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Moonstruck sleep: Synchronization of Human Sleep with the Moon Cycle under Natural Conditions

By Leandro Casiraghi, Ignacio Spiousas, Gideon Dunster, Kaitlyn McGlothlen, Eduardo Fernández-Duque, Claudia Valeggia, Horacio O. de la Iglesia

Posted 02 Jun 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.01.128728

As humans transitioned from hunter-gatherer to agricultural to highly urbanized post-industrial communities they progressively created environments that isolated sleep from its ancestral regulators, including the natural light-dark cycle. A prominent feature of this isolation is the availability of artificial light during the night, which delays the onset of sleep and shortens its duration. Before artificial light, moonlight was the only source of natural light sufficient to stimulate activity during the night; still, evidence for the modulation of sleep timing by lunar phases under natural conditions is controversial. Here we use data collected with wrist actimeters that measure daily sleep to show a clear synchronization of nocturnal sleep timing with the lunar cycle in participants who live in environments that range from a rural setting without access to electricity to a highly urbanized post-industrial one. The onset of sleep is delayed and sleep duration shortened as much as 1.5 hours on nights that precede the full moon night. Our data suggests that moonlight may have exerted selective pressure for nocturnal activity and sleep inhibition and that access to artificial evening light may emulate the ancestral effect of early-night moonlight. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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