Does the super moon really make you feel crazy?

Apr 09, 2020

The full moon last night was actually a supermoon and the biggest full moon of the year - and apparently it might be sending a few of us crazy - even the word lunatic came from the latin word 'luna' and was meant to mean moon-sick. Have you felt it?

As always, we look for the science.

The idea that the lunar cycle has an affect on the way we behave dates back thousands of years through cultures all over the world, but it has largely been dismissed by modern medicine.

It has been thought that due to the increase of light pollution, the effects of the moon's light have been reduced and that there's no clear correlation between the moon's cycle and common human behaviour. That is until Thomas Wehr,  a renowned psychiatrist published a paper describing 17 patients with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder – a form of the illness where people switch between depression and mania more quickly than usual – who showed an uncanny regularity in their episodes of illness.

He found that his patients mood switches were 'uncannily precise' and followed either a 14.8 day cycle, or a 13.7 day cycle, although some patients would switch between the two. 

The Moon affects Earth in several ways. The first and most obvious is through the provision of moonlight, with a full Moon coming around every 29.5 days, and a new Moon following 14.8 days after that. Then there’s the Moon’s gravitational pull, which creates the ocean tides that rise and fall every 12.4 hours. The height of those tides also follows roughly two-week cycles – the 14.8 day “spring-neap cycle”, which is driven by the combined pull of the Moon and Sun, and the 13.7-day “declination cycle”, which is driven by the Moon’s position relative to Earth’s equator.

So it's these roughly two-week cycles that Wehr's patients appear to be syncing to. He found consistently that if the patient experiences a switch from mania to depression, it will always coincide with a certain phase of the lunar cycle.


So what is a Supermoon?

The moon's orbit around the sun is elliptical (oval shaped) meaning that twice a year, the moon travels considerably closer to the sun, increasing its gravitational and tidal force on the Earth. At these times, we experience extreme high tides, as the gravitational pull of the moon is literally pulling the Earth's water towards it.


But what does this mean for us?

The lunar cycles have been linked to disrupted or lower quality sleep, the time around the full moon in particular. Wehr found that his patients experienced 'dramatic changes to the timing and duration of their sleep'. For instance, a 2013 study conducted under the highly-controlled conditions of a sleep laboratory found that people took five minutes longer to fall asleep on average, and slept for 20 minutes less overall, around a full Moon, compared to during the rest of the month – even though they weren’t exposed to any moonlight. Measurement of their brain activity, meanwhile, suggested that the amount of deep sleep they experienced dropped by 30%.

It's well documented that poor quality or reduced sleep has a negative impact on our mood, and overall wellbeing experience. It's not a coincidence that millions of people report mood changes around the time of the full moon. 

Considering the current circumstances that we find ourselves in, we could probably all do without more external forces impacting the way we feel, but considering this is happening, there are a few things that you can do to support yourself over the next 24 hours.

  • Start with gratitude. Say out loud one thing that you're grateful for today
  • Get outside. Go for a walk, get some fresh air and some sun on your face 
  • Move your body- go for a run, dance in the kitchen, do 10 burpees. Whatever you need to do that gets the blood pumping and releases some endorphins
  • Drink water- dehydration a huge contributing factor to altering our mood, energy levels and mental function


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