Moonlit nights have often been the backdrop for tales of mystery and wonder, especially if there’s a full moon. Whether through superstitions or folklore, the moon has been the muse for countless narratives of supernatural occurrences and strange behaviors. But how much of what we’ve heard is truth, and how much is a mere myth? Diving into the world of lunar phenomena, this article will explore eight myths and facts about the moon’s influence on our lives, its effects on animals, and its intricate relationship with our planet. From our sleeping patterns to the glow of scorpions, join us on a journey that separates lunar fact from fiction.

When you’ve had one of those peculiar nights where everything feels a little off-kilter, you’ve probably heard the saying, “Must be a full moon!” But the idea that the moon’s phases can cause erratic behavior in humans is a myth. While there’s no uptick in crimes, deaths, or injuries during a full moon, it doesn’t mean that the moon is without its subtle influences on Earth.

Here are 9 full moon facts and myths.

1. Full Moon Behavior: Is Luna to Blame? [Myth]

The enigmatic allure of the moon, especially when full and radiant in the night sky, has been the subject of numerous myths and tales. One such pervasive belief is that the full moon influences human behavior, often leading to heightened aggression, madness, or irrationality. This belief is so ingrained that the term “lunacy” derives from the Latin word “luna,” meaning “moon.” Over time, numerous accounts from hospital workers, law enforcement, and other professions claim a noticeable uptick in erratic behaviors, injuries, and criminal activities during the full moon phase.

However, upon scientific examination, the correlation between the full moon and abnormal human behavior appears more anecdotal than factual. Multiple studies over the years have sought to validate this claim, examining everything from crime rates to hospital admissions. The overwhelming consensus is that there’s no consistent empirical evidence linking the full moon to spikes in such activities.

A meta-analysis of over 30 studies found no significant difference in incidents like crime, suicides, or psychiatric disturbances during full moon nights compared to other lunar phases. Furthermore, researchers have challenged the subjective experiences of professionals, suggesting confirmation bias might play a role. In other words, when something unusual happens during a full moon, people are more likely to remember it due to the existing myth, creating a skewed perception over time.

In conclusion, while the moon’s beauty and presence in the night sky might inspire awe and myriad tales, its influence on erratic human behavior remains more in the realm of folklore than scientific fact.

2. Moonlit Sleep Disturbances: Does Luna Disrupt Our Rest? [Fact]

The tranquil glow of a full moon illuminating the night has both captivated poets and been a subject of curiosity for scientists. Among the various claims surrounding the moon’s impact on humans, one particularly intriguing assertion is its effect on sleep patterns.

Sleeping and full moon
Current studies actually do hint at a fascinating connection between our sleep and the full moon. Image source: Deposit Photos

For many, it seems intuitive: a brighter sky might disrupt our sleep environment. However, this line of thinking primarily focuses on the moon’s light as a source of disturbance. Interestingly, research indicates that the moon’s impact on sleep extends beyond mere luminescence.

In a controlled 2013 study, 33 volunteers slept in laboratory conditions that effectively blocked any external light. The results were unexpected. During the full moon phase, participants took approximately five minutes longer to fall asleep and overall, slept for 20 minutes less. Even more surprising was the 30% reduction in REM sleep, a critical phase for deep rest and dream activity. This suggests that our sleep disturbances during the full moon might not be solely due to its brightness but potentially linked to deeper, intrinsic factors.

The following year, a larger study echoed these results, revealing similar sleep pattern disturbances during the full moon, even when participants were not directly exposed to moonlight.

One prevailing theory arising from these findings is the potential existence of a ‘circalunar rhythm’ in humans. Analogous to our circadian rhythm, which aligns with the sun’s daily cycle, the circalunar rhythm would sync with the moon’s approximately 29.5-day cycle. Such rhythms are not unique to humans. Many animals have shown behaviors synchronized with the moon, aiding in mating or foraging. It’s postulated that remnants of such rhythms might still linger in our evolutionary biology.

