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Moonstruck: Insomnia Strikes During Lunar Cycle

First Posted: Jul 26, 2013 02:01 PM EDT
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You might not see a werewolf strolling around your neighborhood or a witch gliding across the sky on a broom, but moonstruck madness is a real thing, and scientists show that it can hit just about anyone.

This mysterious, majestic planet holds a great place in the history of human culture. Besides the aforementioned, just think about it. Before the discovery of fire, modern lighting at night was based on the moon!

Of course, this was a very, very long time ago. And to see in the darkness at night these days, you simply turn on a flash light, your car or step into a city of dizzying lights. These days, we might not even recognize the moon. It's actually quite sad to think that something that once seemed so big is now just a ball in the sky like an obscure object in a painting.

However, it still influences us quite more than we realize. In fact, previous studies have shown that around the time of a full moon in particular, there tend to be more emergency room visits, pet injuries, and even higher rates of menstruation.

And according to a recent study, many people who complain about poor sleep patterns around the lunar cycle may also be experiencing chaotic symptoms of a full moon.

The study suggests that humans actually experience disrupted sleep cycles during the height of the lunar cycle as their bodies still respond to the geophysical rhythms of the moon. Scientists also believe that this phenomenon can be proof that we are still driven by a circalunar clock, otherwise known as our internal biological clock that extends back to our cave-dwelling days.

 "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," researcher Christian Cajochen of the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel, said in a news release.

In fact, background information from the study actually suggests that light sleep during the day may have been important to early humans as a way to protect themselves from  nocturnal predators.

To test their theory further, researchers studied volunteers that were sectioned into two groups. The participants' brain patterns were then followed, along with their eye movements and hormone secrtions as they slept.

Findings showed that around the time of the full moon, brain activity revealed decreased sleep patterns by 30 percent. In other words, it took some longer than five minutes to fall asleep. The study also found that participants slept for twenty minutes less overall. Participants also reported poorer sleep and showed less melatonin levels in their blood stream, the hormone that is known for regulating 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," researchers wrote in the study.

What do you think?

More information regarding the study can be found in the journal Current Biology

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