In light of the Super Blood Wolf Moon and the upcoming Lunar New Year, we can’t help but wonder if the moon can impact sleep.
Now, obviously sleeping next to a window with a full moon shining into your face might make sleeping a little harder than it would be on a night with a new moon. But what happens when you take other variables, like light, out of the equation?
There is a link.
Several studies have controlled for these variables and found the lunar cycle actually does influence your sleep. The most significant of these studies is a Swiss study led by Christian Cajochen. The study involved 33 volunteers whose sleep was studied periodically over three years. Subjects were studied in a sleep lab with the purpose of gathering general data on sleep and the variations with gender and age.
Later, this study was repurposed to determine the influence of lunar cycles on sleep. The study found that deep sleep decreased by 30% within the 3 to 4 days surrounding a full moon. Additionally, during this time frame, it took participants an average of five minutes longer to fall asleep, and their time asleep was 20 minutes shorter.
Another study in Current Biology found the full moon to decrease sleep time by as much as 25 minutes. This study also found that it took participants 30 minutes longer to enter REM sleep during a new moon. This research further suggests a link between lunar activity and our sleep cycles.
What is the connection?
To be frank, we don’t know.
Some scientists suggest it is an evolutionary instinct to be awake longer during full moons even if individuals are not exposed to its light. It is argued that the full moon’s light gave man the ability to hunt at night and those able to react to this change and remain alert had a genetic advantage.
Other’s indicate the gravitational pull of the moon as the reason for this influence. However, this theory has been heavily refuted by the scientific community.
Another proposed explanation is a biological rhythm similar to the circadian rhythm that is synchronized with the lunar cycle.
One thing scientists do agree on it the need for further research into the relationship between sleep and the moon.
What can you do about it?
Since moonlight has been proven not to be a contributing factor to lunar influence on sleep, drawing the shades isn’t going to eliminate full moon sleep issues. Plan to get in bed 20 to 30 minutes earlier than usual to offset the shortened sleep duration.
Additionally, the research suggests that natural melatonin release decreases during a full moon, so you might consider taking a melatonin supplement. (Keep in mind that, while melatonin is a more natural sleep aid, you should discuss with your doctor before taking any supplements or medications).
The best way to manipulate your sleep cycles to keep them consistent as the moon waxes and wains is to regulate your sleep temperature. Sleeping at a consistent, cool temperature, with the ChiliPad for example, is scientifically proven to increase deep sleep. This is even more important during a full moon, as it is shown to decrease your deep sleep by 30%!
Don’t howl at the moon next month! Instead, curl up in bed, keep bedtime consistent and increase your deep sleep tonight.