We’ve all been there. Lying in bed, knowing it’s time to get up – but outside it’s raining. You can hear it on the roof, on the windows. So you pull your covers over your head and doze off for another half-hour (if you’re lucky).
Scientists link rainy-day drowsiness to a lack of sunlight. Light triggers inhibitors in the pineal gland in your brain, reducing the production of melatonin which slows neural processes. As the sun goes down, melatonin starts ramping back up, and sleepiness sets in. It’s part of the daily cycle known as our circadian rhythm. When dark rain clouds coincide with dawn, just as other timing cycles in your brain suggest its time to wake up, melatonin production is still in higher-than-normal gear, and it’s just harder to get up, or even feel like trying to get up.
For me, at least, it’s also highly psychological. I call it the “coziness” factor, and the thinner the boundaries between me and that rain, the cozier I feel. I try to sleep with the windows open – at least a tad – all year ’round, because I like to be able to hear the world outside my walls. Bugs, birds, animals, wind, rain, snow, thunder… To those who know me, this is no surprise. So I know pretty quickly when it’s raining outside, and I can’t help but feel a sense of security, and comfort, knowing I’m warm and dry in a cozy bed while the wet (and soporific white noise) of rainfall through the trees fills the world outside.
If I’m in a cabin, a lean-to shelter, or a tent – the feeling is amplified. The weather is loud on the roof, or the tarp, or nylon tent fly, and it’s close. Let the rain come down – I’m safe, and dry, and cozy, and sleepy… And admittedly, have even less desire to get up, because getting up means going out IN IT, not just going downstairs to get a cup of coffee.
We spend a lot of time fighting our natural rhythms. We live in a world of time-driven obligations, 40-hour work-weeks, alarm clock mornings and social interaction that’s forced into evenings filled with artificial light and screens rather than the glow of fire. It screws us up in more ways than we appreciate – and every 6 months or so, you’ll see a new study published about how camping – immersing ourself in the natural world – can “reset” circadian rhythms, can lower stress, can make us happier and healthier.
When it comes to the idea that nature generates happiness, I couldn’t agree more – but I have to also admit that we can get some of the same effects simply by ignoring our watches, limiting our use of artificial light, and letting the Sun and Moon run our schedules. It’s a shame that our social constructs don’t allow (or at least discourage) that kind of behavior without literally getting away from society and into the wilderness.
Get out in the woods and enjoy the fact that your tent really does work. It’s very satisfying. Sometimes, all it takes is reducing your self-imposed isolation from the world, maybe by opening the windows and thinning the walls just a bit. If the rain comes, enjoy your shelter, and let your brain have its way.
Now if we could only do something about that alarm clock….
Get Out There!