April showers bring May flowers, but they can also bring a sluggish or sleepy feeling.
There's nothing like a heavy rainfall to turn a to-do list into a Netflix queue. But did you know there is actually a scientific reason behind this shift in mood when it rains? It's barometric pressure, and there is a burgeoning field of study all about the atmosphere's effects on humans: biometeorology.
Barometric pressure, in laypeople terms, is how much weight the atmosphere places on the Earth. For example, when a person accustomed to the practically-underwater Miami takes a trek up to high altitudes, they may experience nosebleeds or headaches. This is because the higher up one goes, the less weight is pushing down on the Earth and vice versa. High barometric pressure is typically less of a burden on people, because there are not many humans living in the Mariana Trench.
Shifts in air pressure cause a difference in pressure between the atmosphere and the body’s “pockets” – like sinuses and joints – which may lead to pain and other symptoms.
As a storm approaches, the atmospheric pressure can drop significantly and at a fast pace. So it is not surprising that the body adapts to those changes. When the body is exposed to less sunlight, it produces more melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone, and the body’s serotonin levels drop. Serotonin is considered a mood stabilizer, so a decrease in its production can mean more mood swings and symptoms associated with depression. This drop can also cause stronger cravings for comfort food and carbohydrates.
But why does it rain so much in April in the first place? Jet streams in the upper atmosphere, coupled with the warmth of sunlight on the ground. The increasing warmth in April, the official start of spring, causes more moisture to enter the atmosphere and go through a cooler patch of air. This turns the moisture into precipitation and thus, April showers.
Now you can not only binge-watch your favorite show during a rainstorm, but you can have scientists backing up your decision to do so.