The moon is getting darker this week. Can't you tell? Every two weeks, that celestial body appears to either wax or wane, and some people swear they can track it by their emotional states without even checking the night sky.
The new moon is said to induce tiredness, and the full one edgy, slightly frantic energy.
Is this all just a poetic metaphor, or do lunar cycles really effect our mental states? And what about those moody menstrual cycles? After all, if the human body is mostly water and the moon influences ocean tides, it stands to reason the moon's orbit around the earth would affect us, too. Lots of anecdotal evidence for this, heaven knows, but what does science say?
What the experts say
"Our research has not shown any connection between the phases of the moon and the occurrence of suicide or crimes of violence. Lunar phases do not seem to influence human behaviour in a direct way in our database. Health workers, police officers and patients insist their sleep is worse during the full moon and that there are more accidents, emergency admissions and crimes. Only a few studies support this notion. Cardiovascular diseases, births, accidents, murder and suicide, self-destructive behaviour and every condition one can think of have been examined for the influence of the moon, but no deeper insight has been drawn."
TERESA BIERMANN, medical director, psychiatric and psychotherapy clinic, University Hospital, Erlangen, Germany
"People report feeling more awake, restless or in emotional turmoil during the three days around the full moon. During the new or dark moon, people are often quiet and indrawn. Scientists claim the evidence is anecdotal, but every time we think there's no basis in fact for something people have been reporting for years, there often ends up being some truth. My friends and I tend to be more creative, not sleep so well and have more active dreams during the full moon. It's a time of increased activity and creativity. It makes sense in a spiritual way. The moon rules the mind, the subconscious and emotions. A lot of women have their monthly cycles tuned to a specific phase of the moon."
NICOLE COOPER, manager, Occult Shop, high priestess, Wiccan Church of Canada, Toronto
"Although the moon's gravitational effects contribute to the tides seen in the great oceans, many large bodies of water, such as the Mediterranean Sea, show no such periodic changes. Furthermore, the watery components of the human body experience vigorous fluctuations many orders of magnitude greater than those that might theoretically derive from a remote body such as the moon. Its effects would be lost in the noise created by the heart and respiration rates, which independently cause large pressure pulses in the watery chambers within and around the brain. Even at its brightest, the moon provides less light than that which is needed to affect melatonin release from the pineal gland, even if you sleep in a roofless home with eyes open. If the lunar cycle had a synchronizing effect on the female menstrual cycle, the social consequences would be obvious and many anthropologists would have reported this phenomenon."
CLIVE COEN, professor of neuroscience, head of reproduction & biological rhythms, King's College London, UK
"Belief in lunar effects on abnormal or deviant human behaviour ("moon madness") is common, perpetuated by the media and notably widespread among health professionals. Our study investigated lunar effects on completed suicide. The literature on this appears unsettled. The timing of all 65,206 suicides officially registered in Austria between 1970 and 2006 was analyzed. Both male and female suicide occurrence did not deviate from expected proportions during the new, crescent, full and decrescent moon quarters, or from those expected for three-day windows around the new and full moon. Scattered previous evidence in support of such effects was in all likelihood spurious."
MARTIN VORACEK, professor, school of psychology, University of Vienna, Austria