Myths Demystified: Nocturnal Abilities and Happenings

delves into things that go bump in the night, in this weeks Myths Demystified

Myths Demystified Night TimeDuring the night we are at our most vulnerable, and in this position our imaginations often become increasingly inspired by the dark abyss – a place of enigmatic unknowns. It is consequently not surprising that myths have formed concerning how we can survive these dark hours and how we can protect ourselves against the night’s creations.

Can eating carrots enable you to see in the dark?
During WW2 carrots were used to explain the British militaries success in shooting down German aircrafts in night-time raids. This helped to boost morale on the home front which had had a plentiful harvest of carrots, and also to provide a cover up to the technological developments that enabled better air defence. Posters declared that carrots ‘help you to see in the blackout’.

Sadly though carrots cannot give you night-vision, however, they do have the ability to help improve and maintain healthy eyesight. The chemical compound beta-carotene, present in carrots, is converted into Vitamin A when digested. This vitamin is vital for healthy eyes, it aids in maintaining the surface lining of the eye, consequently forming a barrier to bacteria and viruses. It also helps to fight infection and in protecting the macular (an area in the retina). One serving of cooked carrots contains more than your recommended daily intake, 100g of raw carrots providing 334% DV of the vitamin.

Accordingly, eating a diet rich of foods containing beta-carotene can protect you against macular degeneration, Vitamin A deficiency is a leading factor of blindness around the world. Carrots are not the only food which contain beta-carotene; liver, paprika and sweet potatoes gram for gram containing more of the vitamin than carrots.

The Peculiar Effects of La Bella Luna
The effect of the full moon has fascinated mankind for centuries. The ‘Transylvania Hypothesis’ theorises that around the full moon unusual happenings occur, people report dogs going mad and the number of seizures taking place increases. Furthermore, women’s menstrual cycle is supposed to be governed by the lunar cycle.

Dr Sallie Baxendale’s research shows that there is a correlation between seizures and the moon, as long as the moon could be seen. Thus, from here the theory points towards the moon’s luminosity, and not the moon itself, being the cause of the seizures.

With the menstrual cycle the two are intertwined if not scientifically, then in their linguistic roots, as etymologically menstruation/menses relates to the Greek word ‘mene’ for moon. Though not tied directly to the moon, artificial night lighting does appear to influence the female cycle by causing more irregular rhythms, with morning lighting having a regulatory effect (Danilenko 2007). The moon as a direct governor in the regulation and alteration of a woman’s menstruation has not been proven.

Cheese and Nightmares
The origin of the myth has been linked to Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge who blames ‘a crumb of cheese’ for his visitations of the ghosts of past, present and future. Contrary to this though, cheese contains the amino acid typtophan which should, in theory, induce sleep. An old English proverb says ‘Cheese, it is a peevish elf; it digests all things but itself’; here, cheese’s link to indigestion points to how it can disrupt peaceful slumbers, particularly when eaten late at night, and when a person is lactose intolerant, or has a milk or mould allergy.

Fundamentally though, if you do eat right before you go to bed your metabolism will increase. A consequence of this is that your brain’s activity level will also rise, and a more active brain will result in more vivid dreams and nightmares – whether it be cheese you have eaten or not.

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