Does the Full Moon Actually Fuck With You?

It's blamed for everything from traffic accidents to sleep walking.

by Kristen Dold
May 11 2017, 4:00pm

Victor Walsh Photography/Getty Images

The full moon takes some major flack—for centuries we've blamed everything from mental blips (and breakdowns) to traffic accidents, crime, and sleepwalking on our lunar neighbor. But is there any proof that this once-a-month phenomena actually screws with your day?

Ancient philosophers thought so—they theorized that the gravitational pull of the moon (which we know is responsible for the tides in our oceans) also sets off mini-tidal waves in our brains and bodies, messing with our physiology. (That theory, while still believed by some, has been debunked by science—we're indeed made of water but the gravitational pull from the moon on our bodies is virtually zip. Only large, open bodies of water are affected.)

But the belief that a full moon makes everyone nuts has lingered, and not just among those earthy chicks carrying around crystals. (If you've ever used the world lunatic, you're essentially calling someone moon-sick—the Latin word for moon is 'luna', and lunatic originally referred to the 'insanity' brought on by the phases of the moon.)

In more recent years, a number of studies (some good, some seriously flawed) have attempted to uncover a true connection between the full moon and human behavior or biology. Researchers have crunched the numbers on suicides, seizures, births, and heart attacks during a full moon, and while there have been some mixed results, the most respectable science suggests that the full moon doesn't do jack to our bodies. (Unless, of course, you're a werewolf.) Here's where our lunar relationship stands:

A super-small study done in 2013 (only 33 volunteers) found that people took five minutes longer to fall asleep (and they slept 20 fewer minutes overall) on evenings with a full moon, but a much larger study published on kids last year (5,800 of them from 12 different countries) found the subjects only lost five minutes of sleep on nights with a full moon, which the authors say isn't statistically significant. Study author Jean-Philippe Chaput, a scientist at the University of Ottawa, says we can close the book on this one: "It's possible the light from the moon may affect sleep, but otherwise our study showed there's no connection—this is just a myth." (A.k.a.: just shut your damn shades.)

Hospital Visits
Despite what a number of medical health pros believe (ask a hospital nurse—she might have some kooky stories) multiple studies have shown that a full moon doesn't trigger more accidents or psychotic episodes that send people to the ER. (Odds are, these hospital workers just remember medical episodes better when they coincide with a full moon, because #spooky.)

Back in 2007, a police force in the UK actually added extra patrollers to the streets on select full moon days to deal with what they perceived was lunar-induced crime and aggression. And while one ancient study (done back in the 80's) found an uptick in crime across three separate towns over a four-year period during full moons, a number of more respectable studies since then (measuring crime, aggression, and homicides against the full moon) have found there's no link.

Animal Bites
UK researchers surveyed the incidence rates of animal bites over two years in 2000 and found that dog, cat, horse, and rat bites more than doubled during a full moon. But then an Australian paper published the same year (in the same journal, surveying the same two years of animal bites, just in a different location) found zero correlation. (Animals in Australia must have more chill.)

Long story short: There's no good data to prove that the full moon fucks with us, so it's very possible we're just fucking with ourselves and each other. "I think we've shown over and over again that there's very little effect, if anything, and we can start putting our money into other studies," Chaput says. (Just not those studies about mercury in retrograde, please.)

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