In summary, while further research is needed to solidify the moon’s impact on our sleep, current studies do hint at a fascinating connection. It seems our ancient bond with the celestial bodies may still subtly influence our modern lives, reminding us of the intricate dance between nature and our internal rhythms.

3. Full Moon’s Effects on Animal Magnetism [Fact]

For many of us, the magnetic fields surrounding our planet are invisible forces, often relegated to discussions in science classrooms or within the domain of compass needles. But for several creatures, this force is a potent guide, helping them navigate the vast expanse of our world. The astonishing aspect is the intricate relationship between Earth’s magnetic field, the moon’s position, and the myriad ways it affects the behavior of certain animals. Let’s delve deeper into this captivating dance of magnetism.

Magnetic Sensing: A Natural GPS

At the very core, animals such as nudibranchs, migratory birds, frogs, and mollusks have evolved a unique capability known as magnetoreception. This sensory modality enables them to detect, interpret, and respond to magnetic fields. For creatures that traverse large distances, such as migratory birds, this built-in GPS system is vital for successful navigation during long journeys.

Full moon and birds
The full moon can affect animal magnetism. Image source: Deposit Photos

The Earth is enveloped by an invisible magnetic cloak (the magnetic field) that some animals have adeptly learned to harness. Creatures such as migratory birds, frogs, and mollusks utilize this magnetic field for navigation and orientation, a remarkable ability termed “magnetoreception”. One of the most intriguing exemplifications of this phenomenon is observed in nudibranchs.

Nudibranchs, the vibrant sea slugs of the ocean, display a unique behavior where they align their bodies in accordance with the Earth’s magnetic field. Intriguingly, they adjust this orientation in response to the lunar cycle, a behavior possibly connected to the interaction between the moon and the Earth’s magnetic field.

During its full phase, the moon traverses through the Earth’s geomagnetic tail. This region is an extension of our planet’s magnetic field, shaped by high-energy particles emanating from the sun. As the moon navigates through this magnetic tail, it becomes inundated with charged particles, transiently adopting a negative charge. This phenomenon causes a subsequent acceleration of ions within the tail, leading to subtle shifts in the Earth’s magnetic field.

While these magnetic alterations might be imperceptible to humans, other organisms might be more attuned. Even though research in this domain is sparse, there is evidence suggesting that such geomagnetic changes could influence the orientation behaviors of marine mollusks like nudibranchs.

4. Coral Spawning: A Lunar Love Fest [Fact]

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, extending over two thousand kilometers off the coast, is primarily constituted of tiny animals known as coral polyps. Generally leading tranquil lives, these minute organisms come alive in an astonishing fashion once a year for their reproduction process, fondly referred to by locals as the “annual sex festival.”

Synchronized Reproduction: Nature’s Underwater Snowstorm

This reproductive event is not just any ordinary biological process; it’s a visual extravaganza. Imagine an underwater blizzard with billions of vibrant flakes descending in shades of white, yellow, red, and orange. During this period, the corals release their eggs and sperm, known scientifically as gametes, into the water simultaneously. This synchronized action creates an incredible spectacle, reminiscent of a colorful snowstorm beneath the ocean waves.

Full moon coral spawning
Lunar-driven coral spawning: underwater colorful blizzard. Image source: Deposit Photos

Precision Timing: Factors Ensuring Successful Fertilization

The phenomenon occurs with such precision that it raises questions about the exact triggers. Corals wait for a confluence of optimal conditions – when the tides, salinity, water temperature, and daylight duration are just right. Yet, most crucially, this annual event is always timed a few days post a full moon.

Corals, with their innate photoreceptors, are adept at detecting shifts in the blue wavelengths of moonlight. This moonlight serves as the final cue, signaling to the corals that the conditions are ripe for their synchronized reproductive dance. This synchronization is vital; the gametes of most coral species remain viable for merely a few hours, and their simultaneous release boosts the odds of successful fertilization.

