SCIENTISTS say they’ve proven what paramedics have claimed for years – evidence that shows people go a bit nutty when there’s a full moon.
Dr Gordian Fulde has been the director of the emergency department at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital for 30 years and says throughout his entire career he’s known “people really do behave more strangely than they normally do” at the peak of the lunar cycle.
“It’s a very firm belief because it’s just been like this for years, decades and centuries,” Dr Fulde said.
However, science has only just caught up.
Dr Christian Cajochen, at the University of Basel in Switzerland, believes his study of sleep patterns has proved the size of the moon makes a difference and people like Dr Fulde should feel validated.
His research showed the rate of deep sleep dropped by 30 per cent around the full moon, people took five minutes longer than normal to fall asleep, and they slept for 20 minutes less overall.
“The lunar cycle seems to influence human sleep, even when one does not see the moon and is not aware of the actual moon phase,” Dr Cajochen said.
He said some patients were less in control of their emotions while others just felt “not on their game” when there was a full moon.
“I know at my own practice I see a lot more emotional distress, relationship problems, communication problems around the time of the full moon,” he said.
“People are a lot more emotional, a lot more needy, they just can’t handle their impulses (as well as they normally can).”
He said his advice to people who felt particularly vulnerable around the full moon was to “batten down the hatches” and ride the storm.
Health Services Union secretary and former paramedic Gerard Hayes said he was warned when he first started as an ambulance officer that “a full moon would bring out some interesting behaviour in people”.
“(Older paramedics) would say to you, ‘Mate, brace yourself, it’s a full moon’,” Mr Hayes said.
“I guess you could generalise it as really quite erratic behaviour, and more of it.”
Dr Cajochen said while there was finally evidence to support what medical professionals have always claimed, there needed to be more research to establish how closely sleep was aligned with the lunar cycles.
His research used the results of a completely separate study of the sleeping patterns of 33 patients at the university a decade ago.
Each patient was originally studied under “very controlled conditions” for a period of four days each.
Dr Cajochen and his team retrospectively matched up when each patient was studied and what the lunar cycle would have been at the time.
He said the fact his research used results from a separate test strengthened his findings because it meant the subjects were not influenced by knowing they were being studied for how their sleep was affected by the moon.
Around the time of the full moon:
– Brain activity related to deep sleep dropped by 30 per cent
– Subjects took five minutes longer than normal to fall asleep
– They slept for 20 minutes less overall
– Study participants felt their sleep was poorer and showed diminished levels of melatonin, a hormone known to regulate sleep and wake cycles
Source: Dr Christian Cajochen’s research is published in the medical publication Current Biology
Cover photo: Source: News Limited