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Sleep: A Biological Stimulus from Our Nearest Celestial Neighbor?

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Abstract

Three studies have retrospectively analysed different data-sets to assess whether there is an effect of lunar phase upon human sleep. The results and conclusions differ. Until specifically designed experiments, controlling for key variables, are undertaken this issue will remain open.

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... Some authors have argued against strong effects of moon phase on human behavior and biological rhythms (6)(7)(8), but recent studies have reported that human sleep and cortical activity under strictly controlled laboratory conditions are synchronized with lunar phases (9,10). The controversy generated by these studies has underscored the need for longitudinal studies that can assess the potential effects of moon cycle on sleep (11). ...
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Before the availability of artificial light, moonlight was the only source of light sufficient to stimulate nighttime activity; still, evidence for the modulation of sleep timing by lunar phases is controversial. Here, we use wrist actimetry to show a clear synchronization of nocturnal sleep timing with the lunar cycle in participants living in environments that range from a rural setting with and without access to electricity in indigenous Toba/Qom communities in Argentina to a highly urbanized postindustrial setting in the United States. Our results show that sleep starts later and is shorter on the nights before the full moon when moonlight is available during the hours following dusk. Our data suggest that moonlight likely stimulated nocturnal activity and inhibited sleep in preindustrial communities and that access to artificial light may emulate the ancestral effect of early-night moonlight.
... In conclusion, Chaput and colleagues (1) have moved us one step closer, in our understanding of lunar cycle, sleep, and activity. Other methods of assessment, such as forced desynchrony protocols (20), will allow exploring other questions on the impact of lunar cycle on behavior. These methods may contribute to debunking long-held myths, or possibly confirming lay beliefs. ...
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A recent article by Chaput and colleagues (1) provides evidence that if a relationship exists between lunar cycle and sleep duration and physical activity in children, its association is rather weak and less-than-meaningful. Using an international sample of 9- to 11-year olds (n = 5812), monitored by accelerometers, Chaput and his team found no relationship between lunar cycle and physical activity, and a minimal effect between lunar cycle and sleep duration (~5 min/night less sleep under full moon vs. new moon). While this relationship has been studied in the past, this is the first time it has been studied among a diverse pediatric sample of this size.
... Nevertheless, more recent studies based on either sleep electroencephalography (EEG) or subjective sleep evaluations have yielded conflicting results [2][3][4][5][6]. This might be due to the fact that not all key variables have been controlled, and that further studies are required [7]. ...
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Introduction: The aim of this study was to evaluate if there is a significant effect of lunar phases on subjective and objective sleep variables in the general population. Methods: A total of 2125 individuals (51.2% women, age 58.8 ± 11.2 years) participating in a population-based cohort study underwent a complete polysomnography (PSG) at home. Subjective sleep quality was evaluated by a self-rating scale. Sleep electroencephalography (EEG) spectral analysis was performed in 759 participants without significant sleep disorders. Salivary cortisol levels were assessed at awakening, 30 min after awakening, at 11 am, and at 8 pm. Lunar phases were grouped into full moon (FM), waxing/waning moon (WM), and new moon (NM). Results: Overall, there was no significant difference between lunar phases with regard to subjective sleep quality. We found only a nonsignificant (p = 0.08) trend toward a better sleep quality during the NM phase. Objective sleep duration was not different between phases (FM: 398 ± 3 min, WM: 402 ± 3 min, NM: 403 ± 3 min; p = 0.31). No difference was found with regard to other PSG-derived parameters, EEG spectral analysis, or in diurnal cortisol levels. When considering only subjects with apnea/hypopnea index of <15/h and periodic leg movements index of <15/h, we found a trend toward shorter total sleep time during FM (FM: 402 ± 4, WM: 407 ± 4, NM: 415 ± 4 min; p = 0.06) and shorter-stage N2 duration (FM: 178 ± 3, WM: 182 ± 3, NM: 188 ± 3 min; p = 0.05). Conclusion: Our large population-based study provides no evidence of a significant effect of lunar phases on human sleep.
