Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health
When we think of the sun, the first thought may be about the potential harm that it can do. Excessive sun exposure can trigger several serious health problems. But short exposure to sunlight, especially early in the day, before it gets too bright, can bring many health benefits.
Going for a walk on a clear day, many tend to apply a sun cream to the skin to protect themselves from the negative effects of ultraviolet radiation. But within reasonable limits, sunlight brings tangible benefits to your health, here are just a few of them:
UV rays help the body produce this vitamin, which is important for strengthening bones, blood cells, immune and nervous systems. It also helps in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Generally, most people do not get enough vitamin D from food, so sun exposure can be very important.
The eyes need light to set our internal clocks correctly. In particular, early morning sunlight helps people wake up faster and then fall asleep at night.
When sunlight hits the retina, it stimulates the optic nerve. The nerve gives an impulse to the brain so the production of melatonin, the substance that is responsible for good sleep, can start.
Morning light helps people lose weight. You need 20 to 30 minutes between 8 and 12 in the morning to lose those few pounds. Scientists believe that the sun’s rays can shrink the fat cells under the skin. More sunshine in the morning means you are likely to be more physically active during this time, which is beneficial in many ways, including weight loss.
Sunlight helps raise levels of serotonin or the hormone of joy. Boosting your serotonin levels will keep you calm, positive, and focused. Doctors sometimes use artificial or natural light treatments for the seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and other types of depression associated with low serotonin levels.
A moderate amount of sunlight throughout life, especially during adolescence and young adulthood, reduces the risk of developing myopia. But too much direct sunlight can damage your eyes and increase your risk of developing cataracts, so be careful.
Researchers believe that the three main types of skin cancer — melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma — are mainly caused by excess sun exposure. Therefore, it is very important to use sunscreen or cover your skin if you are going to be outdoors for more than 15 minutes. But regular small amounts of UV light can help relieve the symptoms of certain skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and vitiligo.
People with psoriasis can benefit from being in the sun. Scientific research has shown a relationship between sunbathing and the reduction of psoriasis. This relationship was confirmed in 84% of patients participating in the experiment.
Sunlight as a cure
In addition to certain skin conditions, filtered sunlight can also be used to treat a condition called neonatal jaundice. This happens when too much bilirubin, which is produced by the breakdown of fetal hemoglobin, builds up in the baby’s blood, making the baby’s skin slightly yellow. Exposure to sunlight through glass (to filter out harmful types of rays) can help flush out this excess bilirubin.
Affects bone health
Organic vitamin D, which is produced by exposure to sunlight, helps the body absorb calcium better. There is a relationship between the amount of vitamin D₃ in a person’s blood and the density of their bone tissue.
The amount of sunlight directly affects the risk of bone fractures in children, adults, and the elderly. That is why children who live in the northern regions, where there is little sunlight, are prescribed vitamin D practically from the first days of life.
Reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis
Interestingly, multiple sclerosis most often affects those people whose lives far from the Earth’s equator, without enough sunlight. The amount of ultraviolet radiation in the first two years of life significantly affects the likelihood of getting this diagnosis in the future.
When a person moves to an area with a high risk of developing the disease during childhood or adolescence, they are more susceptible to the occurrence of multiple sclerosis. And if a person moves to these zones at a later age, then the chances of getting sick are reduced.
1. Don’t overdo it with the sunlight
Excessive exposure to sunlight not only increases the risk of skin cancer but also leads to faster ageing and the formation of wrinkles and pigmentation on the skin. Tanned skin uses the white blood cells of the immune system to heal, which can affect your body’s ability to fight germs and viruses.
2. Protect your eyes
You need sunglasses that block UV light and wide-brimmed hats when you are outdoors for long periods of time. The sun can damage your eyes at any time of the year, not just in summer, and rays can even pass through clouds. Remember that children also need this protection.
3. Use sunscreen
Best with an SPF of 15 or higher. Look for broad-spectrum creams that block more UV rays. Apply the cream 30 minutes before going outside and don’t forget about areas like lips, ears, and neck. Try to stay out of the direct sunlight between 10 am and 4 pm when the sun’s rays are particularly active.
4. Avoid solariums
Sunbathing also increases your chances of developing skin cancer. If you visit solarium before the age of 35, the chance of developing melanoma increases by 60%. Even one session can increase the risk of melanoma by 20% and other types of skin cancer by 65%. If you want your entire body to look tanned, use self-tanning lotions. Just remember that they do not contain sun protection factors.
How Much Sunlight Is Enough?
This amount depends on several factors: skin colour and tone, age, health, diet, and where you live. In general, scientists believe that 5 to 15 minutes a day (up to 30 if you are dark-skinned) is enough to reap the maximum benefits without harming your health. You can stay in the sun longer if you use sunscreen. Sun rays and UV rays can affect you when you least expect. It is very important to protect yourself from it when you are at home as well. A lot of people think that they are secure and protected from the harmful effects of the sunlight when they are not outside, and they neglect the importance of good quality double glazed windows that can protect you indoors.
See a dermatologist
Check your skin once a month. If possible, ask a family member for help if you are unable to examine all areas of your body. Stand in front of a full-length mirror and appreciate any new skin manifestations or moles, as well as changes in old ones. See a dermatologist if you notice anything unusual.
The sun can be both a friend and an enemy to us. With the right approach, you can use it to strengthen your health, increase immunity and improve your mood. And, on the contrary, the unwise use of its capabilities can cause serious health problems. So, be wise and stay healthy.
Sarah Jessica Smith is a young blogger from Sydney. She is in love with life and all the things that can make her daily routine easier. She loves to write about home improvement, lifestyle, and all the small things that make life such a great adventure.