Does The Full Moon Affect Alzheimer’s Patients?

Wolves howl at it. Some say vampires get their power from it. The iconic full-bodied full moon outside your window is a powerful image and an undeniably powerful force. But just how powerful? Do people really do crazy things during a full moon? What about Alzheimer’s patients? What can we learn about the relationship between the cycles of the moon and human behavior? 

Does Full Moon Affect Alzheimer's Patients

Can We Explain Odd Behavior During The Full Moon?

The moon often gets blamed for madness on Earth. In fact, the Latin name for the moon, Luna, is the root of the word “lunatic.” Still, experts say we can’t account for any cause and effect between full moons and craziness. How is this possible when we’ve all known someone who swears the full moon is responsible for bizarre behavior or we’ve experienced our own mysterious ‘symptoms’?

Scientists have simply failed to identify a direct correlation between lunar phases and human behavior. According to Eric Chudler, a psychologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, who has studied the possible cause and effect theories, saying: “there is very little evidence that the full moon has a direct effect on human or animal behavior.”

Another researcher on the subject, Robert Todd Carroll, of The Skeptics Dictionary web site, wrote an article titled “Full Moon and Lunar Effects” where he reported that the lunar effects which have been identified and studied, have been found to have little or nothing to do with human behavior.

Still another study, related specifically to the behavior in Alzheimer’s patients, Alan M. Beck of Purdue University conducted a longitudinal study “to objectively examine the lunar influence on the frequency, duration and intensity of behaviors in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.”

The Alzheimer’s Behaviors Examined

  • wandering
  • anxiety
  • physical aggression
  • verbal confrontation

The study concluded that individuals with AD exhibited significantly more behaviors during periods of full moon, and that these behaviors were of a greater duration during the full moon.

The Moon Remains a Mystery

Mark LaFlamme, a writer and columnist, summarized the lunar effects discussion nicely when he wrote, “The full moon people are not likely to be swayed. The great, white satellite is more than 4.9 million years old and 238,857 miles away. It has more than twice the effect on our tides than the sun. And even those high-brow studies and statistics can’t rule for certain that it has no effect on us all — science in the natural world doesn’t consider the supernatural.”

The supernatural is our only explanation? That seems a bit flimsy when the moon controls the ocean tides. It’s a powerful entity: how does it really affect us? It has to be more than ‘in our heads.’

We Are Definitely Losing Sleep Over it

One area that has been studied and documented as directly linked to the full moon is a person’s inability to sleep. Chronobiologist and sleep researcher Christian Cajochen at the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel in Switzerland had heard about ths common complaint of poor sleep during the full moon. So he decided to conduct a four year lab study.

Unexpectedly, the scientists found “the lunar cycle seems to influence human sleep, even when one does not see the moon and is not aware of the actual moon phase,” Cajochen said.

Over the course of four years, the researchers had monitored the brain activity, eye movements and hormone secretions of 33 volunteers in the lab while the participants slept. All the participants were healthy, good sleepers, and did not take any drugs or medication.

After reviewing their data, the scientists found during the time of the full moon, brain activity related to deep sleep dropped by 30 percent. People also took five minutes longer on average to fall asleep, and they slept for 20 minutes less overall on full-moon nights. The volunteers felt as though their sleep was poorer when the moon was full, and they showed diminished levels of melatonin, a hormone known to regulate sleep and wake cycles.

“It took me more than four years until I decided to publish the results, because I did not believe it myself,” Cajochen told LiveScience. “I was really skeptical about the finding, and I would love to see a replication.”

Taking Care of Our Loved Ones During the Full Moon

Even though the scientists dismiss our claims of strange or unusual behavior as having anything to do with the moon, we know it when we see it. And if your loved one is experiencing the effects, know you’re not alone.

While we can’t explain everything in this world — even the things we can see —  we can still share a common bond: the full moon does cause atmospheric pressure and that may account for a shift in bodily awareness. The bright light shining outside might be upsetting for some, too. Whatever it is, you can be prepared when the full moon comes and do what you can to appease your loved one’s fears or calm them down.

Have you or your loved one experienced a change during the full moon? What will you do to prepare for the full moon this month? Please share your thoughts and comments below.

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