From Gametes to New Colonies: The Life Cycle of Coral

Upon release, these lipid-rich gametes ascend leisurely to the ocean’s surface, initiating the fertilization process. When a coral egg and sperm unite to form an embryo, it metamorphoses into a coral larva or planula. These planulae are free-floating for durations varying from days to weeks. Ultimately, they descend to the ocean floor, and contingent upon the conditions, anchor themselves to the substrate. Here, they embark on a slow growth journey, evolving into new coral colonies at an approximate rate of 0.4 inches annually.

In essence, this synchronized reproductive event, influenced significantly by lunar cycles, underscores the intricate interplay of environmental cues and biological processes, painting a vivid tableau of life beneath the waves.

5. Atmospheric Tides: The Unseen Influence [Fact]

While many are familiar with the moon’s influence on oceanic tides, it’s less commonly known that the moon also impacts atmospheric tides. This atmospheric effect arises because the moon’s gravitational force creates dual bulges: one directly beneath the moon and another diametrically opposite on the Earth. As the moon draws the atmosphere closer to it, the air within these bulges is compressed, leading to a spike in atmospheric pressure. This increased pressure causes the air to warm.

Warmer air possesses the capacity to retain more moisture, subsequently making it less conducive for clouds to condense into rain. Though the shift might seem minor, its effects are indeed observable. A comprehensive 2016 study, which assessed fifteen years of data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, discovered a slight decline in rainfall where the moon was directly overhead.

6. Menstrual Cycles and Moon Phases: A Shared Rhythm? [Myth]

The historical belief linking menstrual cycles to the moon is so deep-rooted that it’s etched in the language itself. The terms “menses” and “moon” both originate from the Latin word for “month.” At first glance, the correlation seems plausible: the lunar cycle endures for approximately twenty-nine-and-a-half days, while the worldwide average menstrual cycle is close behind at twenty-nine days. However, scientific inquiry challenges this ancient assumption.

A comprehensive analysis was carried out utilizing data from the period-tracking app, Clue. The study encompassed records from a staggering 1.5 million users, encompassing 7.5 million menstrual cycles. The results? There was a discernible absence of correlation between menstrual cycles and the lunar cycle.

So, if there’s no concrete link, why do the two cycles have such similar durations? Speculations abound. One could intuitively argue that this synchronicity is a vestige from our ancestors who might have needed some alignment with the moon for reasons unknown.

But if this hypothesis held water, we would expect to see the same in species closely related to us. This notion, however, is debunked when looking at chimpanzees, our close primate kin. Their menstrual cycle is substantially longer, averaging 37 days. So, the remarkable similarity between the lunar and menstrual cycles might just be a serendipitous coincidence rather than a consequential connection.

7. Scorpions’ Glow: A UV Moonlight Detector [Fact]

One of the most mystifying aspects of scorpions is their propensity to luminesce under Ultraviolet (UV) light. Shine an ultraviolet lamp upon them, and they burst into a radiant glow, reminiscent of shoelaces beaming under a blacklight. This isn’t just limited to artificial sources; the ultraviolet light from the moon produces the same startling effect. However, the reasons behind this intriguing phenomenon eluded scientists for years.

Full moon facts - A scorpion (Centruroides gracilis) glowing under UV light
A scorpion (Centruroides gracilis) glowing under UV light. The ultraviolet light from the moon produces the same startling effect. Image source: Deposit Photos

In a pivotal 2010 study, researchers delved deeper into this luminous enigma. They exposed a group of scorpions to consistent UV light, rendering them unable to glow, while another control group remained unaffected. Subsequent exposure to UV light resulted in the non-glowing scorpions wandering without purpose, whereas their glowing counterparts actively sought shelter. What’s truly perplexing is the fact that scorpions don’t possess eyes adept at detecting UV light, yet they demonstrate a keen ability to avoid it.

The study illuminated an interesting hypothesis. Scorpions, with their heightened sensitivity to green light, might be recognizing their own greenish glow as an indirect measure of the moon’s UV light intensity. In this fascinating adaptation, their bodies function as UV photon collectors, internally gauging the intensity of the UV light in their surroundings. While the exact reason why scorpions rely on UV light over visible light remains a subject of debate, some scientists theorize that UV light might offer information not captured by visible light.

