In our wellness-obsessed world, it's easy to feel like you're not quite doing things right. And one of the main areas of self-care we continuously drop the ball in? Sleep. Between working from home and a general decline in physical activity in lockdowns, our sleep has taken a serious hit.
While we're well aware that we're supposed to be getting a minimum of eight hours, or whatever Goop says is the new golden number for your slumber, life can get in the way of our precious Zs. Not for nothing, we've tried cutting down on screen time, listening to calming podcasts, and still, not being able to sleep can feel like a failure on our part. Luckily, we're here to tell you that there's another, otherworldly factor that may be to blame for those restless nights: the moon.
In news that may surprise and delight, a study has linked the quality of your sleep with the moon. Yes, actually!
Researchers relied on polysomnography (PSG) measurements to analyse sleep onset, duration, and sleep quality. This examined various parameters during sleep, including brain activity, eye movements, muscle activity, and heart rhythm. And if you're someone that feels they've got their sleep covered with their wearable devices, it should be noted that the technology of these devices typically tracks sleep differently, monitoring your heart rate, movements, sounds, and body temperature.
Where the study really differed was in taking into account the phases of the moon cycle. The waxing stage, otherwise known as The Waxing Gibbous phase, is when the lit-up part of the moon grows from 50.1% to 99.9% — just before we see a full moon. The Waning Gibbous phase is the opposite, occurring just after the full moon and appears as a decrease in illumination that follows a bright full moon.
What the researchers found was that subjects lost sleep during the waxing phase of the lunar cycle. A phenomenon that seemed to have more of an impact on men. “We found that men whose sleep was recorded during nights in the waxing period of the lunar cycle exhibited lower sleep efficiency and increased time awake after sleep onset compared to men whose sleep was measured during nights in the waning period,” neuroscientist Christian Benedict wrote.
Results found that women, on average, slept almost 12 minutes less during the waxing period than the waning moon. But men, however, slept for 20 minutes less on waxing nights. During the waxing moon, men experienced 3.4% lower sleep efficiency, more wakefulness, and more significant disruptions to the length of sleep periods.
So, how exactly does the moon cause these disruptions? It’s still unclear exactly. The leading theory of researchers is that the extra light that the moon reflects during the waxing period might be to blame for sleep disruptions.
Of course, the study was observational, meaning scientists could not measure exactly how the moon was impacting sleep. But it sure is one hell of a coincidence, no? Either way, it helps to not be so hard on yourself for losing sleep as studies have concluded that stress is an undeniable contributing factor to poor sleep quality and general low moods, so losing sleep over losing sleep is no way to live. Maybe it helps to shift the blame to the moon so you can rest easy. That's our takeaway, anyway!