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The Moon & its Effect on Us

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

The Moon has a powerful and magical influence over many aspects of life here on this amazing planet. We don't like to lean into this much in our modern era, or with a Christian mindset, but this relationship really can't be ignored. As a #midwife, I remember many times scheduling teaching events and having people fly in from all over the country to attend courses only I could teach, but then having mommas go into labor and panicking about who was going to cover my class. One of my staff members mentioned that this always happened when we booked classes near the full moon, and looking back over our calendars, her theory caused us to alter scheduling practices.

This really isn't a surprise for midwives though, or really anyone in healthcare. We see more women not just enter labor, but have their waters break before labor starts or even prodromal labors, and many claim the moon brings their monthly flow. Clinicians find we are more often extending emotional support around the #moon, even to the elderly who can have more confusion and disorientation when the sun goes down.

This seemed such a taboo discussion with some of our more conservative clients, but if you allow yourself to appreciate the cosmic dance between the #Earth and the Moon, their relationship through the evolution of life on Earth, and maybe even dig into what we know in the literature about this relationship, then one has to be pretty stubborn to not appreciate some impact the Moon has on our planet, and all life that lives among it.

The literature available regarding the impact of the Moon on various health concerns is difficult to discern. This is a complex relationship to evaluate, as are each of the individual health conditions we suspect may be vulnerable to the Moon's energy. When more than 80 percent of healthcare providers believing that the Moon effects our daily lives, then we know there is some truth to this phenomenon; the details are what elude us.

When I was completing my yoga teacher training in early 2020, it was this relationship that I felt drawn to understand better, and the inspiration for creating Moon Celebration #yoga flows that I now offer each month with the New Moon and the Full Moon. Some of what I've learned, I think you'll discover a bit fascinating as well, but maybe this knowledge may simply inspire you to use the Moon as your encourager for self-care, maybe leaning into the seasons for guidance in your own health and happiness journey. If this resonates with you, join our Women's Healing Circle where we work with nature to explore our own healing, health and happiness.

Moon is More Than Just Beauty

The gravitational pull of the Moon makes the climate on Earth temperate, with predictable #seasons, tolerable temperatures, and moderate winds. The Moon stabilizes the tilt of the Earth's axis, almost as if it's our anchor, and slows the spin of the Earth so we humans can thrive. Without the moon, our planet would likely wobble about like a dreidel, tilting a full 10 degrees every 10,000 years, and possibly oscillating the global climate between ice ages and hellish heat the lies of which no species have ever endured.

The Moon also influences life in a more surprising and subtle way, with its light. Most organisms possess an array of genetically encoded biological clocks that coordinate internal physiology and anticipate rhythmic changes in the environment. These clocks are wound by various environmental cues known as zeitgebers (time givers), such as light and temperature. Sunlight is the best-studied zeitgeber, but it turns out that for many aquatic creatures, #moonlight is just as cruicial.

In the past few years, scientists have rekindled a long-neglected curiosity about the moon’s power to manipulate life, reviving life studies on biology’s secret moon clocks. As a clinician, I ask every client how often they get sun on their face, the time of day they are in the sun, and about their sleep patterns. This tells me a lot about their state of health, and for my functional medicine clients, we can’t work on the underlying etiology without first addressing their sleep, sunshine, and #grounding. Even deeper into the roots though, is the understanding of our hormones, and among those are our cortisol and melatonin, both which regulate our circadian rhythms. When you have abused yourself, ignored your needs, and had incredible stress, these hormones fall out of balance, and your health will suffer. We can supplement ourselves, but outcomes aren't going to be overwhelming unless lifestyle changes. This rhythm, similar to that of the sun and the moon, is absolutely vital for optimal health.

The Moon's lunar cycle powers the tides of our ocean, and we are 50 to 70 percent water so why would we ever assume the Moon has no impact on us?!

The belief that the Moon phases are associated with behavior and human consciousness goes back about as far as human history itself. Our ancestors revered the moon as equal to the sun, a dynamic signature of time, and a potent source of fertility. “Time was first reckoned by lunations, and every important ceremony took place at a certain phase of the moon,” wrote English classicist Robert Graves in The Greek Myths. And some early Meso-American cultures seemed to believe that the moon deity controlled sexuality, growth, rainfall, and the ripening of crops. In more recent times, the importance of the moon to Earth’s creatures has been eclipsed by the great solar engine of life. 

Sunlight bakes the soil, bends the heads of flowers, pulls water from the seas. Moonlight seems to simply descend, deigning to visit us for the evening. We still perceive the sun as the great provider - the furance of photosynthesis - but the moon has become more like mood lighting for the mystical and occult; more a symbol of the spirit world than of our own. “There is something haunting in the light of the moon,” wrote Joseph Conrad in Lord Jim. The sun’s immense power over Earth and its creatures is scientific fact, but to endow the moon with equal power is to embrace #fairy tales and #ghost stories.

Perhaps with such biases in mind, scientists in the past decades have been much more interested in earthly life’s relationship with the sun than its potential interaction with the moon. This dispartiy widened around the 1970s and ‘80s with the discovery of circadian clocks - sun-synced networks of genes, proteins, neurons, and hormones - in flies, rodents, and other lab animals. But nature itself has been far more impartial, especially in the oceans, where life first evolved. Numerous sea creatures also move in time with the silver pendulum of night.  

Moon's Impact on Human's Health & Happiness

Many remark that they are more accident-prone, erratic, emotional, and creative with a full Moon in the sky. Recent research confirms what ancients recognized as a result of living close to nature - that a variety of external factors are linked to and regulate the internal rhythms of plant, animal, and human life. It also tells us that not only are many internal rhythms organized and synchronized by external light and dark cues from the environement, but they are also connected to one another, with many being controlled by biochemical factors, such as our #hormones.

Seasonal, circalunar, and circadian rhythms are the organizing forces behind all biological functions, including those that facilitate optimal health and regulation of sleep, fertility, and reproduction. Maybe this is why these seasonal changes and moon phases really resonate with me, because as a midwife and sufferer of trauma, I had completely destroyed my natural rhythms, ignored my body's attempt to communicate, and was ultimately disembodied and out of balance. Becoming more mindful of the natural rhythms of nature and how they can honor my own needs has really grounded me and significantly contributed to my own healing. This is why I share so much about nature with my own clients, integrate it into their teaching, and host hikes and yoga in nature. The science has always been there, but our culture is much more accustomed to harsh treatments with immediate responses such as pharmaceutical therapy and surgery. Learning to listen to your body and nature, and giving your self time to heal as you adjust back into your rhythms, learning to honor yourself is seemingly too subtle to appreciate. If you choose this path for yourself, know we have a circle of women happy to encourage you, our Healing Women's Circle and for active clients, connecting in yoga, hikes, or in our forum can also be very therapeutic.

Circadian & Circannual Rhythms

Our bodies have a natural rhythm that have syncronicity with nature's rhythms. Circalunar rhythms, or those internal clocks, run in concert with several other body systems, including the shorter #circadian or daily patterns that regulate activities like nightly sleep, and the much longer #circannual or yearly rhythms that govern seasonal behaviors, such as hibernation.

The science here really is fascinating if you have a lazy afternoon to dig in, as it seems there are a multitude of biological "timepieces" that help to regulate neural pathways and hormones in many animals, but in humans, it's believed that the increased light from the full Moon provides neuronal input that stimulates our sensitive retina, which in turn signals the endocrine cells of the pineal gland to secrete less of the sleep hormone, #melatonin. This results in extended and increased wakefulness during the full Moon phase.

My own review of the literature on this matter though, finds that experimentally we accept there is a clear relationship, but because this relationship is complex and not understood at the molecular level, experts can fall on either side of the argument with regards to the degree of consequence. Some studies find there is no impact of the moon on one's sleep and others will show that maybe only those more sensitive to disruption are impacted, or maybe this was just more an issue prior to electricity.

