While some people find thunder soothing and relaxing, like the sound of rainfall, others find it frightening. That’s because sleeping during thunder and lightning can be dangerous.
Thunderstorms cause changes to the air’s atmosphere, which means that people with asthma can find breathing more difficult while the thunderstorm is active. Equally, people with sleep apnea are likelier to suffer cardiac events during thunder and lightning.
If you struggle to sleep during a thunderstorm or just want to make yourself safer, sleep on a lower level and keep your bed or couch away from any surfaces that contain metal. Never sleep on the floor, as lightning can travel to ground level.
If you know a thunderstorm is coming, use a natural sleep aid like chamomile tea. Consider using earplugs and an eye mask so the sound and light don’t keep you awake, and do whatever it takes to calm your anxiety before bed.
Should I be Scared of Thunder and Lightning?
The fear of thunder and lightning is known as astraphobia. The Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research explains how this is most common in children. However, it can carry over to adulthood, especially in individuals who have experienced past trauma.
It’s easy to say that nobody should fear thunder and lightning when safely inside, but it’s not that simple, as many people remain afraid of the bright, sudden lights and noises associated with storms.
As per Harvard Health, there are valid concerns surrounding thunder and lightning while we sleep. Changes to the atmosphere during a storm can cause breathing difficulty in asthmatics, while people with sleep apnea are also at risk of adverse reactions.
If you’re afraid of thunder and lightning, take steps to protect yourself until the storm passes, and do whatever it takes to get some sleep.
Is it Bad to Sleep Next to a Window During a Thunderstorm?
If thunder and lightning make you uncomfortable, you may face your fear and pull up a front-row seat, watching the storm from your window. If you’re not afraid of storms, you may want to hear the thunder from close range.
However, you should move your bed as far from a window as possible. When lightning strikes metal, the metal acts as a conductor. So, if your mattress is too close to a window that contains metal, electricity can travel and cause a shock.
How far away should you be from a window during a thunderstorm? Aim to move your bed to the middle of the room so it doesn’t touch another surface, including walls. This protects you from electricity traveling around the room in the event of a lightning strike.
Why Can’t I Sleep During a Thunderstorm?
One reason a thunderstorm disturbs your sleep is noise and flashes of light.
Circadian rhythms inform our bodies that it’s time to sleep and encourage the release of melatonin. Loud noises and bright lights disturb these rhythms and keep us awake.
The changes in air pressure may also make it feel like the air is thin in your bedroom. If you often have trouble with shortness of breath, consider getting an air purifier or keeping some houseplants in your bedroom.
Of course, it’s also possible that the thunderstorm outside your window is making you anxious. PloS One confirms that anxiety and insomnia go hand in hand. Restful sleep will be difficult to obtain if your heart is racing and you feel uncomfortable and unsafe.
How to Sleep with Thunder and Lightning
If you’re reluctant to sleep during a thunderstorm, it’ll be tempting to stay awake until the weather passes and the skies return to normal. This may be better than trying and failing to doze off, but it’ll have repercussions in the morning.
Getting at least some sleep at night is always advisable – even a few hours of rest is better than nothing. The more you fight the urge to sleep, the harder it will be to doze off eventually.
You can utilize a handful of techniques to make it easier to sleep and remain safe during a thunderstorm. Try any combination of these techniques to stand a better chance of falling asleep, ideally before the thunder and lightning reach a crescendo.
Block Sound and Vision
Sensory deprivation seems to be the most straightforward solution if the sound of thunder and bright lightning flashes keeps you awake. Consider wearing an eye mask and ear plugs or using a white noise machine to obstruct your hearing and sight.
Just be aware that this is the equivalent of ignoring a problem until it goes away. Further action will also be necessary if you have any reason to question your safety when sleeping during a thunderstorm.
Calm Your Anxiety
If you’re anxious and afraid when you climb into bed, you’re unlikely to be relaxed enough to fall asleep. It’s easier said than done, but try to soothe your fears before bed to bolster your chances of restful slumber. Techniques for calming anxiety at night include:
- Work off your stress hormones through exercise.
