Lunar Insomnia: Does The Full Moon Affect Sleep?
The third full moon of the astronomical season, known as the sturgeon moon, is appearing this Sunday (22nd August) and is expected to also be a ‘blue moon’ visible on both Saturday and Sunday night. While we may be unaware of the impact lunar activity has on our sleep, we asked the experts how the sturgeon moon, synonymous with the final days of summer, could affect us and how to ensure we get enough sleep during a full moon. From minimising light to relaxation techniques and creating the perfect sleep hygiene routine…
How does the full moon affect sleep?
Ever noticed that you struggle to fall or stay asleep during periods of a full moon? This is surprisingly common, and has even been tagged as ‘lunar insomnia’ by people who suffer from it.
While it could be a coincidence that that your periods of restlessness seem to occur during a full moon, there could actually be a link between the lunar cycle and your body clock. This isn’t surprising considering the moon has long been known to affect many processes on Earth.
From controlling the tides to impacting animal behavioural patterns, the moon could have a much deeper link to our life here on this planet than we might commonly think. But could it be responsible for your sleepless nights?
(Listen to Jasmin Harsono, Spiritual Healer from Emerald and Tiger talk about the power of the moon here)
Does lunar insomnia exist?
A Swiss study published in the Journal of Sleep Research thinks so. During this study, researchers looked into the link between lunar phases and sleep. They analysed the sleep patterns of 31 volunteers over the course of six weeks, which included two full moons. Participants slept in a controlled environment, and were asked to fill in a diary to track their sleep for the duration of the study.
They found that participants slept for shorter lengths of time during periods of a full moon, and found it harder to fall and stay asleep during this phase. While it’s worth noting that this change was minimal, and participants only slept around 20 minutes less on average during a full moon, the results still showed a correlation between the lunar cycle and rest. So, if you find it hard to fall and stay asleep, or sleep a lot less during this period, you’re not alone.
Sleep patterns are influenced by moon phases
Another sleep study found that the full moon is associated with worse sleep. On average, people took five minutes longer to fall asleep, took longer to reach deep REM sleep, reported a drop in sleep quality, and experienced a 30% reduction in deep sleep overall.
Why does the moon affect your sleep?
Now that we’ve looked at how the moon affects your sleep, it’s important to know why, as there may be steps you can take to minimise the impact.
The Swiss study concluded that their results may be down to our human biology. Scientists have suggested that both men and women have a hormone cycle that coincides with the lunar cycle, and it’s this fluctuation in hormones that causes sleep disruption.
However, it’s possible that increased light from the full moon could also be responsible for your reduced sleep. A 2021 study on indigenous Toba/Qom communities in Argentina found that participants stayed awake for longer and had a shorter sleep duration during a full moon. They suggested that this could be down to the extra amount of light that occurs during these periods, which allowed the community to continue with their tasks well into the night.
It’s entirely possible that this displays an evolutionary link between sleep and the moon. Since communities without access to artificial light rely on the moon to control their sleep phases, it’s possible that we still have this link in our own bodies, even in urbanised areas.
How to get enough sleep during a full moon
Whatever the correlation is between the moon and your sleep patterns, getting a bad night’s rest certainly isn’t ideal. Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to minimise the impact, so you can get a better night’s sleep, no matter the lunar phase.
Since it’s entirely possible that the moonlight is responsible for keeping you awake, it makes sense to minimise this light as much as you can. Investing in a pair of blackout curtains or a blind will help keep this light out of your bedroom, plus it will block out any extra artificial light such as the glow of street lamps. An eye mask is another great solution.
Don’t forget, you may also have a few light distractions in your bedroom that could be keeping you awake too. To get the best night’s rest, switch off all your devices and chargers that could keep you awake.
Try something relaxing
Your mind and body can be very susceptible to the placebo effect. If you go to bed expecting to get a bad night’s sleep due to the full moon, this thinking can cause you to have a restless night. Setting yourself up to have a good night’s sleep can help to combat this, so try to incorporate something relaxing into your bedtime routine. This can be anything from taking a warm bubble bath, to reading a book, or spending a bit of extra time on a soothing skincare routine. Anything you can do to help your mind and body unwind will help.
Invest in a comfortable bed
Tossing and turning in bed? It might not be the moon at all. An old, worn, or simply uncomfortable mattress can have a significant impact on your sleep quality, so it’s important that you invest in the right one for you to get a good night’s rest.
To choose the best mattress, take a look at the firmness rating, as this is what will determine the level of support your body receives. The right firmness rating for you can depend entirely on your preference, but your sleeping position can be a good guide.
For back and front sleepers, we usually suggest a medium to firm mattress, while side sleepers should look for something a little softer. Choosing a mattress with extra features, such as an orthopaedic mattress or one with a cooling gel incorporated into the filling, is also an option to consider.
Alison Hughes, Interiors Director at Coast Road Furniture explains that “While there may not be a clear cause for lunar insomnia, there’s no denying that some people do find it more difficult to get some shut-eye during a full moon. Whether it’s due to evolutionary factors or the increased amount of light, taking steps to get a better night’s rest can do wonders for your sleep health during this time.
“Blackout blinds, curtains, and eye masks can be great for blocking out light distractions that may have you tossing and turning during the night. It’s also vital that you invest in the right kind of mattress and bedding. Something that supports you at all your pressure points is perfect, as it’ll help relieve and prevent back pain that can impact your sleep.
“Sometimes, even just the thought of getting a bad night’s rest can be disruptive, so having a calming bedtime routine can also help put you in the right mindset to relax and drift off. Soothing scents like lavender and chamomile can help, so you could look for a candle, room spray, bubble bath, or skincare that includes these plants as an ingredient.
“Even if you don’t suffer from lunar insomnia, creating the perfect sleep environment and having a relaxing routine can help you get a better night’s sleep. Give one or two of them a go and you could wake up feeling more refreshed and ready to start your day.”
Liked this article on ‘Lunar Insomnia: Does the full moon affect sleep’? Read this article on detoxing with the moon.
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Does the full moon affect sleep?
Yes, studies have shown that the full moon can disrupt sleep patterns, causing decreased sleep quality and duration.
Why does the full moon affect sleep?
The exact reason is unknown, but it is believed that the increased brightness of the moon may disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythm.
Can lunar insomnia be treated?
Yes, treatment options include practicing good sleep hygiene, using relaxation techniques, and in severe cases, medication may be prescribed.
Is lunar insomnia a common sleep disorder?
No, lunar insomnia is a rare sleep disorder that affects a small percentage of the population.