... In contrast, other studies on a wide range of medical conditions, ranging from cardiac arrest through hypertension to mental pathologies, have found no correlation between the studied condition and the lunar phase (Belleville et al., 2012;Duvdevani et al., 2014;Kamp et al., 2013;Kanth, 2012;Komann et al., 2014;Lahner et al., 2009;Terra-Bustamante et al., 2009), and yet some other studies have inconclusive results (Benbadis et al., 2004;Martínez García et al., 2004;Wende et al., 2012). Several conflicting studies have also been published on a connection between lunar phase and sleeping disorders (Cordi et al., 2014;Vyazovskiy & Foster, 2014). Recent studies have shown that people take longer to fall asleep, sleep less, and have a shorter REM phase on full moon nights (Cajochen et al., 2013;Smith et al., 2014;Turányi et al., 2014). ...
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Both time of the day and season have been shown to have a significant effect on stroke incidence. In contrast, the role played by the moon has been little studied. We aimed to investigate the potential association of the lunar phase with the incidence of stroke subtypes [intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH), transient ischemic attack (TIA) and ischemic stroke (IS)], adjusted by circadian and seasonal variations. Consecutive stroke admissions to the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) were analyzed from 2004–2011. Of 6252 patients, 4085 (65.3%) had confirmed dates and hour of the day. Of these, 632 (15.5%) had ICH, 658 (16.1%) presented with TIA and 2202 (53.9%) had IS. There were also 593 (14.5%) stroke mimics. We measured the association of stroke incidence with a particular lunar phase using an incidence rate ratio (IRR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) using Poisson regression model (new moon set as reference). Compared with new moon phase, ICHs occurred significantly more during the first quarter (IRR, 1.55; 95%CI, 1.04 to 2.30; p = 0.03). More TIAs were observed during the first quarter and full moon than in new moon (IRR, 1.69; 95%CI, 1.16 to 2.46; p = 0.01; IRR, 1.52; 95%CI, 0.00 to 2.31; p = 0.05; respectively). Both ICH and TIA occurrence slightly decreased as lunar illumination increased (IRR, 0.99; 95%CI, 0.99 to 1.00; p = 0.01; IRR, 0.99; 95%CI, 0.99 to 1.00; p = 0.04; respectively). No association was found between lunar phase or illumination and IS. All stroke subtypes were less likely to happen between 12AM and 6AM than the remaining 18 h of the day. IS occurrence was significantly higher during the spring than summer (IRR, 1.14; 95%CI, 1.02 to 1.28; p = 0.03). For the patients older than 65 years, incidence of both ICH and IS was higher in spring than in summer (IRR, 1.33; 95%CI, 1.01 to 1.74; p = 0.04; IRR, 1.22; 95%CI, 1.06 to 1.39; p = 0.005; respectively). The lunar phase and illumination are associated with both ICH and TIA incidence. These findings should be tested on other stroke databases.
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In adults, recent evidence demonstrates that sleep and circadian physiology change across lunar phases, including findings that endogenous melatonin levels are lower near the full moon compared to the new moon. Here, we extend these results to early childhood by examining circalunar fluctuations in children's evening melatonin levels. We analysed extant data on young children's circadian rhythms (n = 46, aged 3.0–5.9 years, 59% female). After following a strict sleep schedule for 5–7 days, children completed an in‐home, dim‐light circadian assessment (<10 lux). Salivary melatonin was assessed at regular 20‐ to 30‐min intervals until 1 h past each child's scheduled bedtime. Melatonin levels varied significantly across lunar phases, such that melatonin was lower in participants assessed near the full moon as compared to near the new moon. Significant differences were observed at 50 min (meanfull = 2.5 pg/ml; meannew = 5.4 pg/ml) and 10 min (meanfull = 7.3 pg/ml; meannew = 15.8 pg/ml) before children's scheduled bedtime, as well as at 20 min (meanfull = 15.5 pg/ml; meannew = 26.1 pg/ml) and 50 min (meanfull = 19.9 pg/ml; meannew = 34.3 pg/ml) after bedtime. To our knowledge, these are the first data demonstrating that melatonin secretion, a process regulated by the human circadian system, is sensitive to changes in lunar phase at an early age. Future research is needed to understand the mechanisms underlying this association (e.g., an endogenous circalunar rhythm) and its potential influence on children's sleep and circadian health.
