Friday, March 18, 2011

Does the Full Moon Cause ... Lunacy?

Tomorrow night is the FULL MOON.

Uh oh.

You know the stories, right? Psychiatric hospitals have more admissions during the full moon? There are more suicides? More car accidents? Dog bites? Murders?

Studies show a majority of people believe this at some level, including mental health and medical professionals.

This is a longstanding idea. Shakespeare might have mentioned it a time or two. It is, of course, where the terms "lunatic" and "lunacy" (and the somewhat antiquated "looney") find their origins. Writers of all types have made good use of it as an inciting event of sorts.

But is it true? Does the moon somehow exert its power on us when it's full?




Nah. Not at all. A review of the hundreds of studies of this phenomenon revealed no connection between the full moon and any type of unusual human behavior or events. And the whole "we're 80% water so the moon affects us like it does the tides" idea does not work. First, a new moon exerts as much gravitational pull as does a full moon (just because we can't see it don't mean it ain't there). Second, a mosquito sitting on your arm has more gravitational effect on your body than the moon does.
Why do so many believe it? Illusory correlation. If we believe there's a connection, we'll notice when events occur that reinforce that belief. And we won't notice things that don't align with the belief.
Nevertheless, it's kind of an entertaining idea, which is why it's had so much literary and cinematic traction. And who couldn't use one more excuse for wild and crazy behavior?
So ... what are your plans for the full moon?


  1. Ahhh. The full moon. That explains the outrageous dream I had right before I woke up this morning...and I DO believe there is a correlation between the full moon, crazy dreams and lack of sleep!

  2. Hope that guy feels better soon. Maybe he's turning into a werewolf. :)

    No big plans for the full moon. No weird rituals or anything.

  3. It's so interesting that so many believe that. I have to be honest. It does 'feel' like the kids act up more during a full moon. Hmm...funny. I guess we can perceive things the way we choose too. LOL Better then admitting they're just rotten kids. (hah...I'm totally kidding.)

    Enjoy your weekend.

  4. Hoping my kids sleep because they always tend to get up in the middle of the night when there is a full moon.

  5. man! it's hard to believe it's an old wives tale! i worked just one month as a nurse's aide on the hospital floor- graveyard shift. there was one night where all the elderly patients with demementia got super wierd...i mean super wierd. *shivers* i'd never heard of the full-moon effect before, but when i told my hubby (a medical professional) about how odd that night was, he told me it was because there was a full moon. something the nurse's always talk about is "sun-downers" where the elderly dementia (i'm using this word, because i'm not sure what the right word is- but i know you'll know the right one!) experience more acute lapses over the night time than during the day... i wonder about that. i know that my pneumonia-prone son always spikes a higher fever and breath sounds turn to crap when the sun goes down... i wonder if it more has to do with the body shutting down for sleep hours than the celestial bodies? hmmm....

  6. Good to know. I thought we were more affected by the moon. A lot of behaviors are learned. I read after a head-on collision in the NEWS, there are more head-on collisions for sometime afterwards. Crazy, right?

    Have a happy weekend!

  7. I know what the studies say, but man, sometimes the crisis unit is HOPPIN' on full moons, LOL! ;)

  8. hi miss sarah! yikes! on that full moon i was gonna turn into a werewolf but now you got that spoiled for me. ack! grrrrrr!! ha ha. i hope you have a really nice weekend.
    ...smiles and hugs from lenny

  9. I wonder if there *is* actually something to it. Perhaps it has nothing to do with the gravitational force, but more with the fact that we believe people are affected by it. Therefore, people who are more prone to psychotic behavior react to the full moon because they think they should.

    I wonder this because my sister's a psych nurse and she says that full moon nights are usually more packed than regular nights.

  10. Hard to let go of that one. A beautiful full moon is like a siren call. I know that's not exactly what you're talking about, but we are just creatures who are part of an environment, not in control of it. We try, but hey, it's a two-way street!

  11. Def good to know. I always wondered how true it was re: behavior, dreams, etc. Also, when I had my kids, the L&D nurses said they def see a huge increase in babies born during a full moon night. Not sure what truth is in that one, but there it is.:)

  12. Thanks for all your comments everyone!

    A published study of ER nurses revealed that many of them believed the full moon myth. Then all the nurses (both those who believed and those who didn't) were monitored on full moon nights. Those who believed in the full moon effect took more notes on patients' odd behavior, while those who didn't believe in it didn't take any more notes than usual. In other words, if you believe something, it's going to affect what you see. You're going to ignore evidence that conflicts with your belief and really attend to evidence that supports your belief. And that's how a lot of these things get perpetuated.

    But if you are really, really wondering about it, take some data. Collect information (like, for example, the number of times your kids get up at night, or the content of your dreams) on some nights between full moons. And then take some data from the night of the full moon. Do it a few months in a row and really see what's going on. But be careful--be sure to be objective about it! It's harder than you think!

  13. My fellow colleagues and I always joke that we get odd and unusual admissions when on-call for inpatient medicine on full moonlit nights.
    Probably just coincidence, but it is fun to talk about it.

  14. Not just the full moon--the SUPER moon!!! :D

    we'll probably run down to the beach and watch it rise. I wonder if it's the bad moon...? ;p <3

  15. I think people like to hang a hook on something, and the moon is rather mysterious so it is an easy thing to hang superstition on. Also an easy thing for an excuse maybe (the full moon made me do it!).

    And a belated hello! :)

  16. I was thinking of painting myself red and dancing under the moon naked. If that plan falls through, you'll find me at home, eating brownies.

  17. But ... but... I swear I don't sleep as well during the full moon.

    Well, that would apparently be the brighter light, Margo. Duh.

    I thought that "tide" theory was pretty funny!

  18. Sounds like a good explanation to me!

  19. Even if it's not true, perception is everything and I am willing to hang my hat on the magic of the human psyche - based in date or not. I am all about magic (in my books) and so...regardless of the day to day...I plan on drawing down that equinox moon.

  20. Sometimes.
    Good post.Bravo

  21. Hi Sarah! I'm here via Lydia Kang's blog. Great post! I'm so disappointed, because where I live, it was completely cloudy during the night of the Super Moon! But, I did look at it the following night and it did appear to be larger than "normal"...bwa ha ha...