With all the warnings out there today about the harmful effects of UV rays and too much sunlight, you may feel tempted to cover yourself from head-to-toe. Or hide away inside, where that bright yellow orb in the sky cannot reach you with its dangerous rays. It’s true, being a sun seeker can be a complicated business!
But before you make a mad dash for the nearest shade-tree, there is some good news that may help redeem your life-giving friend the sun. In proper doses, sunlight serves a number of important functions for humans. You do need a certain amount in order to maintain your health. How does the sunlight help?
Sun seekers get an extra dose of Vitamin D
The Sun is one of the best sources of Vitamin D. Because of this, studies show it is important, especially for those living in the more Northern areas, to get enough sunlight to ensure our Vitamin D needs are met. Vitamin D helps to ensure healthy bones, muscles, blood, liver, nervous system, and immune system. Recent research has highlighted this Vitamin as being a potential powerhouse for preventing many types of cancer. More research into this area is likely in the future.
A Vitamin D supplement is one way to take in this vitamin. However the sun is still the most effective way. A good dose of sun may be around 30-45 minutes per day for the average light-medium skinned person; longer for people with darker skin; and shorter for people with paler skin. Direct skin contact is best.
The sun can enhance your sleep patterns and circadian rhythms
Have you ever traveled far enough that you have passed one or more time zones, and found yourself subjected to the effects of “jet lag”? You find yourself tired but unable to sleep at normal times; your brain feels clouded. You may feel irritable, very hungry, not hungry at all or hungry at strange times, or “weird” in other ways. It’s hard to adjust to the new proper times of doing things. If you have ever worked “shift work” where you have had to work overnight shifts that alternate with day shifts you have likely experienced the same feeling.
What is going on here and what does this all have to do with the sun? Well, each of us has, within our brains, a “biological clock” that regulates things such as your sleeping patterns, hunger, metabolism and levels of energy. This is a complex system within your body and it is driven by the levels and patterns of the sunlight.
Generally, darkness is the signal to your body that it is time to prepare for sleep, and light signals time to wake up. Anyone who has ever found themselves on a schedule opposite to this normal course of things can testify to just how strange this can be.
A dose of sunshine can life your mood
Not only does the sun play a role in your physical health and in the regulation of your behavior patterns, but it also has the power to greatly affect your mood. Many people who live in Northern latitudes, where there is not much sunlight at certain times of each year, find themselves feeling the effects of “Seasonal Affective Disorder” or S.A.D.
This psychological problem involves symptoms resembling those of depression including lethargy and loss of energy, sadness, sleep and appetite disturbances, and mental cloudiness. Those affected by this find the symptoms occurring in the winter months when sunlight is scarce. They often find relief by using full-spectrum sun-lamps that mimic the effects of sunlight. Typically, the same people will feel normal during the summer months when the sun returns to its peak intensity.
The key is moderation
The sun is important for everyday physical and mental health and like any good thing, the key is moderation. By striking the right balance of sun exposure, you can attempt to get the vitamin D you need and keep your mood up while still keeping your risk of premature aging and skin cancer within reason.
If you are a sun seeker and spend a good deal of time in the sun, invest in protective gear and sunscreens to help moderate the effects of your prolonged exposure. It’s not that you have to give up sun-seeking. It’s merely a matter of being a smart and savvy sun seeker!