Truth or Myth: Rainy Weather Promotes Sleep

July 14, 2012

“There is no sound more peaceful than rain on the roof, if you’re safe asleep in someone else’s house.”

Anne Tyler, The Accidental Tourist

Surely, the sound of rain is peaceful, but does it make us fall asleep?

It’s the rainy season once again! Rain makes us feel relaxed and even tired, but does it contribute to a good night sleep? In a study by the University of Rochester, experiments showed that sunny days bring more restful nights.

With the sun high and bright, we sleep longer and more soundly, because we are wide awake and have exhausted our energies throughout the day. The opposite then is true. During rainy days, we hate getting up and we feel lethargic. We use less energy and thus cannot sleep better at night.

But if the study is correct, why is it that we hate getting up for work or school on a cloudy day?

Scientific studies have shown that we don’t like getting up due to the sound of rain and the absence of bright sunlight. These natural occurrences psychologically affect us by making us feel relaxed.

Another reason is more hormonal in nature. Apparently, serotonin, hormones that give us the general feeling of well-being and happiness, is regulated by the sun. The dimmer the sky (or any environment) is, the lower the serotonin level, and so we feel more lazy and sleepy.

Are younger people more affected by the rainy weather than adults?

A study seems to say so — In one experiment, some people experienced a feeling of gloominess when the weather is not good. This condition is called seasonal affective disorder or SAD (pun not intended). It is also applied to “blue” feelings related to gray skies and even winters.

On a lighter note, the National Sleep Foundation suggests ways to sleep better at night, with or without the rain:

  1. Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule including weekends.
  2. Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath and then reading a book or listening to soothing music.
  3. Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.
  4. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  5. Use your bedroom only for sleep.
  6. Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime.
  7. Exercise regularly, it is best to complete your workout at least a few hours before bedtime.
  8. Avoid caffeine (e.g. coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate) close to bedtime.
  9. Avoid cigarettes and other tobacco products, they can lead to poor sleep.
  10. Avoid alcohol close to bedtime.

When we take into account all these information, it becomes easier to understand why rainy weather or dark clouds make us feel less energetic. Studies show that a sunnier (and happier day) equates to higher productivity and therefore better sleeping time. But don’t despair, push yourself to excel in work and school, and you can curl under the covers and let the pitter patter of this rainy season happily lull you to sleep.