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5 Mysteries of the Moon Explained

Full moon rising over empty ocean at night with copy space

The moon gets blamed for all sorts of things. Anytime there’s a full moon and something goes wrong, people look to the sky accusingly. But how much effect does the moon have on us and the world?

The Moon’s Effect on Tides

One of the most common conceptions about the power of the moon is that it controls the tides in the oceans. While it’s true, there’s more to it than the simple idea that the moon has this massive power.

What makes the moon affect the tides is gravity. The moon’s gravitational force pulls water towards it, making the tides high on the side of the Earth the moon is on and on the opposite side (due to the Earth’s ability to rotate on its axis). Thus, the tides are low on the other two sides. (Think of the Earth as a disc, in this case.)

It’s not just the moon that affects the tides, however. The sun has its own gravity, which does the same thing. Because the sun is farther away from the Earth, the sun has less of a pull. Yet, the Earth can cancel out the moon’s effect on the tides when it aligns with the Sun.

Women and the Moon

The moon gets blamed for women’s menstrual cycles, and it seems as though this, too, may be based on some fact. Not all women have their periods at the same time, however, so it’s not an exact science. Yet, one study did show that the majority of women (in the study) did have their cycles begin on or very close to the new moon phase.

Some cultures link the moon to femininity, maybe because the moon’s cycle is the same number of days as the menstrual cycle. It may seem a little strange, but even women with a menstrual cycle not aligned with the moon might be able to sync up with the moon’s cycle. This, however, doesn’t seem to have any major scientific backing.

Exactly how all of this syching happens, well, there’s not really a definitive explanation. Maybe it, too, has something to do with gravity.

The Moon Makes People Crazy

It’s called lunacy for a reason, right? Luna is the Latin word for the moon. In Old English (and other languages, with a slight variation on the spelling), the word lunatic means moon-sick. While it’s no longer commonplace (and it’s not polite) to call someone a lunatic, the existence of the word makes one believe that maybe the moon does have some effect on people mentally. Maybe the full moon does make us a little crazy.

The effect that the moon is believed to have on people is known as the lunar theory or lunar effect. According to an interesting piece from Accuweather on how the moon affects people, the lunar effect isn’t just a myth.

If science says that the phases of the moon can have a sway on women’s cycles, then why wouldn’t it be able to affect humans in other ways? It seems that some people believe that the moon causes people to be a little crazier or a little more on edge, depending on how close it is to the Earth. The Accuweather article talks about different studies where crime and assault increased either when the moon was farther away (repressing the gravitational influence of the moon on the Earth), or when there was a full moon.

And, then there’s the supermoon. This type of moon, which appears extremely large on the horizon, occurs when the moon is at its closest to the Earth. This larger-than-normal moon may have even more of a strange effect on people, or perhaps none at all.

Why Are Werewolves Associated with the Moon?

A Lycan werewolf is in the House and mixing up some Halloween horror. Turntables with vinyl albums
Jeff Cameron Collingwood/Shutterstock

Even if werewolves are only fictional, they have a huge connection to the moon in mythology. If the full moon does turn people into lunatics, then that could be from where the idea of the werewolf originates. Like all mythical beings, there are all sorts of creation stories, though.

If you feel the urge to howl at the moon the next time it’s full, it could simply be due to your lack of sleep.

The Full Moon Baby Boom

Some people believe that the full moon causes more women to go into labor. Around 15 million babies arrive preterm each year. Premature birth is often due to health conditions (such as diseases like diabetes as well as controllable factors like smoking) of the mother or caused by multiple birth pregnancies.

Interestingly, one doctor says that the change in weather patterns is more likely to induce early labor, due to the change in barometric pressure. While the moon does have a small effect on the atmosphere and could have something to do with small weather changes, the effect is likely not something big enough to cause a drastic barometric change.

Disrupted Sleep

Trouble sleeping? It could be the moon. According to Swiss scientists, the phases of the moon can have a drastic effect on how you sleep at night. It seems that it’s harder to fall asleep around the time of a full moon than it is during the other moon phases.

There’s no difference between sleep patterns during the full moon and supermoon, however, according to that same study.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »