These days describing someone’s behavior as “lunacy” means that they’re being extremely strange or foolish. But did you know that the word also means intermittent insanity, previously believed be related to the phases of the moon? 🌛
Many a time, we find others or even ourselves attributing a drastic change in mood to the full moon. The moon and its possible influence over human behavior has been a subject of fascination and mythical speculation for centuries. Now we obviously know that the full moon cannot turn people into werewolves 🐺 like in the movies, however, some people do accuse it of causing a bad night’s sleep or creating physical and mental alterations. But is there any science behind these beliefs? Keep reading to find out! 🤔
Historically, the word “lunatic” comes from the Roman moon goddess “Luna”. In ancient Greece and Rome, philosophers believed that the water in the brain might be subject to the same kind of tidal motions as the sea, creating a wave of strange behaviour whenever the moon was full. 🌝 Even today, some psychiatrists continue to hold up this water-brain theory. Indeed, we are made of mostly water, however, this theory hasn’t been scientifically proven. In fact, the moon is smaller than the Earth, so its gravitational pull is correspondingly less powerful. What’s interesting is that the moon exerts the same force on us regardless of whether it’s new or full. 😮
WHAT DO RESEARCHERS HAVE TO SAY?
The ability of the moon to influence our behavior is undoubtedly an idea with broad appeal. One survey in the USA found that about 40% of the general population, and 80% of mental health professionals, believe that the phase of the moon affects human behavior. 😯
Even police officers or staff in hospital emergency departments insist that there were more accidents, violent incidents and psychiatric admissions when the moon was full. In 2007, the police force in the British seaside resort of Brighton even went as far as to employ extra officers during full moons. 👮👮
And yet, 99+% of the evidence says that the moon has no effect on human behavior. 🌓 US psychologists James Rotton, Ivan Kelly and Roger Culver reviewed over 100 of studies on the effects of the lunar cycle back in 1991. They concluded that the moon was unrelated to the numbers of psychiatric admissions, murders, car accidents, suicides and crimes. Additionally, most of the research they had found was poorly conducted, flawed in some way or ignored obvious variables. 🤷
Still not convinced? Another study conducted on a total of 5,812 children from five continents was conducted to see if there were any differences in their daily activities or in their sleeping patterns. 😴 Data was collected over a duration of 28 months, which is equivalent to the same number of lunar cycles. The results revealed that in general, sleep duration around full moon compared to new moon reported an average decrease of five minutes (or a 1% variant) during the night. 🤔 The clinical implication of sleeping five minutes less during a full moon does not represent a considerable threat to health. Furthermore, Dr. Chaput added that “overall, I think we should not be worried about the full moon” since human behavior is largely influenced by many other factors like genes, education, income and psychosocial aspects rather than by gravitational forces. 🤷
One-off studies have occasionally shown one or another of these things to be “true,” but remember: A single study means nothing. No one has ever been able to show consistently, with multiple studies, that the full moon has any effect on behaviour. 😕 So, if the evidence for any link is so slim, why are so many people convinced it’s a real phenomenon? It could be an example of the confirmation bias, where people are more likely to notice and remember information which fits in with what they already believe. 🤷
PS: The weather affects our mood too!
Written and Researched by Angela D’Costa