What we do seem to know is that sleep can be delayed by an average of five minutes and decreased by as much as twenty-five minutes during the full Moon, thanks to a study conducted by researchers at Sweden's University in Gothenburg (2014). This same study found lower melatonin levels in both children and adults during the full Moon, and that during the full Moon, there can be some sleep deprivation which may result from taking longer to reach REM sleep, which might account for the clumsiness and erractice behavior many anecdotally report during the full Moon. Vice versa, studies have found during the more dark nights of the new Moon that humans fall asleep quicker.

It might be that if we actually slept under the light of the Moon this impact would be more apparent in the literature, but it seems if we can still see these consequences when we aren't, then that relationship is quite profound. Maybe this relates more to gravitational pull and it isn't entirely about light? We are at least half water, and if the moon powers the ocean tides, would it not also impact us? Scientists have determined though that the Moon exerts little power over smaller bodies of water such as the Great Lakes, so humans are likely to be less significantly impacted. Maybe we've simply adapted to decades of living in a concrete jungle and not so much in nature?

Humans seems to need reason and understanding though, and when one can't be found, we often have fear and assign it to the occult. Epileptic seizures, for example, were once blamed on #witchcraft and possession, instead of being a physical ailment. This seems silly today, but seizures seemed to worsen during the full moon supporting that supernatural association. Dr. Selim Benbadis MD, associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the USF College of Medicine attempted to find a scientific correlation and in 2004, did publish a study in the Journal of Epilepsy & Behavior and found that the number of seizures were highest in the moon’s last quarter and at their lowest during the full moon.

Lunatic: Ancient Roman Moon Goddess

Hippocrates, Aristotle, and Pliny the Elder blamed #mania on the evil influences of the moon goddess, and these associations have continued through the middle ages and today. One theory is that the light of the moon kept people awake and their bad behavior caused sleep deprivation. You can speak to any nurse and she will tell you that the emergency room is busier, labor and delivery is more full, and the nursing homes certainly are tougher to manage during the full moon. This was so significant in our history that the word lunatic was derived from luna, the moon goddess. 

The Moon & The Animal Kingdom

One November night each year, beneath the full moon, more than 130 species of corals simultaneously spawn in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Some corals spew plumes of sperm, smoldering like underwater volcanoes. Others produce eggs. But most release both eggs and sperm, packed together in round, buoyant bundles as small as peppercorns and blushed in shades of pink, orange, and yellow. In stunning unison, numerous corals lose their seeds and they drift upward, toward the sky as fish, marine worms, and various predatory invertebrates zip through the water to feed on the coral confetti. Biologist Oren Levy discovered this in 2005, saying, “It’s like the whole ocean wakes up. You can watch videos, you can hear about it, but once you are actually in the midst of the biggest orgy on this planet, there’s nothing else like it.”

The moon is not the only environmental cue the corals use to achieve sexual synchrony on such a massive scale; water temperature and day length also matter. Yet the moon’s presence seems to be cruicial. If the sky is too cloudy, and the moon obscured, the corals will often not spawn. Sometimes they will delay until the next full moon. Levy and his colleagues have published data that demonstrates that not only do corals have light-sensitive neurons tuned to the dim blue wavelengths of moonlight, they also have genes that change their activity level in sync with the waxing and waning moon, regulating reproduction. This is true too of Sesarma crabs in Japan, Christmas Island crabs, horseshoe crabs, tropical rabbit fish, bobtail squids, marine bristle worms, chum salmon, albatrosses, plankton - when these marine lifes are raised inside, even with moon cycles directed by standard light bulbs or LEDs, they never display reproducitve rhythms. 

Another study published, this one in the British Medical Journal, stated that bites from animals were seen twice as frequently in a British emergency room during a full moon, while another stated that dogs in Australia bite the same amount of people during a full moon as any other time. A third study found that pets were more likely to visit the vet on nights when the moon was full and bright, suggesting that they are more active and taking more risks.

