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The Importance of Sunlight for Our Mental and Physical Health

The Importance of Sunlight for Our Mental and Physical Health

The sun is essential for life on Earth. From growing plants and crops to creating temperate climates, our proximity to the sun is what makes life possible. Now, ongoing research indicates that sunlight may play an even larger role in our physical and mental health, providing a significant protective effect for osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, breathing problems, inflammation, and diabetes. Above-average vitamin D levels may even lower your risk of COVID-19.

Many people enjoy the feeling of the sun on their skin, and increasing evidence suggests that the mental health benefits of sunlight are more than skin-deep.

Sunlight Supports Vitamin D Production:

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that our bodies need to reduce inflammation and modulate cell growth. The sun is the best natural source of Vitamin D and helps us absorb and use minerals like calcium and phosphorus. According to neuroscientist Andrew Huberman, getting natural sunlight outdoors for 2-10 minutes upon waking gently nudges the body to increase the production of the stimulating hormone cortisol, promoting a feeling of wakefulness and clearer thinking throughout the day. Individuals with lower levels of Vitamin D may be at higher risk for a range of diseases, including cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, schizophrenia, and depression.

Sunlight Supports Mood Management:

Sunlight cues special areas in the retina to trigger the production of serotonin, which is thought to regulate anxiety, happiness, and mood. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression triggered by the changing seasons. If you live in an area that has limited sunlight, you can try light therapy, also known as phototherapy. This treatment uses a device mimics natural sunlight that stimulates the brain to produce serotonin and reduces excess melatonin.

Sunlight Supports Sleep Quality:

Among the many factors that affect sleep duration, sun exposure plays an important role in maintaining a regular circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm is regulated by hormones that respond to exposure to light. The brighter your exposure to the sun in the daylight hours, the more melatonin you produce at night, which improves sleep, synchronizes your biological clock, and lowers stress. When you experience distorted circadian rhythms, you are more prone to both depression and bipolar disorder. Learn more about how to reduce sleeplessness.

Timing of Sun Exposure:

UV rays are strongest between the hours of 10am and 4pm, when the sun is directly overhead. Therefore, it’s best to avoid mid-day hours and instead seek out morning sunshine between 8am and 10am. According to the W.H.O., getting anywhere from five to fifteen minutes of sunlight on your arms, hands, legs, and face two to three times a week is enough to enjoy the Vitamin D-boosting benefits of the sun.

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