WELLNESS
05/31/2016 10:43 am ET Updated Jun 01, 2017

A Full Moon Can Disrupt Your Family's Sleep Patterns -- Here Are Simple Strategies That Can Help

A full moon can leave adults and children alike feeling a bit out of sorts. While research varies, there are studies that confirm the effects of this phase of the lunar cycle. It can take longer to fall asleep, you may be sleeping less, and you may not be at your best during the day as a result. Being a mom of two young boys, I don't necessarily need a study to confirm the effects of a full moon. I see it in my children -- and myself. They can a bit crankier and tend to push back in ways they normally don't, and I may feel tired.

In 2013, Swiss researchers published a report in Current Biology that suggests we get less sleep during a full moon. The study drew its conclusions from an experiment in which 33 men and women slept in a sleep lab where brain patterns, eye movements and hormones were studied for one week.

Researchers found that study participants took an average of five minutes longer to fall asleep and got about 20 minutes less sleep than usual, and they reported being more tired than was typical. The lab did not have windows, so moonlight itself was not a factor. This led to the speculation that humans have a biological clock that follows a 28-day lunar cycle.

Another study found that children may sleep less when there is a full moon. Researchers from the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Canada analyzed information from over 5,800 children, ages 9 to 11, from 12 countries -- India, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Finland, Kenya, Portugal, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S.

The children wore accelerometers that recorded body movement and monitored sleep 24 hours a day for seven days.

Researchers found that children's sleep time was about 5 minutes shorter on nights with a full moon, compared with nights with a new moon, Live Science reported. The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics.

While reports vary about the effects of a full moon, if you see changes in your child's mood or you experience lower quality or less sleep, it may not matter what researchers say. The changes in your family are real.

So, what can you do to limit the effects of a full moon? Maintain a healthy diet. Don't reach for sugary or fatty foods if energy is low. Establish a sleep routine, and stick with it, even on the weekends. Start with having blackout shades in all bedrooms, in case it is the brightness of a full moon that is disrupting your sleep. And keep bedrooms cool and comfortable -- the best temperature for sleep is between 68 and 72 degrees.

Here are some simple, proven strategies for a sleep routine for infants: At bedtime:
  • Pull down the window shades.
  • Lower the lights.
  • Bathe your baby to relax him or her.
  • Turn on white noise.
  • Feed and burp your baby.
  • Change his or her diaper.
  • Read your baby a book (optional).
  • Swaddle your little one (recommended until they learn to roll over).
  • Hugs and kisses, then put your infant down on his or her back.

Modify the sleep routine according to your child's age.

For adults, a sleep routine is similar to that for a child:

  • Create a calming bedtime routine. About an hour before bed, take quiet time and avoid using electronic devices, as they can make it difficult to sleep. Your routine should include relaxing activities, like listening to calming music, reading or a bath.
  • Read in a low lit room. Our biological clocks are set by the sun and the moon. As the sun goes down, the melatonin in our bodies begins to increase, which prepares the body for sleep.
  • Avoid large meals too close to bedtime, but don't go to bed hungry. A small snack is okay.
  • If you are kept awake or awakened by light, use blackout shades and/or eye pillows.
  • Get a white noise machine or app.
  • Do a bedding check, and replace old pillows; clean duvet covers, pillow covers and mattress pads.
Be aware that a full moon may affect your and your children's sleep and mood. Knowing this can help you understand if your child acts out during the corresponding daytime. Sticking with healthy sleep and nutrition routines can help minimize the effects of the lunar cycle.