How does the Moon affect our moods?

3274x 10. 09. 2019 1 Reader

The theory of the Moon's ability to influence people's moods and moods dates back thousands of years, but modern medicine has totally rejected it. New research suggests that old stories may contain a grain of truth.

Moods related to the Moon

The 35-year-old man hospitalized in David Avery's psychiatric hospital was an engineer. "He liked solving problems," Avery recalls. The reason for his placement under psychiatric supervision, which included both 2005 and David Avery, was his moods, passing from extreme to extreme without warning - sometimes accompanied by suicidal ideas and seeing or hearing the nonexistent. His sleep rhythm was similarly fluctuating, fluctuating between almost complete insomnia and 12 (or more) hours per night.

Perhaps in the occupational habit, the man kept thorough records of these changes, trying to find a system in all of this. Avery scratched his ear as he studied these records: "The rhythm of the whole thing was what intrigued me," he says. The patient's mood and sleep biorhythm changes seemed to describe the tide rotation curve, the rotation initiated by the gravitational force of the Moon. "It seemed there was the highest tide during the short sleep period," says Avery. First he rejected his thesis as foolishness. Even if this man's mood cycles coincided with the moon's cycle, he had no mechanism to explain this phenomenon, nor had he any idea of ​​how to deal with it. The patient was prescribed tranquilizers and light therapy to stabilize his wild moodiness and sleep rhythm, and was released over time. Avery put the patient's record in the proverbial drawer and thought no more of it.

Cyclic bipolar disorder

Twelve years later, the renowned psychiatrist Thomas Wehr published a paper describing 17 patients with Cyclic Bipolar Disorder - a mental illness in which the patient's mood suddenly ranges from depression to mania - whose illnesses, unlike Avery's patient, showed unusual cyclicity.

The effect of the Moon on people with bipolar disorder

Thomas Wehr said:

“I was puzzled by the unusual accuracy that usually does not mean biological processes. It led me to think that these cycles were driven by an external influence, which apparently fit into the influence of the Moon (given the historical assumptions about the influence of the Moon on human behavior). ”

For centuries, people have believed in the ability of the moon to regulate human whims. The English word "lunacy" comes from the Latin lunaticus, meaning "moon-stricken", and both the Greek philosopher Aristotle and Roman naturalist Plinius the Elder believed that illnesses such as madness and epilepsy were caused by the Moon.

There have also been rumors that a pregnant woman is likely to give birth at full moon, but any scientific validity is, according to recorded birth records, insufficient during various lunar cycles. The same is true of the evidence that the lunar cycle increases or decreases the violent tendencies of people diagnosed with mental disorder or prisoners - although one study suggests that outdoor criminal activity (street or natural beach-type incidents) may increase with the amount of moonlight.

Sleep quality study depending on the moon phase

On the contrary, evidence supports the thesis that sleep varies according to the position of the moon. For example, a study in 2013, conducted in a highly controlled sleep lab environment, showed that during a full moon people fell asleep on average five minutes longer and slept twenty minutes less than the rest of the month - even if they were not exposed to sunlight. Measurements of their brain activity showed that the amount of deep sleep experienced by them decreased by 30%. However, it should be added that the replicating study failed to confirm these findings.

According to Vladyslav Vyazovski, a sleep researcher at Oxford University, the key problem is that none of the studies monitored a person's sleep for the entire lunar month or more months. "The only right way to deal with the problem is to systematically record that particular individual over a longer period of time and during different phases," he adds. This is exactly what Wehr has followed in his study of bipolar patients, tracking the data of their mood swings, in some cases for years. "Because people are so different in response to the lunar cycle, I doubt we would find anything if we averaged all the data from my research," Wehr says. "The only way to find anything is to judge each person individually over time, at which point formulas begin to appear." When he did, Wehr discovered that these patients fall into two categories: some people's moods followed the 14.8 / day cycle, the moods of others 13.7 / day cycles - although some have switched between these states.

Influence of the Moon

The moon affects the Earth in many ways. The first and most evident is the presence of moonlight, most of which is on the full moon, that is, once in 29,5 days, and at least 14,8 days after, during the new moon. This is followed by the gravitational force of the Moon, forming a tide alternation every 12,4 hour. The height of these phenomena also replicates a cycle of two weeks - namely the spring-neap cycle, which is the result of combining the power of the Sun and the Moon, lasting 14,8, and 13. ', The 7-day' declination cycle '. And it is these tidal cycles of approximately two weeks that Wehr's patients “synchronize” with. It does not mean that they switch between mania and depression every 13,7 days, "the point is that when such a switch occurs, it does not happen at just a moment, it often happens at some stage of the lunar cycle," says Avery.

After consulting Wehr's research, Avery contacted him by telephone, and together analyzed the data of Avery's patient, only to discover that his case also showed a periodicity of 14,8 days in his moody jumps. The following evidence of the influence of the Moon shows that these other irregular rhythms every 206 days are disrupted by another lunar cycle - the cycle responsible for the formation of “super-moons”, in which the Moon is clogged particularly close to Earth with its elliptical orbit.

Anne-Wirz

Anne-Wirz Justice, a chronologist at the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel in Switzerland, described Wehr as "credible but complex" regarding the relationship between the lunar cycle and manic-depressive disorders. "We still don't know what mechanisms are behind it," he adds. In theory, the light of the full moon can disrupt human sleep, which in turn can affect their mood. This is particularly true of bipolar patients whose mood swings are often exacerbated by disruption of sleep or circadian rhythm - 24-hour oscillations, commonly known as a biological clock or internal time phenomenon, which may be disrupted, for example, by night shifts or multiband flights. There is evidence to suggest that sleep deprivation can be used to elevate bipolar patients from a state of depression.

