Over thousands of years, the lunar effect has continued to influence the lives of living organisms in multiple ways. For centuries, the full moon formed an integral part of the mythical beliefs and practices that characterized the ancient times. Studies have shown that, in the ancient Rome and Egypt, the moon was an authoritative source of interpretation of phenomena and human behaviors. Beyond the mythical beliefs and practices, the idea of the moon influencing human behaviors has received considerable scientific focus since the beginning of the 20th century. The theory holds that the cycles of the moon have a role to play in some of the unusual behaviors that are common to particular persons or organisms in the society (Proud, 2013). Despite the overwhelming research that corroborates such assertions, contention still exists on the actual influence of the moon cycles on human and animal behaviors.
An area that has received much attention is the relationship between the lunar phases and the incidence of crime. The theory postulates that there is a correlation between crime rates and the seasonal variations of the moon. Studies of Thakur and Sharma (1984) linked higher crime rates to the cycle of the moon. The studies revealed that the rate of crime during full moon days was higher than other seasons. In regards to the seasonal variations of the sun, Thakur and Sharma found that there was no much difference in terms of incidence of crime on equinox and solstice days. The findings suggest that the sun does not influence crime while the moon influences the social disorders which, in turn, have a bearing on the rates of crime. Such higher incidence of crime was attributed to the gravitational pull of the moon. Security agencies have utilized the findings of these studies in fighting crime (Hammond, 2013). Similarly, suicide rates during the full moon have been found to be much higher than other seasons of the lunar cycle (Owens & McGowan, 2006). This is a result of a dramatic rise in the tides of mental disorders among the affected persons.
The influence of the cycle of the moon on the development of aberrant behaviors has also been linked to animals. A body of research has shown that animals bite more during the full moon (Bhattacharjee, et al., 2000). According to Bhattacharjee, the season of the full moon causes changes in animal behaviors which increase their aggressiveness to people in the form of bites. The study shows a higher tendency of hospitalization from animal bites during the full moon. An examination of medical records in UK hospitals revealed that the number of cases of bites from dogs, horses, cats, and rats was twice as higher during the days when the moon was full than when it is a season of the new moon (Hammond, 2013). Specifically, the rats develop a higher sensitivity due to physiological alterations that have been associated with the lunar cycle(Bhattacharjee, et al., 2000). Although the findings of these studies do not verify the link between the bites and the full moon, it suggests that there is a correlation between higher bites and the full moon. Such studies thrive on the effect of the tidal waves of on the water aspect of the human body which has a significant role in influencing physiology. Since the body has 70% of water, the combination of the gravity of the moon combines with that of the sun to produce higher tides during the full moon. These high tides have an effect on water bodies (Proud, 2013). The effect on the Earth's water is considered to be similar to the tidal effects on humans.
Research has established that there is a correlation between the lunar cycle and certain health conditions. According to Owens and McGowan (2006), the full moon has an impact on the quality of life of persons living with the health condition such as Schizophrenia. Such patients experience a deterioration of their mental health during the full moon. The deterioration of mental health can be associated with aberrant behaviors such as crime and suicide. Retrospective assessments of the medical records of patients have shown that phase of the moon has implications on depression of patients. The examinations reveal that seizures for non-epileptic patients increase during the full moon (Bhattacharjee, et al., 2000).
Other studies find that lunar phases can influence sleep in human beings. The studies indicate that sleep variation is witnessed with lunar cycles. Roosli et al. (2006) found that people experience less sleep during the full moon than during other phases of the moon. More recently, Cajochen et al. (2013) find that the distance to the nearest full-moon cycle influences human sleep. During the phase of the full moon, there is a higher tendency for people to have a reduced quality of sleep due to the decreased levels of melatonin. The lunar cycles modulate the sleep structure in humans by interfering with sleep-related hormones. It is critical to note that evidence has been found in regards to the effect of lighting conditions on the physiology and behavior of animals and primates (Roosli et al., 2006).