Article
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The public opinion and the scientific community incorrectly believe that the English term "lunatic" was originally related only to insanity, but it also referred to epileptic people. The aim of this article is to clarify the original meaning of the English word "lunatic" by analyzing the evolution of the relationship between psychiatric and neurological diseases and by pointing out the influence of the moon in the history of medicine, in popular traditions, and in English literature. The article also contains a detailed and accurate review of the modern scientific literature on the relationship between moon and epilepsy/psychiatric disorders.
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Collectively the daily, seasonal, lunar and tidal geophysical cycles regulate much of the temporal biology of life on Earth. The increasing isolation of human societies from these geophysical cycles, as a result of improved living conditions, high-quality nutrition and 24/7 working practices, have led many to believe that human biology functions independently of them. Yet recent studies have highlighted the dominant role that our circadian clock plays in the organisation of 24 hour patterns of behaviour and physiology. Preferred wake and sleep times are to a large extent driven by an endogenous temporal program that uses sunlight as an entraining cue. The alarm clock can drive human activity rhythms but has little direct effect on our endogenous 24 hour physiology. In many situations, our biology and our society appear to be in serious opposition, and the damaging consequences to our health under these circumstances are increasingly recognised. The seasons dominate the lives of non-equatorial species, and until recently, they also had a marked influence on much of human biology. Despite human isolation from seasonal changes in temperature, food and photoperiod in the industrialised nations, the seasons still appear to have a small, but significant, impact upon when individuals are born and many aspects of health. The seasonal changes that modulate our biology, and how these factors might interact with the social and metabolic status of the individual to drive seasonal effects, are still poorly understood. Lunar cycles had, and continue to have, an influence upon human culture, though despite a persistent belief that our mental health and other behaviours are modulated by the phase of the moon, there is no solid evidence that human biology is in any way regulated by the lunar cycle.
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The separate contribution of circadian rhythmicity and elapsed time awake on electroencephalographic (EEG) activity during wakefulness was assessed. Seven men lived in an environmental scheduling facility for 4 weeks and completed fourteen 42.85-h 'days', each consisting of an extended (28.57-h) wake episode and a 14.28-h sleep opportunity. The circadian rhythm of plasma melatonin desynchronized from the 42.85-h day. This allowed quantification of the separate contribution of circadian phase and elapsed time awake to variation in EEG power spectra (1-32 Hz). EEG activity during standardized behavioral conditions was markedly affected by both circadian phase and elapsed time awake in an EEG frequency- and derivation-specific manner. The nadir of the circadian rhythm in alpha (8-12 Hz) activity in both fronto-central and occipito-parietal derivations occurred during the biological night, close to the crest of the melatonin rhythm. The nadir of the circadian rhythm of theta (4.5-8 Hz) and beta (20-32 Hz) activity in the fronto-central derivation was located close to the onset of melatonin secretion, i.e. during the wake maintenance zone. As time awake progressed, delta frequency (1-4.5 Hz) and beta (20-32 Hz) activity rose monotonically in frontal derivations. The interaction between the circadian and wake-dependent increase in frontal delta was such that the intrusion of delta was minimal when sustained wakefulness coincided with the biological day, but pronounced during the biological night. Our data imply that the circadian pacemaker facilitates frontal EEG activation during the wake maintenance zone, by generating an arousal signal that prevents the intrusion of low-frequency EEG components, the propensity for which increases progressively during wakefulness.