Evolutionary Advantage of the Relationship with the Moon

Interestingly, much of the scientific discussion is about how the influence of planetary, lunar, and solar cycles were potentially necessary. One theory for example, proposed in the National Geographic is that when dinosaurs roamed the earth by day, the night represented a window of opportunity for a new group of vertebrates to evolve. Ape-like creatures could hunt, thrive, and evolve on the banks of water bodies, having more access to animals moving, mating, and generally just being more accessible and vulnerable on the banks. This light of the Moon would have allowed for longer hunts, and the increased wakefullness of the full Moon would have enhanced their alert response. This might have been a #circalunar rhythm in our #ancestors, because even today it seems clear that our sleep patterns are inextricably and deeply connected with planetary and cosmic cycles.

Fertility & the Moon Phases

Fertility, our own species survival, is also impacted by the lunar phase and this might explain, at least to some degree, why this relationship has been important through human history. When our internal systems are syncronized with the external rhythms of the universe, organisms are more likely to experience better health, increased fertility, and more successful reproduction. We must connect with our ecosystem; when we rise and get sun on our face, and settle with the night sky, our hormones balance, our nervous system is better regulated, our bodies are better able to rest and restore, and even our cycles are enhanced.

Healthy melatonin levels are crucial to fertility, for both men and women, improving the health of both the woman's egg and the man's sperm. Interestingly, the female cycle coorelates with the Moon phases, and the human eye is sensitive to the Moon's light which impacts regulation of melatonin. When there is more Moon light, such as during the full Moon, there is less mating in the animal kingdom because it isn't as safe. Hunting is more prominent, but with more light, there is less #melatonin. When we understand that higher levels of melatonin naturally occur at the new Moon and this means healthier eggs and sperm, as well as safer mating in the protection of the night sky, it should then come as no surprise that the new Moon phase is typically the most #fertile time of the moon. For some, the constant exposure to light from our televisions and computers, might be some of the catalyst for infertility; our body doesn't believe us to be safe.

Nurturing a Relationship with the Moon for Health & Happiness

My first several decades of life was largely, if not entirely, about meeting the needs of everyone else. I thought I was happy because this made other people happy, and I was good at it. I was caring for the kids, my husband, my clients, trying to create lasting changes in my profession, burning both ends of the candle but working so hard I was ignoring my own needs, even my body's signals to eat, sleep, and eliminate. Ultimately I burned out completely, lost everything, and froze for a few years as my body started to heal. I am learning that nature has a pretty fabulous routine for caring for self and still giving to others. Nature blooms, warms, and delights us in the spring and summer, even into fall, but she always turns back into herself for restoration. There is no apology, no delay. No matter the circumstances, Mother Nature honors her innate cycle.

Not only have I worked to do this on an annual basis, appreciating the Celtic Wheel and turning more into Yule, into the self-reflection of the holiday, and less into the chaos and over-spending of Christmas, but I have really leaned into the whispers of the Moon phases as well, the turning into self as the Moon gets fuller and then the putting our energy into the world, with the new Moon.

There is this tug and pull, so that when I work with clients who have insomnia and ultimately recognize it does have a cycle through the month, do we work with that or against it? Can we empower ourselves with the awareness of how the full Moon might impact us and darken our bedrooms more to avoid the impact, or do we lean into it and trust that our stirring more around the full Moon has some intent just as it does for fertile couples? We are one with nature, so with this awareness, we must appreciate that when out of sync with Mother Nature's natural rhythms and seasons, phases and patterns, that we are not in tune, not in balance, and not living our best life.

Even the dark Moon, not to be confused with the new Moon, when the illuminated side of the Moon can't be seen by us, offers many people a bit more solace or serene emotions. The energy of the Moon is low and for some, this can be very calming. Take note, journal about the Moon, and see maybe how it impacts your health and happiness.

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