If a rainy day seems like the perfect time for a nap, you’re not alone in that thought. Many people tend to find themselves nodding off during a downpour. The sound of rain hitting the roof is a form of white noise, which can lull you to sleep, but there’s more to it than that.
Our bodies are attuned to nature, despite our best efforts to forget our primitive past. Circadian rhythms are the biological “clocks” built into our brains that govern biological processes like sleep, appetite, and more. Circadian rhythms are heavily influenced by exposure to natural light. There are several theories about the biology behind rainy day sleepiness.
How Weather Affects Your Mood
There’s a definite connection between weather and our emotional state. A 2011 study even found that about nine percent of people feel angrier on rainy days than on sunny days.
A lot of it has to do with ultraviolet (UV) light, or the lack thereof. Like most living things, humans need sunlight to thrive. Sunlight, which is made up of UVA and UVB rays, increases serotonin production. Serotonin is the hormone that makes us feel happy, so it’s normal to feel a bit down in the dumps on overcast days.
In addition, dim light prompts the pineal gland to produce melatonin, the hormone that regulates circadian rhythms. The low light conditions associated with rainy weather can lead to a spike in melatonin, making you feel drowsy.
Yet another reason for feeling tired or "down" in rainy weather is the effect of barometric pressure. Lower barometric pressure, which tends to accompany stormy weather, reduces the amount of available oxygen in the air. Drowsiness is one of the first signs of insufficient oxygen.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Some people experience a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the winter months, when they are exposed to less sunlight than during the rest of the year. Symptoms of SAD are similar to those of depression, including a tendency to oversleep and difficulty waking up in the morning.If you find yourself abnormally affected by the weather, talk to your doctor.
Light therapy is the primary treatment for SAD. In light therapy, a patient is exposed to UV light with a special lamp for certain periods of time. Some doctors may even recommend the use of tanning beds to treat SAD.
Does Rain Make Me Sleep Better?
It seems to stand to reason that if rainy weather makes you feel drowsy, it must be perfect sleeping weather. However, science says this is not the case. Changes in barometric pressure make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Some studies have shown that people actually sleep better in nice weather than in rainy weather.
How to Beat the Rainy Day Blues
If rainy-day sadness or drowsiness is affecting your performance, you may need to find a cure. There are several ways to compensate for the effects of dreary weather.
- Expose yourself to as much light as possible. Natural light is best – even if it’s overcast, there is still some UV light getting through, so if you can, spend a little time outdoors. Bright indoor lighting comes in at a distant second, but will do in a pinch.
- Stay active. Get in a morning workout or take a lunchtime yoga break. At minimum, try to get in a brisk walk around the building. Physical activity helps stimulate mental alertness and clarity.
- Do something creative. If you’re stuck inside, don’t give in to cabin fever – get out the paints. Make art, do a craft, write a poem, or bake a cake. Whatever your creative forte, making something will help your mind focus on a pleasurable activity and stimulate serotonin production.
- Give in to a nap. If the rain is making you sleepy, and there's nothing that absolutely needs to get done, give yourself permission to enjoy the luxury of a catnap. It may be a good time to catch up on your Zzz's.