Guest article by Sam Hadadi,
Parents of toddlers will have long noticed that their troublesome tots have plenty in common with werewolves…
With wild mood swings (they’re not known as three-nagers for no reason!), howling tantrums and their baffling ways, kids can be a mystery to everyone who knows them.
So, perhaps it’ll come as no surprise to learn that toddlers and children alike really do have something in common with werewolves: they’re both thought to be affected by the moon.
If your little one also has some serious sleep up and downs (we’ve all been there), then it’s even been long debated whether or not the moon can trigger sleep problems…
If this sounds reassuring to you (it always helps to know you’re not alone!), then here’s the latest research on whether or not the lunar cycles can really send your child bonkers…
Shrouded by an aura of mystery and wonder, the moon and its supernatural pull over human behaviour has been fascinating humans for centuries.
While the full moon may not quite turn us into werewolves (although we bet it gets some of you acting like one!), many find that it can do some pretty weird things to our body. For starters, some think that a full moon can trigger a bad night's sleep and some even go so far as to say it affects them physically and mentally.
In fact, there’s even a term – lunar effect – to describe the changes which the 29.5 day lunar cycle is thought to have on our body. Scientists have long debated whether or not the moon could affect our fertility, increase the rate of births and heart attacks, trigger mental health conditions (including Schizophrenia) and even law and order. Funnily enough, back in 2007, the Brighton police force even revealed that it would up its bobbies on the beat during summer months to counteract behaviour which they believed was linked to the moon.
As with most things to do with our weird and wonderful ways, this is massively up for debate. However, many believe that, just as the moon can affect the ocean (something known as “tidal force”), it could also throw our body out of sync, since that too contains a large amount of water (around 75%). Others believe that positive ions surge during a Full Moon, which could influence human behaviour.
So, can the moon and its lunar phases really affect us? Does it have a pull over our body as much as history has always believed?
To see just how the moon can affect our sleep, a group of researchers from across the world set about studying children to see how lunar cycles could affect their sleeping patterns and day-to-day lives.
Children were picked in place of adults because of the simple reason that “they are more amenable to behaviour changes than adults and their sleep needs are greater than adults."
The study looked at 5,812 kids from all corners of the globe, with the children coming from a wide range of economic and sociocultural levels. There was also a huge spread of ages, parental education, BMI, level pf physical activity, and typical sleep durations.
Researchers looked at their sleep patterns over 28 months, which is equivalent to the same number of lunar cycles. These were then split up into three different lunar phases: full moon, half-moon and new moon.
Well, not all that much. Amazingly, night time sleeps during a full moon dropped by an average of just five minutes when compared to sleeping during a new moon – that’s just a 1% difference. As you might expect, your tot missing out on an extra five minutes of rest isn’t all that problematic – and definitely can’t be blamed for those dramatic tantrums!
We’re sorry for all the parents looking desperately for an answer to their child’s sleep – the moon isn’t it!
As one of the researchers, Dr. Jean-Philippe Chaput, from the Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Canada, said: "Our study provides compelling evidence that the moon does not seem to influence people's behavior. The only significant finding was the 1% sleep alteration in full moon, and this is largely explained by our large sample size that maximizes statistical power.
"Overall, I think we should not be worried about the full moon. Our behaviors are largely influenced by many other factors like genes, education, income and psychosocial aspects rather than by gravitational forces.”
However, while this study seems to suggest that the moon has no say in our quality of sleep, the scientists have recommended that more research needs to be done to see if our moods can be affected by the moon.
Dr Chaput added: "Folklore and even certain instances of occupational lore suggest that mental health issues or behaviors of humans and animals are affected by lunar phases. Whether there is science behind the myth or not, the moon mystery will continue to fascinate civilizations in the years to come.”
So, can the moon have its own eerie, mystical ways? We’ll have to stay tuned…
Further information on this can be found at Science Daily.
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Sam Hadadi is an ex-BBC journalist and now a freelance writer specialising in fitness and food.