Full Moon Madness: Why the Moon Makes Us Mad


11 May 2017


The full moon is a powerful symbol linked with fertility, immortality and eternity. From ancient goddesses such as Luna in Roman myth and Chang’e in Chinese culture, to the werewolves and vampires of film and television, the moon has always held a powerful sway over the human imagination.

But the moon is also linked closely with madness. After all, the word ‘lunacy’ derives from the Latin lunaticus, meaning ‘of the moon’. While there is very little scientific evidence to support a connection between the full moon and human biology, many people believe the moon causes erratic behaviour, leading to an increase in hospital admissions, violent crime, traffic accidents and even epileptic seizures.

Scholars have examined the ‘lunar effect’ and devised multiple theories for the madness that seems to strike on the full moon. Here, we summarise some of the most popular ideas behind full moon madness.


Aristotle and Pliny the Elder both believed the lunar effect was caused by the moon’s influence on water. Pliny the Elder wrote that the full moon made the brain “unnaturally moist” and led to epilepsy and lunacy. Others have suggested that, since the human brain is about 70% water, the tidal power of the moon exerts an influence over its chemistry.


Some researchers argue that the brightness of the full moon disturbs sleep cycles, which can induce mania and seizures in those already suffering from bipolar or epileptic disorders. Research by the University of Basel found that people took longer to fall asleep and experienced shallower sleep and deeper dreams on the full moon.


The lunar effect isn’t limited to humans – it also affects animals. Studies have found that African lions are more likely to attack and kill humans after a full moon, while corals off the east coast of Australia spawn on or near a full moon each December. Vet clinics also report increased admissions of injured cats and dogs to their emergency rooms.


To celebrate the full moon, we’re offering $20 off A Res Adult tickets to Orb when you book by midnight on Thurs 11 May with code SDCFULLMOON. Limited to the first 200 tickets purchased in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

See Cheng Tsung-lung’s Full Moon live on stage in the world premiere of Orb from 29 April – 27 May in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

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