By Sylvia Booth Hubbard
Is it just old wives' tales and superstition that the moon has an effect on your health? Not according to medical professionals, who swear they deliver more babies and see more injuries when the moon is full. A study of British physicians found that visits and emergency calls increased during a full moon and decreased during a new moon. Numerous studies have also confirmed that the moon has a definite effect on our health:
• Sleep. A study from the University of Basel in Switzerland published in the journal Current Biology found that it took people longer to fall asleep during a full moon. In addition, the rate of brain activity that indicates a restful, deep sleep dropped by 30 percent, and, overall, they slept for 20 minutes less. Tests also found a reduction in melatonin, a hormone that helps normalize sleep/wake cycles, during the full moon. “The lunar cycle seems to influence human sleep, even when one does not see the moon and is not aware of the actual moon phase,” said lead researcher Dr. Christian Cajochen.
• Menstrual cycles. A woman's menstrual cycle is four weeks — the length of a full moon cycle. A study published in the journal Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica tracked more than 800 women for up to 25 years and found that almost 30 percent of women had their periods around the full moon. A study of more than 8,000 women presented at the annual conference of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine found that most women's periods began in the two weeks beginning 11 days from the start of the full moon. Other studies have found that women are most fertile during a new moon when the sky is darkest.
• Heart attack. A German study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology examined the records of 16,000 heart attack victims and found a significant reduction in heart attacks during the three days following a new moon. They theorized that the moon has a beneficial effect on the heart twice a month — during a full moon and also during a new moon when the sun and moon are aligned and gravity is at its strongest. An Indian study monitored the effects of exercise on the heart during the different phases of the moon, and found hearts worked more efficiently during full moons and new moons.
• Kidney stones. A study of almost 1,500 people published in the journal Urology found that pain caused by kidney stones increased significantly during a full moon. Although not all studies have come to the same conclusion, a study at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital also found that patients admitted with urological emergencies increased during the full moon.
• Brain. The term “lunatic” comes from the belief that mental problems increase during a full moon. A 2011 Dutch study of more than 5,400 patients found that full moons brought an increase in emergency admissions of psychiatric patients. Researchers theorized that the moon's gravity could have an effect on mood and behavior by affecting the movement of liquids in the brain. Some psychologists claim they have an uptick of patients with emotional problems during the full moon. A full moon appears to bring benefits to epileptics: Scientists at University College London found that epileptic seizures decreased during full moons.
• Surgery. A 2013 study published in the journal Interactive Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery found that patients who had an emergency form of open heart surgery (acute aortic dissection repair) during a full moon were hospitalized four fewer days — 10 versus 14 — than those whose surgeries occurred during different phases of the moon.
The full moon also has an effect on animals. A study published in the British Medical Journal found people were twice as likely to visit an emergency room due to an animal bite during a full moon. A study of almost 12,000 cases at the Colorado State University Veterinary Medicine center found that emergency room visits for dogs increased by 28 percent and for cats by 23 percent during a full moon.