There are legitimate concerns about excessive sun exposure and how it can have harmful effects on our bodies such as wrinkles, dry skin, sun spots, or melanoma. However, many scientists believe that the benefits from a reasonable or moderate amount of exposure, can be extremely beneficial for our overall health. The most notable benefit is the boost in vitamin D supplied to the body through UV rays reaching the skin. Vitamin D, along with other essential nutrients received from the sun, can play a vital role in healthy growth and development such as those listed below.
Lower Blood Pressure
Skin that is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays releases a compound known as Nitric Oxide that has been proven to lower blood pressure. This is important because lower blood pressure means a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. It has also been associated with lowering the chance of having other life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, stroke, dementia, and kidney disease.
A Better Night’s Sleep
Exposure to daylight is essential in maintaining circadian rhythm. This rhythm includes physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle and respond to light and darkness in the body's environment. When the sun hits our eyes it sends a message to the brain to stop the release of melatonin, (a hormone that makes us drowsy and helps us sleep) until the sun goes down again. When it gets dark outside, your body gets the signal again and you are able to sleep easier at bedtime. Essentially, sleeping well at night is contingent on receiving sunlight in the morning.
Improved Brain Function
Studies have shown that people over the age of 45 are less likely to have problems with cognitive functions if they are receiving more exposure to direct sunlight. This is because higher levels of vitamin D are able to boost the system’s production of serotonin, ultimately having an effect on the body's internal clock. Research suggests that increasing serotonin also helps spur nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, the part of the brain crucial to the forming and storing of memories.
There is a direct correlation between the amount of Vitamin D you receive from sunlight and the density of your bones. Adequate vitamin D intake helps to keep your bones solid because it stimulates the absorption of bone-strengthening calcium and phosphorous throughout the body. This is important in young children, as well as in aging adults because it can help prevent fractures of all types and other serious orthopedic injuries.
Sunlight deprivation can cause a seasonal form of depression, called SAD, which usually occurs in the winter months. However, similar forms of depression can occur year-round in people who tend to work long hours indoors and have little access to the sun. We need exposure to the sun because it releases the much-needed hormones: serotonin and endorphin. Both are associated with a feeling of overall calmness and a happier mood. You will notice that contact with the sun just makes you feel better!