Lunar insomnia: How does the moon affect your sleep?

There’s nothing worse than trying to rest at night and not being able to. And, while this is typically put down to everyday stressors, what many people don’t consider is that the moon could be playing a part in sleep disruptions.

Woman holding the moon

From bright full moons keeping us awake at night to the supposed impact of the lunar cycle on our physical and psychological well-being, there have been many assumptions made about the moon’s hold over sleep. 

Here, we’ll explore learnings from scientific research and astrology to understand if and how the moon can affect our sleep.

What scientific evidence is there?

The first thing to note is that there have been limited studies done on the moon’s impact on sleep, which has led many people to put it down to a placebo effect. However, perhaps consider what previous studies have shown before disregarding this as a reason behind your insomnia.

In the early 2000s, a group of Swiss researchers carried out a study into the link between ageing and sleep cycles. Years later, they decided to revisit to see how the moon’s presence could have impacted the participants’ sleep, too. They used electroencephalograms (EEGs) to investigate how the participants’ sleep cycles changed during different moon stages and this revealed a significant link between lunar cycles and bad sleep.

Specifically, in the days leading up to and after a full moon, it took them five extra minutes to fall asleep, meaning they experienced 30% less deep sleep compared to usual and lost out on a total of 20 minutes of rest overall.

Similarly, research published in the Sleep Medicine journal also suggested a correlation between lunar cycles and sleep. This included the time it took to fall asleep, as well as the duration of sleep and REM latency. 

There is even research demonstrating how the moon can impact people of different sexes. In a study published in the Journal of Sleep, results indicated women’s total sleep time, REM sleep and stage four sleep were disturbed most when it was close to a full moon phase. Whereas, men’s sleep times were more prolonged when the full moon was present.

What do astrologists think?

For astrologists, there’s no question that the moon impacts sleep. And, for different zodiac signs, the results can be extremely varied. 

In astrology, the full moon is said to help people see things from a different perspective and make them more instinctive and spontaneous. This comes to the surface at night, making it harder to fall asleep.

If you find you struggle to sleep and want to see if it’s connected to the full moon, starting up a sleep diary could help you to identify whether you are more sensitive to the full moon than others. You could take note of:

  • The time you try to fall asleep: This means the time you put your phone away, turn the TV off and close your eyes. 
  • How long you sleep: Take interruptions into account and don’t count them in your total.
  • How you felt as you slept: Did you feel uneasy, confused, relaxed or any other emotion? Dreams are usually a good indicator of this. 
  • The nature of your dreams: Whether you had nightmares or good dreams. The vividness of dreams can also indicate your sensitivity to a full moon phase.

Is there a link between lunar cycles and sleep?

Looking at both scientific results and an astrological point of view, there seems to be evidence to suggest certain lunar cycles can impact how soundly you sleep at night. What seems most plausible is the excess light that a full moon in particular brings, which can disturb sleep cycles. 

This fits in with the idea scientists have highlighted about the role of blue light-emitting devices such as phones, TVs, and alarm clocks that confuse our circadian rhythms and make it more difficult for us to feel sleepy at night. Of course, things like a lack of exercise or activity can impact how sleepy you feel, and you’ll often find you get more rest when you’ve had a busy day.

Similarly, it’s more than likely that people who’ve struggled to sleep the night before will feel groggy, suffer from brain fog that can form headaches, and have a reduced mood, as confirmed by the NHS. So, again, it seems plausible and acceptable for people to associate the full moon with psychological changes, including mood disorders like anxiety.

However, there is a suggestion that lunar insomnia could be down to a placebo effect. We all struggle to sleep from time to time: it’s a common experience for all humans. But, it’s also in our nature to want an explanation for everything, too. This means that when we do struggle to sleep, we typically want to find an answer as to why it could be, and consequently end up attributing the problem to an external factor like the moon.

While there is no definite cause-and-effect link between lunar cycles and sleep, there is scope for further investigation.

What can you do to alleviate lunar insomnia?

If you do believe that the moon plays a big part in your sleep disturbances (known as lunar insomnia), there are a couple of ways you can alleviate this and get a more restful night. This is all to do with sleep hygiene and creating an optimum environment for promoting rest.

Leading a healthy lifestyle helps to relieve many problems and, for people who struggle to sleep because of the moon, it can be a big help to reflect on this.

Tips for a restful night

1. Cut out certain foods before bed.

Sugary foods can create a spike in your energy levels meaning you won’t feel tired when you get into bed. Similarly, gluten is said to keep some people up as it can disturb digestion. 

2. Stop smoking

We all know to avoid caffeine close to bedtime or it’ll keep us up at night. But nicotine is also a stimulant that can affect our bodies in a very similar way.

3. Keep your room at the optimum temperature

The most comfortable temperature for sleeping is thought to be between 16°C-18°C. 

4. Invest in a comfortable mattress

When you can’t get comfortable in bed, it’s unlikely you’ll have a good sleep or will wake up feeling refreshed. Your mattress should be the correct firmness for your sleeping position and ideally will be replaced every 10 years. 

5. Make use of blackout blinds and curtains

 If the excess light from the moon seems to be keeping you tossing and turning, investing in blackout blinds will remove this and help you to sleep quicker.

6. Avoid using technology

You should stop using your phone — or any other technological device that emits blue light — at least an hour before bed to ensure the light doesn’t interfere with your natural circadian rhythm.

With so much debate around lunar insomnia, we’ll need to see more research before we can say for certain whether it’s a real phenomenon. However, hopefully, I have highlighted the potential links between the moon and sleep and shown you how to tackle any sleep problems you credit to the moon.

Phil Lawlor has been the Sleep Expert at Dormeo for over three years.

This article was last updated on 30/01/23

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Written by Phil Lawlor
Phil Lawlor is the Sleep Expert at Dormeo UK.
Written by Phil Lawlor
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