How many of you love sunshine? Do you feel at ease when you look at the sunrise or sunset? Do you know why?
Most people associate sunlight with just Vitamin D, but there is so much more to it.
Sunlight is a free medicine that offers numerous benefits for our body and mind. From promoting better sleep and mood to boosting immunity and reducing inflammation, the gentle rays of the sun have a profound impact on our overall well-being.
Here are the diverse benefits of sunlight and its role in enhancing our vitality and health.
Vitamin D3: The Sunshine Vitamin
Today, even science and research document the importance of having adequate levels of vitamin D3 in our body, not just for our bones, but hormones, immunity, cognitive health and so much more. Cancers, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, and immunity challenges are all linked to low levels of Vitamin D3. Exposure to sunlight prompts the synthesis of vitamin D in our bodies. This essential nutrient plays a crucial role in calcium absorption, bone health, immune function, and hormonal balance. By spending just 10 minutes in the morning sun, we can stimulate the production of biologically active vitamin D, reducing the risk of diseases like multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.
Subcellular Melatonin: Enhancing Sleep Quality
Sunrise provides us with infrared rays that aid in the production of subcellular melatonin, a hormone responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycle. By awakening to the sunrise, we not only feel more refreshed in the morning but also experience improved sleep quality and duration, leading to enhanced overall well-being.
Inflammation and Pain Reduction
Sunlight exposure, particularly to infrared rays, has been scientifically studied to reduce inflammation, pain, and swelling. By spending as little as 5 to 15 minutes in the gentle morning or evening sunshine, we can benefit from the pain-relieving properties of sunlight. Infrared lamps can be a useful alternative for individuals living in cold countries or those with limited sunlight access, providing relief for conditions such as arthritis.
Mood and Happiness Boost
Beyond its physical benefits, welcoming the light of the day can significantly enhance our mental and emotional well-being. Patients in intensive care units, confined to bed for extended periods, not only battle their underlying conditions but also yearn to witness the warmth of sunlight which can contribute to their healing.
Starting our day with the sunrise energizes us, sharpens our focus, and clears our mind, ultimately leading to increased productivity, improved mood, and an overall sense of vitality and well-being. Observing a sunrise is also linked to higher serotonin levels, the body’s “feel-good” chemical. Conversely, a dearth of sunlight can trigger seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or sundowner’s syndrome, underscoring the remarkable power of this simple and abundant remedy—sunshine.
How to Get Sunlight
To reap the benefits of sunlight, it is important to expose our bodies to it regularly, even for short durations. Begin with a few minutes of sun exposure and progressively increase the duration to 15 or 20 minutes. Seek sunlight during morning or late evening hours, avoiding the peak sun when it can be harsh and cause sunburn. For those living in cold countries, SAD lamps, light boxes, or infrared lamps can be viable alternatives to mimic the effects of sunlight.
Safe Sun Exposure Practices
It is necessary to be vigilant of the time and duration of sun exposure appropriate for you. Too much can be harmful too. If the sun starts to burn on your skin, the timing is not accurate. Depending on which country you live in, early morning sun or sun that is not burning is the exposure you need for a minimum of 15 minutes to an hour for extraordinary benefits.
What if I live in a cold country where there is not enough sunshine?
Living in a cold country with limited sunlight can pose challenges, but there are alternatives available. SAD lamps or light boxes are designed to deliver therapeutic intensity light that mimics sunlight. These lamps can effectively alleviate symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Additionally, you can consider using infrared lamps or bulbs that emit light matching the infrared wavelength of the spectrum.
Infrared light has been scientifically studied and found to stimulate the release of intracellular melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles and acts as a powerful antioxidant for cellular nourishment. Exposure to infrared lamps can also help curtail pain, swelling, and inflammation, making it beneficial for individuals with conditions like arthritis that may worsen during colder months. Infrared light chiefly targets the mitochondria of our cells, stimulating the production of ATP, leading to increased energy levels often lacking in winter.
To benefit from infrared lamps for inflammatory pain, maintain a one-foot distance between yourself and the lamp, and expose yourself to the light for around five to eight minutes. Observe how your pain improves over time. If you have access to sunlight, take advantage of its powerful infrared rays to reduce inflammation and stimulate chemical and hormonal changes in the body that affect mood. However, it is important to evade infrared light exposure if you have a skin condition, cuts, abrasions, or wounds.
That is the power of sunshine. Abundant, freely available sunshine. Use it well.
Luke is a Holistic Nutrition and Lifestyle – Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine, Founder of You Care – All About You by Luke Coutinho