“Things get crazy when it’s a full moon.”
I’m sure you’ve heard it before – full moons fill hospitals: more babies are born, more people visit the emergency room. It’s the kind of conventional wisdom people talk about with unquestioned conviction – and have for years. Lunacy derives from the Latin luna, the moon. The belief that the moon messes with us is built into our language.
But I was curious: Do full moons really cause us to go crazy? And if so, why?
A cursory internet search and I found that plenty of researchers had wondered the same thing. Studies trying to link moon phases to all kinds of conditions have found – well, not much.
Not that researchers haven’t tried. It seems hundreds of studies have attempted to find statistical correlations between rates of suicide, seizures, crime and lunar phases. But the results have all been inconclusive at best.
For instance, one experiment did find the number of epileptic seizures increasing during full moons – but only when the moon was visible. No correspondence existed during heavy cloud coverage.
For help with my subsequent confusion, I turned to Mark Quigg, MD, a UVA neurologist who conducted research at the National Science Foundation’s Center for Biological Timing at UVA and continues to study and treat epilepsy and other conditions.
“I’ve had patients who swear that the moon has something to do with seizures,” Dr. Quigg said. And he had also heard the anecdotal reports of emergency room increases.
But his short answer, for whether the moon actually does affect us?
No? I asked Dr. Quigg about the study. Didn’t it prove that the full moon has an effect – of some kind?
“There have been various publications trying to link occurrences of seizures with various natural phenomenon – like the moon or the seasons,” but, he said, the real factor for seizure episodes: Time of day. (more…)