It’s Time to Mock Astrologists a Bit Less? Full Moon Shown to Actually Affect Sleep Cycles

Buffy, we got your "New Moon Rising" right here.

cow moon

While there’s still no way to determine the affect of Mercury’s retrograde on actual life, recent research has shown that lunar cycles do objectively impact sleep patterns. So add your ability to feel well-rested to the honored list of stuff that is affected by the Moon, previously limited to such things as high tides, werewolves, and the Sailor Scouts.

Lead by professor Christian Cajochen at the University of Basel’s Psychiatric Hospital, a team of researchers studied results of a decade-old experiment that tested thirty-three subjects’ sleep patterns in relation to cycles of the Moon over a period of 64 nights. Factors such as menstrual cycles and natural light were carefully controlled. To determine the differences in sleep, scientists monitored the volunteers’ brain patterns, eye movement, and hormone secretions.

The results? When it was closer to the full moon, sleep-related brain activity dropped 30% and the volunteers slept 20 minutes fewer on average. Subjects also reported feeling that their sleep was not as restful, and showed lower levels of melatonin.

It’s important to note that while this study seems to have measurable impacts and is based on a reasonable hypothesis, the data was gathered ten years ago and the sample size is small. Still, Professor Cajochen believes the results are accurate. “Although cautious, we’re confident we have enough statistical power to detect an influence of the moon,” he said in a statement.

Researchers think this trait might be a lingering effect of the Moon synchronizing human behavior, an phenomenon that has been reported in other animals and which modern life (especially electricity!) has largely diminished.

(via Medical Press, New Scientist, image via Tracy Brandon)

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