Sleep cycles fluctuate with lunar phases, according to new study


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“The only explanation we could come up with is that maybe there is a lunar clock in the brain, as found in other species like fish and other marine animals,” he said. “But we don’t have direct evidence for that.”

I wonder if it’s because of the increased illumination or the increased gravitational tug? I’d look up the methodology behind this study but the full text is safely locked behind a pay wall:(

Well that explains a lot for me! I thought it was just my cycle’s hormonal fluctuation that affected it, but it makes sense that the moon would be involved too.

On a side note, I had a physics teacher in high school who was a little…looney and told his classes that they should all sleep with their heads at magnetic north because of…reasons or something.

The „increased gravitation tug“ is that of stepping on a chair, if I remember correctly.

I wonder about the methology of the study - it all screams „illumination“ to me, but I liver in a suburb of a moderately lit town of 160.000 where the full moon is still fricking awesome and a light source to reckon with.

Weird, I was just listening to Marc Maron and Douglas Rushkoff bring that up briefly last night as I was going to sleep listening to Maron’s wtf podcast:

What does it mean??!

I studied the effect of the Moon many years ago for a random assignment I picked. I honestly figured my study would end up disproving what I perceived as myths about the effect the Moon has on humans, etc. – I was pretty surprised at my findings like this.

But, then again, cognitive bias may have influenced the writers of the articles I was sourcing back then as well.


The study had 33 people. The study wasn’t studying the effect of the moon on sleep, and the results were only “discovered” after applying the moon cycle filter. the gravitational tug of a mother holding her child is orders of magnitude more. The sample size alone leaves such a huge margin for error as to be meaningless for anything other than, “hey lets look at this in a more rigourous way”.
I love xeni when it comes to animal pics or stories about how horrible some accused but not yet found guilty perp is. You know, the righteous old lady stories. Please leave the stories with any shred of perceived science to Maggie or forward them to her first for review and avoid this embarassment. Stick to the kitty pics.

This is an excellent and important point.

Correlations that come out in a data set that you weren’t looking for to begin with have very little value, especially when the sample size is small.

Why? Even if there were only an 0.1% chance of such a correlation being due to random chance, how many possible correlations could you come up with? Sleep cycles vs. rainfall. Wake-up hour vs bed orientation. Snoring vs. windspeed. etc. etc. etc. You can come up with millions of possible pairs of datasets, and it’s guaranteed that some of the will be strongly correlated – due to chance alone.

The history of statistics is rife with examples. A few years ago there was a study that showed that Israeli fighter pilots had a disproportion number of female children. People started speculating about nerve gas etc. No, it had nothing to do with that: The study did not set out to find that, they just noticed the correlation after the fact. And of course when they repeated it over a larger sample it disappeared.

Why does it matter if you start out looking for that data to begin with? Because then you have an explanatory hypothesis, and you are looking to see if the data meets your hypothesis. And you can repeat the study.

So until we get a repeated study, this correlation can be considered to be completely random chance.

I’m actually interested in any followups that might be done. Anything that messes with delta sleep is of interest to me. I have Alpha Intrusion, a sleep disorder where alpha waves intrude on delta sleep, reducing the amount of delta sleep I get. I wear a monitor when I sleep, and most nights I get 20 minutes or less of delta in an eight hour night. Somee nights I get essentially none. During delta sleep your body makes physical repairs, so people with alpha intrusion have fibromyalgia-like pain. This deep pain can be reproduced in normal volunteers by preventing delta sleep for several nights, and it goes away when these volunteers are allowed to sleep normally. Since most sleep aids increase total sleep but not delta sleep, these are not helpful. Only Xyrem has demonstrated effectiveness in increasing delta sleep and it has it’s own problems–it’s GHB.

Anything that could hint as to what helps or hinders delta sleep coud be very useful for this disorder.

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