As a nation, we’ve officially been on a lockdown for a little over 100 days. While some of us may have gotten the opportunity to step outside the house and soak a little sunshine on our way to get groceries (or at times, work), many of us have been inside the house 24/7. We’re definitely missing our lives out there, but have you given a thought to the amount of sunshine you’re missing? The sun is our primary source of energy and its light has a lot of benefits for our body’s functioning. Here are some of the important effects that sunlight has on your body:
- Helps in the production of the most popular vitamin – Vitamin D: This vitamin is difficult to get from food items, so we need to turn to its largest source – sunshine. Vitamin D plays a big role in development of your bones, blood cells, and immune system. It also helps helps your body absorb and use certain minerals, like calcium and phosphorus. About 15 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen is enough to fulfill your Vitamin D needs.
- Helps (ironically) improve your sleep: Might sound a little unbelievable, but it’s true! Your eyes need light to help set your body’s internal clock. Exposing yourself to early morning sunlight in particular seems to help people get to sleep at night. When it gets dark, your body starts making melatonin, preparing itself to fall asleep in about two hours. That is why you feel more awake in the summer, because there’s so much light!
- Helps boost your mood: Sunshine helps your body create serotonin – a chemical that cgive you a boost of positive energy. Low levels of serotonin can lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Symptoms are erratic moods, difficulty starting and maintaining friendships, overeating, oversleeping and fatigue. Ever wondered why people seem a little more cranky during the winter season than in the summer? Well, now you know!
- Helps reduce stress: We take what little bit of fresh air and sunshine we get every day for granted. Nature is the best way to detox and let go of stress. Frolicking in the sun or going on walks with your dog are proven ways to reduce your stress levels.
- Helps lower blood pressure: When sunlight hits your skin, your body starts to release something called nitric oxide into your blood. This chemical lowers blood pressure and improves your heart health. Your blood pressure is also maintained at a healthy level by sunshine as it boosts your mood and eases up your stress.
However, sunlight isn’t all that good. Staying out in the sun for extended periods of time can have some detrimental effects on our body. These may include:
- Damage to the retina of your eye: Too much direct sunlight can blur your vision and raise your risk of cataracts. So please, wear your sunglasses!
- Heat exhaustion and stroke: Heat exhaustion occurs due to excessive loss of water and salt via sweating. If you ignore it, it can lead to heat stroke, a serious heat-related illness which can be fatal. Always take care of yourself if you work in hot environments for long periods of time.
- Skin cancer: Three primary types of skin cancer — melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma — are results of excessive sun exposure. So remember to use sunscreen or cover up if you plan to be outside longer than 15 minutes or so. Because the sun damage to the skin develops over years, older people have increased risk of developing skin cancer.
Like most things in life, sunshine is best enjoyed in moderation. Best time for sunlight exposure is early morning, when it is tender and not-so-harsh. It is difficult to get enough sunlight during this time, but you can still try! Walk up to your balcony when there’s sunlight and try to soak it in as much as possible. Do this especially if you have kids. If possible, and considering all safety precautions, you can also go to the roof of your house to get uninterrupted sunshine. Whatever you do, make sure you are keeping distance from other people and staying healthy for your family and yourself!
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4. 5 Ways the Sun Impacts Your Mental and Physical Health. Available from: https://www.tricitymed.org/2018/08/5-ways-the-sun-impacts-your-mental-and-physical-health/. Accessed on 07 July 2020.