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Does the rhythm of the moon and its eclipses influence your health?

Some people have health-related issues at different phases of the moon. What happens when there's a colorful lunar eclipse? According to recent study, "Evidence that the lunar cycle influences human sleep," appearing in the July 2013 issue of the journal Current Biology, by researchers Cajochen et al., many people complain about poor sleep around the full moon. If sleep issues arise each month, then is the sleep disturbance exacerbated when there's a lunar eclipse and perhaps amplified even more when the total lunar eclipse turns the moon tomato red (known as a tetrad)?

Lunar eclipse, April 15, 2014. Some people have sleeping problems when there's a full moon. Did the total lunar eclipse keep you from sleeping soundly?
Lunar eclipse, April 15, 2014. Some people have sleeping problems when there's a full moon. Did the total lunar eclipse keep you from sleeping soundly?
Photo Credit: Stephen Pompea, NOAO. Lunar eclipse, April 15, 2014. NOAO offers front-row seat to lunar eclipse.
NOAO offers front-row seat to lunar eclipse.
Photo Credit: Stephen Pompea, NOAO. Lunar eclipse, April 15, 2014. NOAO offers front-row seat to lunar eclipse.

The report offers some of the first convincing scientific evidence to suggest that this really is true. The findings add to evidence that humans—despite the comforts of our civilized world—still respond to the geophysical rhythms of the moon, driven by a circalunar clock.

"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," says Christian Cajochen of the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel, according to the July 25, 2013 news release, "Bad night's sleep? The moon could be to blame."

In the new study, the researchers studied 33 volunteers in two age groups in the lab while they slept. Their brain patterns were monitored while sleeping, along with eye movements and hormone secretions.

The data show that around the full moon, brain activity related to deep sleep dropped by 30 percent

People also took five minutes longer to fall asleep, and they slept for twenty minutes less time overall. Study participants 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.

"This is the first reliable evidence that a lunar rhythm can modulate sleep structure in humans when measured under the highly controlled conditions of a circadian laboratory study protocol without time cues," the researchers say.

Cajochen adds that this circalunar rhythm might be a relic from a past in which the moon could have synchronized human behaviors for reproductive or other purposes, much as it does in other animals. Currently, the moon's hold over us is usually masked by the influence of electrical lighting and other aspects of modern life.

The researchers say it would be interesting to look more deeply into the anatomical location of the circalunar clock and its molecular and neuronal underpinnings. And, they say, it could turn out that the moon has power over other aspects of our behavior as well, such as our cognitive performance and our moods.

The total lunar eclipse in Sacramento and also seen across North and South America this week

For those who missed this lunar eclipse, fear not. Three more are to occur fairly soon: Oct. 8, 2014; April 4, 2015 and Sept. 27, 2015. Monday night's (April 14, 2014) lunar eclipse proved just as delightful as expected to those able to view it. On the East Coast, cloudy skies may have gotten in the way, but at the National Science Foundation's National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) near Tucson, Arizona, the skies offered impressive viewing, as seen from the pictures provided here, according to the April 14, 2014 National Science Foundation's news release, "Red moon at night; stargazer's delight."

Nicknamed a "blood moon," this lunar eclipse's color was similar to the majority of lunar eclipses. This has to do with the Earth's atmosphere's propensity for longer-wavelength light (e.g., the reds, oranges and yellows seen in sunrises and sunsets). However, according to NOAO Astronomer Stephen Pompea, the lunar eclipse's hue means more than just a pretty moon.

"The study of the color of lunar eclipses can be used to understand dust in the stratosphere including the amount and particle size of dust injected by volcanic eruptions," he said in the news release. "Understanding the amount of dust can help scientists create better models of climate change."

When the moon plays a tune like a blushing balloon, that's a tetrad

Even the moon has a rhythm of it's own. A total lunar eclipse is called a tetrad by scientists. And early this morning around midnight, Sacramento saw a lunar eclipse that for a few minutes turned the moon a crimson red, then a coppery orange, then a rusty hue followed by a dark grey shadow like a cloak. From about midnight to a few minutes after, the moon began to change color. Astronomers don't call total lunar eclipses blood moons, but that's what the newspapers call it to put a spin on it and put on the drama on what is a coppery-hued total eclipse. There will be a few more total lunar eclipses. Everybody sing: "When the moon, plays a tune, like a blushing balloon, that's a tetrad."

The scientific term is a tetrad, but you won't see the scientific name in the news as much as the dramatic "blood moon" spin put on the event, great for night photography. One of the most viewed articles on the lunar eclipse is, "Moon eclipse 2014: When can you see the 'blood moon'?"

There have been 62 tetrads since the first century, Earth Sky magazine reports, according to the article, "Blood Moon to arrive Monday night. What is a Blood Moon?" There will be eight this century alone, though none occurred in the 17th, 18th, or 19th century.

The news got wind of the term "blood moon" because of the term being used by two pastors, according to the article, "Blood Moon to arrive Monday night. What is a Blood Moon?" Because of the timing, some people associate total lunar eclipses with religious events. For example, Eight of the 62 tetrads since the first century have coincided with Passover, according to Earth Sky's math.

And lo and behold, the first and the third eclipses (April 2014 and 2015) will happen on the Jewish festival of Passover, while the second and fourth (October 2014 and 2015) will happen during the Jewish Tabernacles festival. That's also because of the lunar calendar's use in certain religious holidays. For example Jewish holidays use the lunar calendar which follows the moon.

There will be coming up four blood moons that will soon appear in the skies over America are evidence of a future “world-shaking event,” a pastor comments, according to the article, "Blood Moon to arrive Monday night. What is a Blood Moon? Each publication has its own emphasis on the lunar eclipses. After all, it's planting season and the spring holiday season.

The total lunar eclipse turned the moon a reddish hue early across the nation at different times last night and could also be seen over North and South America

Here in Sacramento, the lunar eclipse could be seen around midnight. But the so-called "Blood Moon" (Copper moon?) effect peaked between the hours of 3 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. on the East coast. People could view the lunar eclipse at different times in many parts of North and South America. It also could have been called rusty moon because it looked a lot like ochre or rusty iron, or red algae or lichens.

Much of North America should be able to see a total lunar eclipse that some are calling a 'blood moon' overnight Monday. We started photographing the moon in Sacramento at 11:00 p.m. and then again from midnight to about a quarter after midnight.

Here, in Sacramento, around midnight, this author photographed the moon from the backyard as various clouds swept by. You also can go to various websites to see the lunar eclipse from different places. For example, you can check out the site, "NASA: Beautiful blood moon, when lunar eclipse comes Tuesday."

The moon's total eclipse also has been covered by various news websites from the sensational and superstitious to the realistic and scientific. Check out such websites as the USA Today site, " Is Tuesday's 'blood moon' eclipse the end of the world?" Sorry, folks, it's just the shadow of one sphere is space moving across another.

Or see, "Blood Moon to arrive Monday night. What is a Blood Moon?" Seems a lot of news has to have drama or words that stir emotions when it just as fittingly could have been called an orange moon or a crimson moon, or even a tomato moon. Then there are the religious connotations. See the NY Daily News article, "Popular televangelist claims four blood moons are sign of ‘world-shaking event’.

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