I'm not a fan of horror novels, but this is rather interesting! Horror fiction fans are familiar, like the rest of us, with folk tales of Werewolves emerging with the full moon. The myth dates as far back as the ancient Greeks and still exists worldwide today. It supposes that a cursed human shape-shifts into a wolf at the dawning of a full moon.
Pure fantasy, you might say. Yet police and hospital workers have put forward statistics to show an increase in emergency patients with violent, acute disturbances in the hours following a full moon. Some of these patients reportedly attacked staff like crazed animals; biting, spitting and scratching. So people are wilder after a full moon?
New research in 2013 from sleep centres in Switzerland claim there’s something in it. They carried out extensive tests on volunteers unaware of the lunar cycle and found extraordinary results. It is already documented that a number of marine species have lunar rhythms underpinning their molecular and genetic functioning. But humans? The researchers found the following:
- Around full moon, electroencephalogram (EEG) delta activity during NREM sleep, an indicator of deep sleep, decreased overall by 30%
- Time to fall asleep increased on average, by 5 minutes
- EEG-assessed total sleep duration was reduced by 20 minutes
These changes were associated with a decrease in perceived sleep quality by the volunteers and diminished endogenous melatonin levels. Apparently, this is the first reliable evidence that a lunar rhythm can modulate sleep structure in humans when measured under the highly controlled conditions of a laboratory study.
So all those patients turning up at A&E in an aggressive state after a full moon could be for real - they're suffering sleep deprivation! And this might be the source of the idea that humans turn into ‘monsters’ during the full moon. Writers of all genres might find something useful in these new discoveries...
The next UK full moon falls on 16th January – see if you notice the difference…
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