Moon phase

Wehr thus supports the theory that the Moon has some influence on human sleep. The waking time in his patients during the lunar cycle continues to move forward, while falling asleep is the same (hence sleeping more and longer) until it abruptly shortens. This phase jump is often associated with the beginning of the manic phase. Yet Wehr does not consider Moonlight as the architect. "The modern world is so lightly polluted and people spend so much time under artificial lighting that the Moonlight signal, ie the time to sleep, was suppressed in us." On the contrary, he believes that sleep and, indirectly, moodiness are influenced by other phenomena associated with the lunar cycle - most likely associated with the gravitational force of the moon.

Fluctuations of the Earth's magnetic field

One possibility is that this force triggers inconspicuous fluctuations in the Earth's magnetic field, to which some individuals may be sensitive. "The oceans are conductive because of saltwater, and moving them at times of tides can help in this." Says Robert Wickes, a space weather expert at the University of London. Nevertheless, the effect is negligible and the Moon's ability to influence the gravitational field of the Earth to an extent leading to biological changes is unconfirmed. Some studies have confidently associated solar activity with an increase in heart attacks and strokes, epileptic seizures, cases of schizophrenia and suicide. When solar winds or solar mass projectiles hit the earth's magnetic field, invisible electrical currents occur strong enough to eject the circuit breakers, which may affect electricity-sensitive heart and brain cells.

Wickes explains:

"The problem is not that there are no such phenomena, the research they are doing is very limited and nothing can be said with certainty."

Unlike certain bird, fish and insect species, man does not seem to possess a magnetic sense. Nevertheless, a study was published earlier this year to refute this thesis. And the result? When people were exposed to magnetic field changes - equivalent to those we might encounter in everyday life - they experienced a decrease in brain activity in terms of alpha particles. Alpha particles are produced when we are awake, but we do not perform any particular activity. The importance of these changes remains unclear, it may be an unnecessary by-product of evolution. But we can also be prone to reactions to the magnetic field that it plays with our brains in a way we don't know.

Magnetic theory appeals to Wehr because over the past decade several studies have suggested that some organisms, such as fruit flies, have a protein called cryptochrome in their bodies that can act as a magnetic sensor. Cryptochrome is a key component of the cell clock that records our 24 hour biorhythm in our cells and organs, including the brain. When the cryptochrome binds to the light-absorbing flavin molecule, not only does this substance tell the cell clock that it is light, it triggers a reaction that makes the whole molecule complex magnetically sensitive. Bambos Kyriacou, a behavioral geneticist at Leicester University, has shown that exposure to low frequency electromagnetic waves can override the fruit fly cell clock, leading to a shift in their sleep biorhythm.

Changes in cell hours

If the same were true for humans, it could explain the sudden mood swings observed in Wehr's and Avery's bipolar patients. "These patients experience frequent and dramatic changes in their cell hours as they go through their mood cycles, and in the timing and duration of their sleep," Wehr adds.

Although cryptochrome is a key component of the human circadian clock, it features a slightly different version than the fruit fly clock.

Alex Jones, a doctor at the National Medical Laboratory in Teddington, UK, says:

“It seems that the cryptochrome of humans and other mammals does not bind flavin, and without flavin, the whole magnetically sensitive system has no trigger to wake. In addition, it is unlikely that human cryptochrome is sensitive to magnetic fields, provided that it does not bind to other molecules unknown to us from our body that are capable of detecting magnetic fields. ”

Another possibility is that Wehr and Avery patients are prone to moon attraction in the same way as oceans: through tidal forces. A common contradictory argument is that although humans are made up of 75% of water, they have less than the ocean.

Moon

Kyriacou says:

"Although humans are made up of water, this amount of strength is so weak that it cannot be considered biologically."

Experiments with model organism

Nevertheless, it agrees with the experiments conducted on Arabadopsis thaliana, a grass species considered to be a model organism for studying flowering plants. These experiments show that the growth of its roots follows the 24.8 day cycle - almost the exact length of one lunar month.

"These changes are so small that they can only be detected by extremely sensitive devices, but there are already 200 studies supporting this thesis," says Joachim Fisahn, a biomedicist at the Max Planck Institute of Plant Physiology in Potsdam, Germany. Fisahn simulated the dynamics of the interaction of water molecules in a single plant cell and found that the daily light changes in gravity caused by the Moon's orbit would be sufficient to create a loss or surplus of water molecules in the cell.

The content of water molecules - albeit in the order of nanometers - will change even with the slightest fluctuations in gravity. As a result, the movement of water molecules through the water channels occurs, the water from the inside starts to flow outward or vice versa depending on the direction of gravity. This could affect the whole organism.

He now plans to test the plant in the context of root growth by studying plants with mutated water channels to see if their growth cycles change. If cells of plant origin are so influenced by tidal phenomena, Fisahn sees no reason why this would not apply to cells of human origin. Given that life is likely to have originated in the oceans, some terrestrial organisms may still have a good facility to predict tidal phenomena, although they are no longer useful to them.

Although we still miss the discovery of these devices, none of the scientists interviewed for the purpose of this article objected to Wehr's finding that mood changes are rhythmic and that these rhythms may correlate with certain moon gravitational cycles. Wehr himself hopes that other scientists will view this issue as an invitation to explore further. He says, "I could not answer the question of what caused this effect, but I think I have at least asked these questions with my discoveries."

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