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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Please leave your thoughts and comments

  • OkieChris

    My grandmother definitely was secured by the full moon. I always knew the moon affected her behavior. She would get mean and aggressive during the full moon.

    • Idaho astro

      Confirmation bias, pure and simple.

  • Lisa Douthit

    I studied circadian rhythms for a masters thesis. Why wouldn’t the moon affect us, when the internal rhythms of hibernation, sleep, tides and the northern lights are all influenced by something that we “just can’t explain”.

  • Valerie

    If the moon affects the oceans of the world, then its not beyond human understanding that it can affect a human made up of 65% water. Also the writer has not worked a night duty on a full moon

    • Idaho astro

      If you understand the physics of tides (which, clearly, you do not), you’d know that the tidal force of the moon on a human body is so fantastically minuscule that to attribute any effects to it on a person is ludicrous. It’s a simple exercise routinely assigned to undergraduate physics students to show that the tidal force exerted on you by the gravitational field of someone standing next to you in line at the bank is vastly greater than the moon’s tidal force.

      As for your last sentence: pure confirmation bias, i.e. “the plural of ‘anecdote’ is not ‘data'”.

  • Tim

    Ridiculous ‘study’. Some people believe anything. Sad.

    • Jess

      I am a care and support worker for those who have Dementia. Recently there has just been 3 full moons in a row and the residents behaviour changed during this period. Even though there isn’t sufficient evidence to suggest that a full moon affects an individual with dementia, I truly believe that it does. I noticed a change in each individual’s behaviour. They became more aggressive and anxious, and they were all doing a lot of wandering round the building. So you’re the sad one. You obviously haven’t observed the behaviour of an individual with dementia.

  • lace

    fact normal brain with out full moon 11lbs pressure durning full moon 22 lbs pressure YES direct corrolation all water is controled by the tides controlled by the moon. simple.. more pressure on the brain more pressure on the hypothalamius( which contrils our moods) yes the moon DOES control our moods

    • Kevin

      That is a great fact Lace. I never thought about it in the form of tides, thank you.

    • Kerberos

      This is totally made up. Moon phase is just us seeing what section of the moon the sun is shining on. We do have atmospheric tides raising and lowering the pressure but the atmosphere has a much smaller mass than the oceans so the twice daily lunar tides (twice daily just like ocean tides, not once a month, caused by the side of the earth pointing towards the moon as the earth rotates) has very little affect to pressure variations, the once daily tide from the heating from the sun in the day, cooling at night, creates much more variation. But pressure is really complex, you have altitude affecting it. Higher you go the less pressure, that’s why airplanes are pressurized. Weather changes pressure too as high and low pressure front pass through.

      • Rachel

        Good point. But you should do a night shift in a care home full of dementia patients and your thoughts on the theory will completely change. I didn’t believe it until I done it myself. It’s unexplainable strange behaviour. The moon does have an effect on humans. But mainly the signs show on demetia patients

        • Shawna

          Omg I’ve been a nurse for almost 15 years now and it has something to do with Thier behavior I work on a memory care unit so we have em all and they are def. Crazy during and around a full moon I’m dreading work already! And I work 2 to 10 shift!

    • Idaho astro

      Your numbers are complete rubbish, as any undergraduate physics student can easily show.

  • Kevin

    I have done some preliminary research into the affect that Lunar change has upon those afflicted with Alzheimer’s, although I am not a scientist, I, however am a caregiver for my Mom who has full blown Alzheimer’s stage 6 into 7. When the moon is changing into full moon phase there is a marked difference in her cognitive behavior. She talks about nothing, in a way talking out of her head. Her mind is almost a blank canvas, suggestions of things we do everyday are not heard or understood at all. I truly believe the moon phase has a large impact of the Alzheimer’s afflicted.

    • Idaho astro

      The fact that you believe this effect to exist disqualifies you as an objective observer. That’s why a proper study of this type requires double-blinding (to eliminate unconsciously influencing the outcome).

    • B

      Me too. My Dad is in the same stages and he is almost unbearable during a full moon. We just recently realized it and I don’t care what anyone else says…it’s true.

      • Terri

        Agree 100%, my mother is driving me crazy myself, I can’t wait for the full moon to be over with so I can have some relief.

        • Diane

          I absolutely agree and am so glad that I found this article – my mother is also driving me crazy and I’m relieved to know that it is not my imagination thinking that it is the full moon that is affecting her personality and actions. Thank you. Diane.

    • Lisa M Gray

      I take care of my mom also and notice a huge difference in her behavior several days before and after a full moon. Her moods change she is more combative and easily aggravated. She lives in a assisted living and I notice changes in others there during a full moon period.


    • Idaho astro

      Hardly the report of an objective observer.

      • sarah

        We get it Idaho Astro, we may not be ‘objective observers’ but you are presumably no expert with answers either. Right out of character for me, I never leave comments on forums, the only reason I’m doing so is because I’ve just left my mothers dementia care home. (Stage 6/7) Normally a sweet natured woman of 78, she was unusually VERY aggressive and so were many other residents. This is far from the first time I’ve witnessed this. We currently have a full moon. It may be anecdotal, but it’s my experience and no doubt you will rudely dismiss this too. Yours, an unobjective observer

  • Kerberos

    The gravitational equations uses the mass of both objects to determine their attraction to each other. Your mass is way too small to have any pull to the moon, whereas the mass of all the water on earth is enough to show an attraction. Shadows on the moon have no affect on the mass of the moon. Water in the oceans always bulges towards the moon, and the way the water is pulled we get a bulge of water on the opposite side of the Earth too. As the Earth rotates the water bugle moves since it’s always towards the moon. This is why we have high and low tides twice a day. If the moon’s gravity was doing anything to you, you would notice it twice per day, not the once a month when the Earth’s shadow isn’t showing on part of it.

  • Nancy Millwood

    I also just got home from a nursing home where the noise level of the residents was especially elevated. I’ve never seen it like that. The friend I was visiting was very agitated and depressed. That behaviour is unlike the way he has been over the last month. It’s a harvest moon tonight and cannot be seen due to a low cloud covering. Personally, I believe that is a relationship between a full moon and people’s psyche.

  • Heather

    Anyone who has worked in dementia care, night shifts or ED would probably agree that the moon does seem to influence behaviour.

  • Val

    I’m a caregiver for my husband now with mild to moderate dementia. I have been keeping a daily journal for medical purposes but recently looked back on past 2 years & his worst times are just before, during & 2 days after full moon. So, scientific or not… it does have side effects.

  • Jen

    Just my own theory: I believe the full moon is connected to our basal ganglia, or prehistoric brain. Animals are either hunters or hunted. During a full moon, it would be either scary (if you are hunted), or opportunistic (if you are a hunter), as the extra light provides a benefit for the hunter, but a problem for the hunted. Therefore, I believe the full moon triggers the fight or flight mechanism and that’s why it can make you aggressive or fearful.

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