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How a Full Moon Can Affect Your Sleep

Jul 27, 2013 02:56 PM EDT

For years people have blamed a full Moon on poor sleep -- a claim that sounds like it ought to be shelved along with the other old wives' tales of the world right, including the oft-repeated warning that one's eyes can get stuck while crossed.

However, a new study published in the journal Current Biology argues in favor of the statement by demonstrating the connection between human sleep behavior and lunar cycles.

The group, led by Christian Cajochen of the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel, analyzed 30 volunteers in two age groups. While they were sleeping, the scientists monitored their brain patterns, eye movements and measured their hormone secretions. In doing so, they discovered that, despite the comforts of modern life, humans still respond to the geophysical rhythms of the moon.

"This is the first reliable evidence that lunar rhythm can modulate sleep structure in humans," Cajochen said in a press release.

The data they collected showed that both the subjective and the objective perception of the quality of sleep changed with the lunar cycles with brain activity in areas related to deep sleep dropping by 30 percent when the Moon was full. People also took an average of five minutes longer to fall asleep and slept for 20 minutes less. Overall, volunteers felt as though their quality of sleep suffered and scientists observed lower levels of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wake cycles.

This phenomenon, the scientists hypothesize, could be a leftover from an earlier time in human history when the moon was responsible for synchronizing human behavior as it still is today in animals, especially marine animals.

Today's modern life with its electric light and varying schedules may mask the Moon's influence on us but; however, the authors argue their study shows that in the controlled environment of the laboratory with a strict study protocol, the Moon's hold can be made visible and measurable again.

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