The phases of the moon may have a far greater effect on men’s sleep than women’s, according to a new study published in Science of the Total Environment.
Prior research has produced somewhat conflicting results on the link between the lunar cycle and sleep, with some reporting an association whereas others did not. There are several possible explanations for these discrepant findings, such as that some of the results were chance findings. However, a number of past studies investigating the link between lunar cycle and human sleep did not account for confounding factors, such as obstructive sleep apnoea and insomnia.
During the waxing period, the amount of illuminated moon surface as seen from Earth increases, and the time the moon appears highest in the sky gradually shifts to late evening hours. In contrast, during the waning period, the illuminated surface decreases and the moment that time the moon is highest gradually shifts to daytime hours.
“We used one-night at-home sleep recordings from 492 women and 360 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. In contrast, the sleep of women remained largely unaffected by the lunar cycle. Our results were robust to adjustment for chronic sleep problems and obstructive sleep apnea severity,” said Christian Benedict, Associate Professor at Uppsala University’s Department of Neuroscience, and corresponding author of the study.
One mechanism through which the moon may impact sleep is sunlight reflected by the moon around times when people usually go to bed. In addition, a recent study suggests that the male brain may be more responsive to ambient light than that of females.
“Our study, of course, cannot disentangle whether the association of sleep with the lunar cycle was causal or just correlative,” concluded Prof Benedict.