August 29, 2022 5 min read

Sleep is important, but it’s also quite fragile. 

If you’ve ever suffered from insomnia, you’re familiar with all the things that can trigger it: stress, low mood, pain, illness, too much caffeine, alcohol, a poor quality mattress, and restless leg syndrome. Another thing to add to this never-ending list is weather and barometric pressure in particular. 

Insomnia sufferers may feel the effects of atmospheric pressure changes more than others. And while it may seem like there’s nothing you can do about this — weather is beyond one’s control, after all — there are tricks to help you fall asleep no matter the outside conditions.

Keep reading to learn about the impact of barometric pressure changes on sleep and ways to tackle this problem.

About Barometric Pressure and Its Effects

Barometric pressure, also called air or atmospheric pressure, is the weight of the air in Earth’s atmosphere. One way to measure it is with a mercury barometer. The standard barometric pressure at sea level is 760 mm (29.92 inches) of mercury. But that’s just an average since barometric pressure tends to change with the weather and at different altitudes. 

Rising barometric pressure means improvement in weather, while its lowering indicates that a storm is on its way. Barometric pressure also drops at higher altitudes. 

Changes in barometric pressure are known to affect how we feel. Some people are more sensitive to these changes than others, however. Migraineurs, for example, tend to get attacks during low barometric pressure. People with neuropathic pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia also notice worsening in their symptoms. But changes in air pressure affect many other aspects of health, sleep included.

How Barometric Pressure Affects Sleep

There’s little research on how environmental factors other than light affect sleep. But a study published in 2005 in theInternational Journal of Biometeorology evaluated nine meteorological variables for their influence on sleep. What the researchers found was that high barometric pressure, among other variables, was correlated with better sleep. 

The researchers in this study propose that high barometric pressure indirectly promotes quality sleep because it is associated with nice weather. During beautiful weather, people tend to be more active and spend more time outdoors, which has a balancing impact on your body’s internal clock called the circadian rhythm. Directly, high barometric pressure may affect ambient oxygen levels, which may enable good sleep.

But low barometric pressure can also have a positive effect on sleep — to some extent. A decades-old study published inScience found that both high and low barometric pressure both make people sleepy. You’ve probably noticed yourself that you tend to become drowsy during bad weather and right before a storm. That may have to do with the low light levels during bad weather, which is known to increase melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone responsible for making you feel sleepy. 

Other Effects of Barometric Pressure on Sleep

Not everyone is sensitive to the effects of barometric pressure changes. After all, atmospheric pressure constantly shifts during the seasons, and this is completely normal. But when you have chronic health problems, you might feel these changes more acutely. 

A large study involving over 4,500 participants looked at how the changes in variables from a weather monitoring station near where the participants lived affected their health. What this large study found was that low barometric pressure increased the incidences of headaches. Other studies have also shown a correlation between bad weather, low barometric pressure, and worsening pain. 

Now, if you are dealing with chronic pain, you likely know that it’s hard to sleep through it. That means that low barometric pressure is more likely to both make you feel sleepy and make it hard for you to actually fall asleep and stay there due to worsening pain. 

And the same holds true if you have a mental health condition, like anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder. A 2005 study found that participants with an anxiety disorder were less likely to have panic attacks during rainfall, which may have something to do with changes in barometric pressure. 

And last but not least, it also seems that atmospheric pressure can worsen sleep by worsening snoring and sleep apnea. It’s well known that sleep-disordered breathing worsens at higher altitudes. Researchers believe this is mostly due to lower oxygen levels at higher altitudes, rather than drops in barometric pressure. 

But a study in theJournal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that even at sea-level altitudes, sleep apnea worsens at lower atmospheric pressure. The researchers suggest that this may be because ambient air pressure may play some role in keeping the upper airway open during sleep. 

Tips to Sleep Better During Bad Weather

Feeling under the weather and unable to sleep? While you can’t control the weather, there are still things you can do to make it easier for you to fall asleep when the reading on the barometer drops below 29.80 inHg:

  1. Be active

While you might struggle to find the motivation to go out, exercise, and generally be more active when the weather is less-than-ideal, this could make a big difference in your sleep. Physical activity can help increase melatonin levels according to a systematic review that found that exercise improves sleep quality. 

  1. Reduce inflammation

If you suffer from chronic pain due to arthritis, migraines, fibromyalgia, or a different condition, you may be able to sleep better by first taking steps to lower inflammation in your body. Low barometric pressure causes tissues to swell, this way increasing inflammation and pressure on the nerves. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, cold packs, exercise, and a plant-based diet can all help curb inflammation. 

  1. Practice relaxation techniques

Is the weather or your inability to sleep through it causing you anxiety? Then it might be a good idea to train your body to relax. Deep breathing, meditation, aromatherapy, and other methods can help get your body in a state that’s more conducive to sleep. 

  1. Try a snore solution

Snoring can affect both your and your bed partner’s sleep, especially if it’s due to sleep apnea. A quick and convenient solution for snoring and moderate sleep apnea is oral appliances like theGood Morning Snore Solution tongue stabilizing device. It’s easy to use and clinically proven to stop snoring. 


Fagerlund AJ, Iversen M, Ekeland A, Moen CM, Aslaksen PM. Blame it on the weather? The association between pain in fibromyalgia, relative humidity, temperature and barometric pressure.PLoS One. 2019;14(5):e0216902. Published 2019 May 10.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0216902

Pandey J, Grandner M, Crittenden C, Smith MT, Perlis ML. Meteorologic factors and subjective sleep continuity: a preliminary evaluation.Int J Biometeorol. 2005;49(3):152-155.doi:10.1007/s00484-004-0227-1

WEBB WB, ADES H. SLEEP TENDENCIES: EFFECTS OF BAROMETRIC PRESSURE.Science. 1964;143(3603):263-264.doi:10.1126/science.143.3603.263

Lee M, Ohde S, Urayama KY, Takahashi O, Fukui T. Weather and Health Symptoms.Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(8):1670. Published 2018 Aug 6.doi:10.3390/ijerph15081670

Fagerlund AJ, Iversen M, Ekeland A, Moen CM, Aslaksen PM. Blame it on the weather? The association between pain in fibromyalgia, relative humidity, temperature and barometric pressure.PLoS One. 2019;14(5):e0216902. Published 2019 May 10.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0216902

Bulbena A, Pailhez G, Aceña R, et al. Panic anxiety, under the weather?.Int J Biometeorol. 2005;49(4):238-243.doi:10.1007/s00484-004-0236-0

Doherty MJ, Youn CE, Haltiner AM, Watson NF. Do weather-related ambient atmospheric-pressure changes influence sleep disordered breathing?.J Clin Sleep Med. 2010;6(2):152-156.

Banno M, Harada Y, Taniguchi M, et al. Exercise can improve sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis.PeerJ. 2018;6:e5172. Published 2018 Jul 11.doi:10.7717/peerj.5172

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