Cultural folklore tells tales of the moon and the strange effects it can have on us.
Our glorious nocturnal orb in the sky was once shrouded in mystery, a muse of folklore and mythology. As we come up on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo XI moon landing, we now know much more about it than ever before. And yet, some traditional beliefs are harder to shake than others.
There’s a rabbit on the moon.
From Native American legends to Buddhist folktales, stories from various cultures around the world tell of a rabbit that lives on the moon. But how, and why a rabbit? Some speculate that the markings on the moon inspire a common interpretation. This tale (pun intended) is obviously one that’s been debunked. No question about it, a giant rabbit does not make its home on the moon.
The full moon makes people act really weird.
We’ve all heard someone say something along the lines of, “What’s up with Joe? Must be a full moon,” or “The kids are being menaces today. Must be the moon.” Strange behaviours to acts of complete lunacy often invite these types of declarations but there isn’t much scientific evidence to back such broad claims.
Astrologists, who date their studies back to over 4000 years ago often claim otherwise, and there may be something to be said about charting celestial bodies and their effects on people. The fact that astrology is generally known to be a pseudoscience doesn’t prove that the moon has no effect on human behaviour. Especially when it comes to sleep.
The fact remains…
Studies show that phases of the moon, specifically the full moon, might actually have some effect on our sleep. One study, in particular, showed that during a full moon, it can take longer for us to fall asleep and once asleep, we often remain in a lighter state of sleep than normal and for a shorter overall duration. Interesting, right?
Howstuffworks.com claims that there’s “a fairly robust body of research” on the moon’s effects on human behaviour, but none to explain how it happens.
So what do we know?
We know that people are generally wired to sleep at night (there’s debate on that also but we know world-wide, people operate on a daytime-equals-work and nighttime-equals-rest schedule). If there’s light, we’re up. If it’s dark, we sleep. During a full moon, there’s more light than during a waxing, waning or new moon and maybe our bodies know it.
We also know that our ancestors would have been more attuned to natural light and it’s possible that over eons, our bodies have become attuned to the available luminescence -- day to night, new moon to full moon. In a sense, our circadian rhythm is innately tied to the ways of the universe. (Perhaps the astrologists have been onto something all this time?!)
It’s a basic premise and a shaky hypothesis at best, but it’s not outrageous by any means. So if you notice your sleep was a little off or you woke up a little groggier than usual over last Monday’s Super Wolf Blood Moon, you may have just learned why.
What can you do about it?
As we have no control over how the moon spends its time over the course of a month there isn’t much any of us can do there. And without definitive studies proving the relationship and the mechanisms behind the moon and sleep, there’s not much we can use to draw concrete conclusions. The study mentioned earlier in this article had their subjects sleep in pitch-black rooms and the results showed that there is indeed some correlation. So it seems that sleeping in complete darkness during a full moon doesn’t help with better sleep, and a better alternative has yet to be discovered.
What are your thoughts? Did you notice a difference in your sleep pattern this week?