Sunlight and Your Health

Alli Walsh, Social Media Strategist

Sunlight and Your Health

Spring has sprung, and summer’s on its way. We can finally get outside and start soaking in some sunshine. When enjoyed in moderation and with some common sense, sunlight is great for your health! Here are 5 reasons your body and mind can’t wait to soak up some rays:

1. Sunlight triggers feel-good hormones

There’s a reason they say a happy person has a “sunny disposition.” Sunlight triggers the feel-good brain chemical, serotonin, and stimulating cortisol, boosting your mood and decreasing your stress. It explains why some people feel sad and gloomy in the less-sunny winter months. Of course, being outside and exercising or just enjoying nature also helps us look on the bright side—but we can’t leave the warm sunshine out of the equation. 1,2

2. Fun in the sun = great sleep

At the end of a sunny day spent outdoors, you’re ready for rest. Exposure to sunlight helps regulate our natural circadian rhythm via a special nerve pathway between the eye and the hypothalamus. While the sunlight sparks the release of serotonin and cortisol, melatonin is released when the sun goes down to help our bodies prepare to sleep.2 And a good night’s rest helps our bodies perform well tomorrow, when we can get back out into the sunshine again.

3. Sunlight exposure may reduce blood pressure

A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology suggests that sunlight alters nitric oxide levels in the skin and blood by widening blood vessels and reducing the pressure inside of them. This supports the observation that higher levels of blood pressure and cardiovascular disease are found in winter and in countries further from the equator. 3

4. Vitamin D, please.

Sunlight helps the body make Vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium and aids in muscle and brain health. The nutrient isn’t found in many food sources, so experts recommend exposing your bare (sunscreen-free) skin to ultraviolet B sunlight for 5 to 30 minutes, twice per week. Importantly, Vitamin D deficiency is linked to a wide range of health conditions including multiple sclerosis, prostate cancer, breast cancer, Crohn’s disease, pancreatic cancer, and arthritis. That’s a whole lot of reasons to ensure your Vitamin D levels are where they should be—and getting out into the sunshine is a great way to start.1, 4

5. Because you want to have fun

Feeling the sun on your face and body just feels great. Beaches, water sports and pools are so much more fun when the sun is shining-and these are all great places for kids and adults to come together and relax.

Be smart.

But getting out under the sun’s healing rays comes with risks. With sunlight, there truly is “too much of a good thing.” Be sure you follow these in-the-sun guidelines from the Skin Cancer Foundation5:

  • Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
  • Do not burn.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.

And don’t forget sunglasses!

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References

1 http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20960758,00.html
2 https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/melatonin-and-sleep
3 https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140117090139.htm
4 https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/how-do-i-get-the-vitamin-d-my-body-needs/
5 http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/prevention-guidelines

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