Despite the ample evidence linking lunar rhythm to certain human and animal phenomena, controversy remains on the direct correlation between the moon cycles and the human behavior. The idea that lighting conditions affect the physiology and behavior of animals and humans has been rejected by some researchers as most studies do not establish the direct link between human and animal behavior with moon phases(Hammond,2013). According to Proud (2013), the effect of the tidal waves on water is different in the case of human beings. The gravitational waves only affect unbounded bodies of water. Since the water in human bodies is contained in human tissues, it remains protected from the effects of moons tidal waves. Besides, the attraction of the tidal waves to Earth's water bodies is significant in Earth's water bodies and negligible in the cases of humans. This position negates the influence of the moon on human behavior. Thus, increased accidents, bites, and crime cannot be attributed to the tidal effects of the moon.
The ability of the illumination of the moon to provide more opportunities for the commission of crime and other anti-social behavior has not received much scholarly investigation. The inadequate scholarly attention is due to the notion that the effect is far less direct (Shafer et al., 2010). According to Shafer et al., the effect of the moon on crime relates to the aspect of illumination. That crime tends to be facilitated by its illumination rather than causing aberrant, anti-social behaviors that encourage people to commit crime. The higher incidence of crime may be also as a result of other factors such as weather and seasons of the calendar year. A meta-analysis of different studies further reveals that the relationship between crimes and lunar cycles is negligible (Hammond, 2013).
Reviews of several studies linking animal bites and admissions and those that associate lunar rhythm with suicides yield minimal positive results on such relationships. Some reviews establish that suicide rates were much lower during the full moon than other phases (Owens and McGowan, 2006).Despite the abundance of findings that associate bites and admissions with lunar phases, the studies only yield weak relationship when an analysis on individual cases is done. For instance, an analysis that takes into consideration of the day of the week that animal bites occur reveals that there is no connection between the higher bites and full moon (Hammond, 2013).Such weakness may be as a result of the complex relationships of various factors which motivate animal bites.
Most studies explore the effect of the lunar cycles on the human behavior. They tend to seek for a positive or negative correlation. Hammond (2013) argues that the publishers often accommodate studies that show some findings on this topic. Such tendency may lock out studies that did not yield any results on the subject which can be used to trigger different perspectives on the influence of the lunar phases on humans and animals.
In conclusion, the lunar rhythm seems to have an association with human and animal behaviors. The literature review shows that crime tends to be higher during the full moon. Whether such effects result from the tidal waves or the facilitation of crime through illumination, the evidence suggests a correlation. Also, the continued belief in the existence of the lunar effect among professionals such as police officers and psychiatrists creates relationships as well as informs actions that give credence to the existence of the lunar effect. Perhaps, a meta-analysis of several studies that only focus on individuals considered to have been affected by the moon phases may yield more convincing results.
Bhattacharjee, C., Bradley, P., Smith, M., Scally, A. J., & Wilson, B. J. (2000). Do animals bite more during a full moon? Retrospective observational analysis. BMJ, 321(7276), 1559-1561. doi:10.1136/bmj.321.7276.1559
Cajochen, C., Altanay-Ekici, S., Munch, M., Frey, S., Knoblauch, V., & Wirz-Justice, A. (2013). Evidence that the Lunar Cycle Influences Human Sleep. Current Biology, 23(15), 1485-1488. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2013.06.029
Hammond, C. (Writer). (2013). Does a full make people mad? [Television series episode] London: The BBC World Service.
Owens, M., & McGowan, I. W. (2006). Madness and the Moon: The Lunar Cycle and Psychopathology. German Journal of Psychiatry, 9(1), 123-127. Retrieved from 433-1055
Proud, L. (2013). The secret influence of the Moon: Alien origins and occult powers.
Roosli, M., Juni, P., Braun-Fahrlander, C., Brinkhof, M. W., Low, N., & Egger, M. (2006). Sleepless night, the moon is bright: longitudinal study of lunar phase and sleep. Journal of Sleep Research, 15(2), 149-153. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2869.2006.00520.x
Schafer, J. A., Varano, S. P., Jarvis, J. P., & Cancino, J. M. (2010). Bad moon on the rise? Lunar cycles and incidents of crime. Journal of Criminal Justice, 38(4), 359-367. doi:10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2010.04.003
Thakur, C. P., & Sharma, D. (1984). Full moon and crime. British Medical Journal, 289(6460), 1789-1791. doi:10.1136/bmj.289.6460.1789
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