This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn more

The Super Blue Blood Moon Really Freaked Out Doctors and Nurses

“Blue moon, blood moon, eclipse — it just spells trouble."

The word ‘lunatic’, with its roots in the Latin luna, for moon, used to describe people who seemed to become temporarily insane as the moon went through its different phases. Now largely used by world leaders to insult one another, its definition has become much broader, but on occasions like Wednesday, when the much-anticipated Super Blue Blood Moon reared its head in the early morning, the term’s spooky mythology seems as relevant as ever. The effect is especially pronounced in hospitals.

“We pride ourselves on being scientific people,” said Dr. Patricia Valcke, a palliative care physician at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in an interview with Inverse, “But the more celestial events that line up, the weirder things get.”

Wednesday’s Super Blue Blood Moon, described as an “astronomical trifecta,” was a full moon that wasn’t only huge and terrifyingly red but also a lunar eclipse and the second full moon of January.

Things are strange enough during full moons, says Valcke, noting that “people hold on for a long time then half the unit passes in one night.” But events like a Super Blue Blood Moon are even eerier. “Blue moon, blood moon, eclipse — it just spells trouble,” she says, noting that nursing homes “go wonky” and elderly patients start having “odd” behaviors for “no particular reason.”

Anecdotal evidence suggests hospitals get busier during lunar events, but the scientific literature shows no link.

Article continues below

Better sleep can improve so many aspects of your life. Get Inverse's 12 part series on how to get better sleep, from the smartest people on the subject.
Sign up for our newsletter:

Nancy Brisebois, a self-described “fossil” of a nurse who works with Valcke, tells Inverse that in her 40-plus years of experience, she and her peers have learned to “get their runners on” during a full moon because everyone knows it’ll be a busy night. “We try not to be on call on a full moon,” she says. “Something weird always seems to happen.”

Anecdotes like these are simply that — anecdotes — but it’s impossible to deny the sheer number of healthcare professionals that have stories to share. One study investigating the link, published in Advances in Mind-Body Medicine in 2017, cites a figure saying 81 percent of mental health workers report anecdotal evidence of a link between human illness and full moons. Naturally, these stories, told and retold in ICUs and emergency rooms in hospitals across the continent, have led many researchers to try to get to the bottom of it. The results of these investigations consistently turn up null, however, making it all the more maddening that everyone seems to see a correlation.

In early January, for example, physicians from Wayne State University School of Medicine published an article in Critical Care Medicine entitled “Do moon phases or proximity influence the incidence of delirium and agitation in ICU patients?” Explaining what led to the study, Aeman Hana, a co-author and medical student, tells Inverse that “the claim is not widespread but it is common and mentioned by some of the healthcare workers.”

Like many related studies in the literature, the paper starts out with a description of the phenomenon that’s puzzled humans for centuries: “The potential influence of lunar phases, most notably full moons (FM), on a wide range of human physiology, especially of a psychological nature, has been the subject of much debate.” In this particular study, the researchers searched for correlations between the behavior of 5,795 patients and phases of the moon over two years in one hospital. As with the Advances in Mind-Body Medicine paper, which used similar methods to assess 1,857 patients, the study didn’t turn out any links.

Despite the anecdotes, the evidence that the moon has any sort of effect on human behavior is, as a 2016 Frontiers in Pediatrics article put it, “weak.” That study, which looked at 33,710 sleep cycle recordings from kids from 12 different countries to see whether the moon had any effect on sleep duration — concluded that sleep duration is 1 percent shorter during a full moon compared to a new moon, but even the authors questioned whether the findings were clinically meaningful.

It may be that physicians and nurses, for all the careful objectivity inherent in their work, are as susceptible to confirmation bias as the rest of us. Or perhaps there really is a link between human physiology and the moon that still eludes us. Whatever the case, during lunar events, healthcare professionals can’t help thinking that they probably should have just taken some time off.

“We knew, ‘There’s this monstrosity on January 31’, and no one wants to be on call,” said Brisebois. “The full moon causes things we can’t explain.”

You Can Save Up to 30 Percent on Your Power Bill With Arcadia Power

Connect to clean, low-cost energy and bring down your power bill for free.

Filed Under Energy & Power

Given the chance, most of us would jump at the opportunity to bring down our power bills. But, there’s a prevailing assumption that doing so involves dealing with steep upfront costs before the savings actually come in. Arcadia Power presents a different solution, however, and it’s willing to give new users $20 off their first utility bill for trying out the platform.

Ancient Humans' Tiny Tool Use Is a Big Reason We Are Evolutionarily Unique 

Humans' love of miniaturization allowed for our global spread.

Tools have long been a centerpiece of humans’ ongoing quest to understand our own evolution. Man created tools, and so man has been judged as uniquely, cognitively complex. The problem with this line of thinking, however, is that it’s increasingly obvious that toolmaking and tool use do not make humans as unique as we’d like to think: Many animals, from orangutans to crows, make tools, too.

73 Years Later, the "A-Bomb" Ginkgo Trees Still Grow in Hiroshima

"There’s a huge paradox at the heart of this ginkgo story."

On August 6, 1945, an Allied plane dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, creating a fireball 1,200 feet in diameter. Disaster rained down upon the city, killing an estimated 150,000 people and leveling both the biological and man-made landscape. Little was left standing, but somehow the ginkgo trees were able to weather one of the most destructive moments in human history.

CIA Psychic Pioneer Explains How Physics Would Have to Change for ESP

"Our answer is a member of the class of things that can explain psychic abilities."

The film The Men Who Stare at Goats had a long laugh at the United States Army’s 20-year-long attempt to use psychic powers to kill animals. Those experiments grew out of the work of physicist Russell Targ, Ph.D., whose studies on psychic “remote viewing” at the Stanford Research Institute in the 1970s drew the attention of the CIA, which later turned it into the goat-felling Stargate Project. That project was abandoned in 1995, and Targ’s work has been panned as pseudoscience ever since. But he stands by what he saw: people who could perceive hidden targets using only their minds.

How a Brutal Murder Had a Profound Ripple Effect on Scientific Thought

A viral story of 38 do-nothing witnesses changed sociology, psychology, and neuroscience.

When 28-year-old Catherine Susan Genovese was killed outside her apartment in Kew Gardens, Queens, 38 people reportedly witnessed the attack but didn’t get involved.

Known to her friends as Kitty, she had only lived at 82-70 Austin Street for a year with her girlfriend, Mary Ann Zielonko, before returning on the night of March 13 from her job managing a bar.