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Popular theories about the effects of full moon on human health and behavior are numerous. Most of them, however, seem to have shaky foundation. But the lower quality of sleep during the full moon nights was recently confirmed by scientific research.

The nights of full moon are surrounded by a great deal of folklore and superstitions. This is time when werewolves come alive, vampires hunt for innocent victims, and everyone should think twice about dwelling outside the safety of well protected house. Legends aside, full moon is popularly associated with anxiety, disturbed sleep and even increased level of violence among people. The latter was taken very seriously by the authorities in the British city of Brighton where the local police force was ordered to put more officers on the streets at the nights of full moon.

Effects of full moon: how to separate myths and reality?

It is not easy, however, to scientifically prove whether our fascination with full moon is based on the real solid facts, or just comes from watching too many horror movies. There are no doubts that the moon influences our physiology. After all, the women’s menstrual cycle seems to be bound to the phases of the moon, even though we still don’t have any clear explanations why. In the wild nature, the time of full moon means that the nights are brightly illuminated, which makes it easier to both hunt and be hunted. Our prehistoric ancestors could not have been able to avoid this effect, and it is reasonable to assume that some aspects of our behavior and biology still reflect the experience of that distant past.

Fertility and birth rates do not correlate with lunar cycle

The theories surrounding the effects of lunar cycle on human behavior were always popular. A specific term – Transylvanian effect – was coined to describe the effects of full moon on humans. As a matter of fact, many of these theories were tested scientifically, and in the majority of cases no connection between the phase of moon and particular aspects of behavior was ever found.

Speculations about the connection between fertility and lunar phases were checked by a number of studies, but no clear correlations were ever identified.

Although the length of menstrual period is the same as the duration of lunar cycle, the stages of menstrual cycle are not synchronized with the phases of the moon. The same applies to the birth rate which was speculated to be higher at the full moon: none of the recent studies has found any connections here. The lack of evidences makes skeptics to think that the same length for both lunar and menstrual cycles is nothing more than coincidence.

Full moon and human behavior

British police has made headlines in 2007 by announcing that they research have shown a significant rise in the violent and anti-social behavior during the full moon nights. Police officers argued that during these nights people seem to behave more strange and become more argumentative.

No proper scientific research has supported the Scotland Yard’s point of view so far, but there were a number of reports showing that the level of aggression and violence tends to be higher at the full moon among the people with mental disorders. Later analysis has demonstrated that this is indeed correct for schizophrenics, but no physiological explanation for this observation was found so far.

Continue reading after recommendations

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  • Baxendale, Sallie, Fisher, Jennifer (2008) Moonstruck? The effect of the lunar cycle on seizures. Epilepsy & Behavior 13 (3): 549–550
  • Martens, R., Kelly, I. W., Saklofske, D. H. (1988) Lunar Phase and Birthrate: A 50-year Critical Review. Psychological Reports 63 (3): 923–934
  • Cajochen, Christian, Altanay-Ekici, Songül, Münch, Mirjam, Frey, Sylvia, Knoblauch, Vera, Wirz-Justice, Anna (2013) Evidence that the Lunar Cycle Influences Human Sleep. Current Biology 23 (15): 1485–1488
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