Just a couple of weeks into my first job in an assisted living facility as a resident aide I got my first taste of a monthly phenomenon. Residents that were normally docile and calm were wandering about, starting arguments, and behaving in a generally rude manner. Worse yet, residents that normally presented challenges were practically off the walls. With so little experience under my belt, I didn’t know what to make of the sudden changes in behavior, and struggled to handle them.
At 11pm when my relief came I began to give “report” which is a to the minute status update on every resident. As I went down the list describing the various symptoms and behaviors of our beloved 43 residents, the other aide began to smile and shake her head. Exhausted, I asked if this was normal. She told me in fact it was, every month, on the full moon.
Not being superstitious or believing in anything supernatural, I dismissed the explanation. Until the following month, that is, when all of the same aggressive, wandering, agitated behaviors presented themselves again. So I did some research to see if there was any merit to the lunar effects on human behavior.
What I found is that of the little research that has been done, scientists have failed to present any conclusive findings of the effects of the lunar phase on human behavior. However, there were two exceptions:
1. One scientist conducted a 4 year sleep study to measure the effects of the full moon on sleep patterns. All the participants of the study were healthy, good sleepers, and did not take any medications. Over the 4 years, the team observed that the participants took an average of 5 minutes longer to fall asleep, had 30 percent less brain activity, and woke up 20 minutes earlier during the full moon. This was true even when they were unaware of the lunar phase.
2. Talk to anyone that works with or cares for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and they will swear up and down that the full moon plays a big part in behavior. Another study done on AD patients set out to measure increased levels of wandering, agitation, anxiety, and verbal confrontation. The conclusions were that the AD sufferers did exhibit significantly more behaviors during the full moon, and the severity of those behaviors was much greater.
Some people believe that because the moon holds such a powerful influence on the ocean tides, and our bodies are comprised mainly of water, that the moon is controlling our “inner tide”. However, the force of gravity is proportional to the mass of an object and inversely proportional to the square distance between the two objects. In short, because the amount of water in the human body is actually very little compared to that of the ocean, and the moon is so far away, the lunar phase cannot have a significant effect on the individual.
So while the observations made are fairly consistent, the cause remains a mystery. For anyone struggling with the effects of the moon on their loved one suffering from AD: contact Helping Hands for guidance and support.