- Listen to calming music. The International Journal of Nursing Studies confirms this is effective as long as the music is relaxing.
- Darken the room.
- Write down any fears you may be experiencing.
You may find that counting the seconds between lightning strikes and thunderclaps also helps ease your anxiety – assuming there’s a prolonged time between the sounds.
When lightning strikes, it creates temperatures of up to 50,000OF – five times the sun’s heat. The air cools straight afterward and starts to contract, creating a soundwave – thunder. Essentially, thunder acts as a warning that lightning is nearby.
It takes the sound of thunder five seconds to travel one mile. Count the seconds between a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder, and divide this by five. If it takes five seconds or less to hear thunder after lightning, the lightning is within a mile of your home.
Over time, the pauses between thunder and lightning should grow longer. 10 seconds means the lightning is two miles away; 15 seconds means it is three miles away, and so on. Knowing the storm is passing and moving away from your home may help you relax.
One thing you shouldn’t do is attempt to calm your nerves with a shower or bath. While a shower may usually help you sleep, if lightning strikes your home while you are running water, electricity can pass through the water.
Is it Safe to Watch TV in Bed During a Thunderstorm?
One way to calm your anxiety may be to distract yourself until the thunderstorm passes. Finding yourself engrossed in your favorite TV show may seem a good way to take your mind off the inclement weather conditions.
Watching TV during a thunderstorm isn’t dangerous to your health, but your TV set may be vulnerable. If lightning strikes a spot in the electrical grid, your appliances could experience a power surge caused by over-voltage.
It’s better to unplug electrical appliances during a thunderstorm. If you want to watch TV, stream using your cellphone, tablet, or laptop (assuming these appliances are not plugged in to charge), read a book by candlelight, or use a cordless lamp or torch.
Sharing a Bed During a Thunderstorm
Some people find it easier to sleep through a storm if they can call on a “thunder buddy.” It’s easier to sleep when we share a bed with somebody we love, so consider sleeping beside somebody else if this is an option.
A partner is the easiest choice. If you sleep in separate rooms as your partner snores, consider calling an amnesty for one night only. If nothing else, the sound of snoring may block out thunder and appear comforting by comparison.
Friends and family members can also provide the same level of comfort – often, just having another warm body beside you is all it takes. Sleeping with a pet dog or stuffed animal is another option if no humans can offer support.
Use a Natural Sleep Aid
If you’ve been watching the weather forecast and know that a thunderstorm is coming, stock up on natural sleep aids. It’s not recommended to seek prescription sleeping pills if you must react quickly to something that occurs during the storm.
Eating a banana no later than an hour before sleep can promote dozing. Bananas contain tryptophan, an amino acid that encourages the brain to release melatonin when you’re in a dark room. This may help you doze off before the storm gets too loud or bright.
If you dislike bananas, herbal teas can have the same sedative effect. Phytotherapy Research recommends passionflower tea, while the Journal of Advanced Nursing extols the virtues of chamomile tea.
Sleep in a Different Room
Thunder and lightning arise from the clouds, so the higher you are in the house, the louder and closer they will appear to be. You may sleep better if you spend the night on the couch on a lower floor.
Is it Safer to be Upstairs or Downstairs During a Thunderstorm?
Lightning will always strike the first point it reaches, so it’s safer to be downstairs during a thunderstorm. This isn’t a concern if you already live on the lower floors of an apartment block, but avoid a house’s attic or top floors until the storm passes.
You could even sleep in the basement if this makes you feel safer and the room is equipped for habitation. There are caveats here, though – stay off the floor. The ground level is just as dangerous as higher ground when lightning strikes.
Is it Safe to Sleep on the Floor During Lightning?
Never lay down on the floor when there’s lightning in the air. Even sleeping on an air mattress is inadvisable. Ensure you’re elevated to some degree, even if it’s just by a futon or pullout bed.
The electrical current generated by lightning is powerful, reaching as far as 100 feet. Imagine that lightning strikes a metal pole outside your home. If this runs to the ground, sleeping on the floor increases the risk of electrocution.