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Homeostatic and circadian processes are basic mechanisms of human sleep which challenge the common knowledge of large individual variations in sleep need or differences in circadian types. However, since sleep research has mostly focused on group measures, an approach which emphasizes the similarities between subjects, the biological foundations of the individual differences in normal sleep are still poorly understood. In the present work, we assessed individual differences in a range of EEG frequencies including sigma activity during non-REM sleep (8.0-15.5 Hz range) in a group of 10 subjects who had participated in a slow-wave sleep (SWS) deprivation study. We showed that, like a "fingerprint", a particular topographic distribution of the electroencephalogram (EEG) power along the antero-posterior cortical axis distinguishes each individual during non-REM sleep. This individual EEG-trait is substantially invariant across six consecutive nights characterized by large experimentally induced changes of sleep architecture. One possible hypothesis is that these EEG invariances can be related to individual differences in genetically determined functional brain anatomy, rather than to sleep-dependent mechanisms.
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This paper reviews the literature on interindividual variability in human sleep parameters, sleepiness, responses to sleep deprivation, and manifestations of sleep disorders. Variability among individuals in sleep/wake biology and behavior is pervasive. The magnitude of such individual differences is often considerable and comparable to the effect sizes of many experimental and clinical interventions. Evidence is accumulating that certain aspects of sleep/wake-related variability--such as sleep duration, daytime sleepiness, and vulnerability to the effects of sleep loss--involve trait characteristics in healthy populations and among sleep-disordered patients. Establishing the trait-specific nature of variability in sleep/wake parameters is a prerequisite for elucidating the corresponding neurophysiologic and/or genetic mechanisms. At present, it remains largely unknown what underlies or predicts sleep/wake-related traits, what relationships these traits may have to each other, and what functional significance may be associated with specific traits. Scientific studies addressing these issues are warranted, as understanding the basis of trait variability may yield new insights into sleep/wake regulation and sleep pathology. Understanding individual differences in sleep and wakefulness may also have provocative but important implications for health economics and clinical care, as well as for safety, productivity, and general well-being. This paper gives suggestions for a research agenda focusing on individual differences in sleep research and sleep medicine.
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Popular belief holds that the lunar cycle affects human physiology, behaviour and health. We examined the influence of moon phase on sleep duration in a secondary analysis of a feasibility study of mobile telephone base stations and sleep quality. We studied 31 volunteers (18 women and 13 men, mean age 50 years) from a suburban area of Switzerland longitudinally over 6 weeks, including two full moons. Subjective sleep duration was calculated from sleep diary data. Data were analysed using multiple linear regression models with random effects. Mean sleep duration was 6 h 49 min. Subjective sleep duration varied with the lunar cycle, from 6 h 41 min at full moon to 7 h 00 min at new moon (P < 0.001). Average sleep duration was shortened by 68 min during the week compared with weekends (P < 0.001). Men slept 17 min longer than women (P < 0.001) and sleep duration decreased with age (P < 0.001). There was also evidence that rating of fatigue in the morning was associated with moon phase, with more tiredness (P = 0.027) at full moon. The study was designed for other purposes and the association between lunar cycle and sleep duration will need to be confirmed in further studies.
Article
Recent reports on the effects of the lunar cycle on seizure occurrence have yielded mixed results. If the moon phase is influential, we hypothesized that this would be due to the moon's contribution to nocturnal illumination, rather than its waxing or waning state, and that significant correlations would not be apparent if local cloud cover were controlled for. We found a significant negative correlation between the mean number of seizures and the fraction of the moon illuminated by the sun (rho=-0.09, P<0.05) in 1571 seizures recorded in a dedicated epilepsy inpatient unit over 341 days. This correlation disappeared when we controlled for the local clarity of the night sky, suggesting that it is the brightness of the night and the contribution the moon phase makes to nocturnal luminance, rather than the moon phase per se, that may influence the occurrence of epileptic seizures.
Phylogeny of sleep regulation In Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine Dispatch R559 16 Sleep and the single neuron: the role of global slow oscillations in individual cell rest
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