Dr. Murray Feingold: Does the moon ‘phase’ you?
Do the various phases of the moon affect our health? Many people believe so and some scientific studies say yes, others say no.
The word “lunatic” originally describe people with emotional illnesses that were considered to be associated with the moon. Various studies have shown that human behavior can be influenced by the phases of the moon, especially a full moon.
Philosophers as far back as Aristotle argued that a full moon produced too much light and as a result of this, susceptible people could not fall asleep. This resulted in sleep deprivation causing emotional problems.
Although the results of some studies support the association between phases of the moon and mental illness, in a recent review of these studies, researchers detected, in their view, a number of statistical errors in the studies they would negate their conclusion that there is an association between the moon and mental illness.
Studies have shown an increase in the birth rate at the time of a full moon. Other studies have not shown such a correlation.
The most recent data involving over 500,000 deliveries did not show any relationship between a full moon and an increased birth rate.
There are people who believe that there is an increase in violent crimes when there is a full moon. As a result of this impression, some police departments routinely increase their police coverage when there is a full moon.
A study just published has shown that sleep is affected by the moon. Researchers determined that individuals slept an average of 20 minutes less and had more difficulty falling asleep during the full moon phase. Perhaps Aristotle was right that more light is present during a full moon and this disrupts a person’s ability to sleep.
There are numerous other claims that phases of the moon affect a person’s health. And, as usual, studies have been done that support and don’t support these claims.
One comment relating to the moon that is difficult to dispute or refute is, “It’s only once in a blue moon that studies will agree with each other.”
Massachusetts-based Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.