To everything, we are told, there is a season: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to reap that which is planted. The Farmers’ Almanac, in print since 1818, has supported that notion for almost two centuries. Using the moon phases (and the zodiac) as reference, the Farmers’ Almanac suggests the best days for doing almost anything, from cutting hair to drying fruit. Is there any truth to these cyclical suggestions?
More than you may realize. Plants and animals are undeniably impacted by the cycles of the sun and moon and share interesting parallels when it comes to seasonal cycles of growth and death. Herds thin out in the winter, when forage is scarce. Animals typically give birth in the spring, when nourishment becomes more readily available. Humans, we’re coming to understand, are no different. Studies show that we give birth, get ill, and die in fairly predictable patterns.
Does the Moon’s Phase Affect Human Life?
Data is more limited in this area. While the moon link is not yet proven, there is a relationship between birth, death, and time of day. Wondering when you are most inclined to get seriously ill? Acute, often fatal, medical problems, such as heart attacks, strokes and blood clots in the lung, are more likely to occur early in the morning, during the last few hours of sleep.
According to a source out of Harvard, the risk of having a heart attack between 6 a.m. and 12 p.m. is 40%. In the afternoon, the cycle reverses itself, as afternoon is the most likely time for births to occur. Unless you are a pregnant woman, it may be wise to ease into the day slowly, in order to avoid serious health problems.
It may be wise to ease slowly into the day, in general. We humans are pretty tightly connected to our daily cycles, our “circadian rhythms.” An entire field of study has sprung up around the cyclical nature of human and animal behaviors. Called “chronobiology,” it is the formal study of temporal biological rhythms, such as daily, tidal, weekly, seasonal, and annual cycles.
In their book, Rhythms of Life, Russell Foster and Leon Kreitzman tell us, “All of us in the developed world now live in a ‘24/7’ society. This imposed structure is in conflict with our basic biology. The impact can be readily seen in our struggle to balance our daily lives with all the stresses this places on our physical health and mental well-being.” Many of our basic biological processes follow circadian patterns. One of the most important of these is sleep. Most of us need at least 7 or 8 healing hours sleep each night in order to function in a stable manner. We also need to get this sleep at roughly the same time each day. When this does not occur, problems arise. These problems are due in part to a disruption of the hormone melatonin, which is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain.
During times of darkness, more melatonin is produced, which allows us to sleep. Individuals who work the night shift don’t have the same exposure to natural light, and their sleep may not be consistent. Likewise, people who travel across time zones experience ‘jet lag,’ and an alteration in this hormone.
A scanty supply of sunlight, as occurs during the winter months, can lead to melatonin-related issues such as Seasonal Affective Disorder.
This article was featured in the 2012 Farmers’ Almanac.