This UV-detecting mechanism plays a pivotal role in their nocturnal life. The intensity of their glow acts as a barometer, aiding them in determining the suitability of venturing out. A brighter glow indicates heightened UV levels, signaling to the scorpion the urgency to seek refuge, either to efficiently forage for food under optimal conditions or to retreat and shield themselves from potential predators.

8. Epileptic Seizures and Lunar Cycles: A Mysterious Connection [Fact]

Historically, there has been a pervasive belief across various cultures and epochs that the full moon can precipitate seizures. This notion has been echoed by indigenous communities in Bolivia, the Bantu populations of East Africa, and even in the annals of ancient Greece. However, contemporary research challenges this ancient lore, shedding light on a different aspect of the lunar cycle’s potential influence on seizures.

A meticulous study conducted in 2004, which evaluated data from an epilepsy monitoring unit, debunked the myth surrounding the full moon’s purported seizure-triggering effect. The study scrutinized around 700 seizures encompassing diverse types and discovered no significant clustering of these incidents around the full moon phase. Yet, a deeper dive into the data revealed a counterintuitive pattern: epileptic seizures were notably least frequent during the full moon but surged during the last quarter.

Contrary to popular belief, this indicates that while the full moon does not instigate seizures, there does seem to be an intricate relationship between epileptic seizures and lunar phases. A subsequent investigation in 2008 sought to discern the underlying link, suggesting that the correlation might be anchored more in nocturnal light levels rather than the specific lunar phase. By juxtaposing the frequency of seizures with the luminosity of each night – taking into account both the moon’s phase and prevailing cloud cover – it was observed that epileptic seizures were more prevalent on nights shrouded in darkness.

This correlation led the study’s authors to postulate that the increase in seizure incidents could be tied to melatonin levels. Melatonin, a hormone secreted predominantly during dark hours, is produced in higher concentrations in our bodies when immersed in darkness. Thus, the intriguing possibility arises that the relationship between lunar cycles and epileptic seizures might be intertwined with the body’s melatonin production and the ambient nocturnal luminance.

9. Dung Beetles’ Lunar Navigation: Nature’s Moonlit Cartographers [Fact]

Dung beetles, though primarily recognized for their peculiar fondness for rolling feces into consumable balls, possess an incredible and lesser-known skill that sets them apart in the insect world: the ability to navigate using the moon’s light. These tenacious beetles face intense competition in the realm of dung collection, making the swift and secure transportation of their precious cargo paramount. To elude potential pilferers of their dung balls, they chart the quickest and most direct route: a straight line.

Dung beetle
Dung beetles are the first known creatures to exploit the comparatively faint polarization of moonlight to maintain their straight paths. Their prowess is most evident during the full moon nights when the moonlight shines its brightest. Image source: Deposit Photos

During the dimming hours of sunset, as these beetles commence their foraging quests, they harness cues from the sunlight to maintain their unwavering linear trajectories. This navigation capability stems from their detection of polarized light – a phenomenon where sunlight, upon interaction with the Earth’s atmosphere, is absorbed and subsequently reemitted with its waves vibrating uniformly in one direction. This ability to follow sunlight’s polarized pattern is indeed not exclusive to dung beetles; many animals utilize this method for navigation.

However, what makes dung beetles truly remarkable is their adeptness in employing the moon’s pale light for the same purpose. They stand out as the first known creatures to exploit the comparatively faint polarization of moonlight to maintain their straight paths. Scientific investigations have showcased their uncanny ability to sense and align with the moonlight’s polarization, even during nights dominated by a mere crescent moon. Yet, their prowess is most evident during the full moon nights, when the moonlight shines its brightest, and its polarization is at its peak, guiding these diligent beetles in their moonlit escapades.


In conclusion, while many beliefs about the full moon’s influence remain mere myths, it’s undeniable that this celestial body has profound effects on Earth and its inhabitants in numerous unexpected ways. Whether through its gravitational pull or its luminescence, the moon’s connection to life on Earth remains a fascinating area of study.


M. Özgür Nevres
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