Do Phases of the Moon Affect Circadian Patterns in Mammals?

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Updated on Sep 26, 2014

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Grade Level (Elementary, Middle, High School)


Safety Issues

Multiple human subjects/mammals may participate in this study. The research plan should be reviewed by a medical professional/veterinarian to determine if the project is minimal risk and human subjects under the age of eighteen should have parental permission to participate in the study.

Material Availability
Approximate Time Required to Complete the Project (Hours, days, weeks)

Three or more months.


To determine how the phases of the moon affect circadian patterns in mammals.

The project goals include documenting the monthly phase changes of the moon and measuring a person's average sleep latency. To identify a relationship between the duration of time it takes a person to fall asleep and the orientation of the moon to the earth and sun, the student will analyze the data collected for patterns and trends.

  • Household pot/pan
  • Metal spoon
  • Clock


As the moon revolves in an elliptical orbit around earth, the sun's radiation reflects off the surface of the moon. The amount of sunlight reflected from the moon is dependent on the position of earth in relation to the moon and sun. The phases of the moon include waxing and waning as the moon increases and decreases in visibility. Society's relationship with the moon includes myths, legends, and tales. It has been widely accepted the moon not only affects tides but mammalian behavior and cycles.

What relationship exists between the moon and various cultures throughout history?

What are the stages of sleep in mammals?

What are the various circadian cycles of mammals?

What conditions affect a mammal's sleep latency?

How do celestial objects affect life on earth?

New Moon
Waxing/Waning Gibbous
Waxing/Waning Crescent
Synodic Period
Sidereal Period
Sleep Latency

  1. On a daily basis the phase of the moon is recorded, the time of dusk, and the duration of nightfall.
  2. Human subjects record the time they lay down for bed.
  3. To measure the time a person falls asleep, the human subject should sleep with a spoon in hand and hanging over the side of the bed. When the individual falls asleep, the spoon will drop from the hand and hit a pot/pan which will awaken the human subject to facilitate recording the time for falling asleep.
  4. Human subjects record the time they lay down for bed and record the time they fell asleep every night for the first month to collect preliminary data and to determine their mean average sleep latency.
  5. Human subjects keep a diary of daily activities including all nutritional intake and any activities that may otherwise affect the mean average sleep latency.
  6. The phase of the moon in this experiment is the independent variable, and the dependent variables include the mean sleep latency for a particular moon phase, the duration of sleep, and the time the person awakens.
  7. To control the experiment, multiple human subjects participate and record data and the experiment is repeated monthly to identify any patterns and trends associated with the phase of the moon and the sleeping behavior of the individuals.


The Moon: Myth and Image by Cassell Illustrated, London 2002, Jules Cashford

Christine Ryder Combs, B.A. Honors Biochemistry, teaches high school Chemistry and Biology and serves as her school's science fair coordinator and science club sponsor. Since the development of an intensive science research program at her school, Christine has been nominated as an exemplary science teacher and has won awards for exemplary student participation at the regional science fair and recognized as teacher of the year.

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