Many of us go about our lives without giving much thought to the source of life on our planet. That bright, sparkling orb is just there, working its nourishing magic from dawn to dusk. It lights our days, warms our skin, and improves our vacations. But the sun provides more than just heat and light. In fact we need its life-giving rays more than we realise.

According to physician and photobiologist Alexander Wunsch, only one-third of the energy our bodies produce comes from the food we eat—the rest we obtain from sunlight. Contrary to popular opinion, our bodies aren't just powered by food and oxygen, but light itself. In his book, The Ultimate Guide to Red Light Therapy, Ari Whitten writes:

Most of us are completely unaware that light has a profound impact on our health. Just as human cells need nutrients from food, light is also a necessary nutrient for our cells to function. Certain wavelengths of light can help power up our cells, affect hormones and neurotransmitters, enhance physical performance, hasten recovery from stress, increase alertness, improve sleep, and positively affect the expression of our genes.

Put simply, ensuring we get enough sunlight is essential for our health. No wonder it's one of our 7 pillars of well-being! The sun truly can work wonders, so, in order to do justice to the perks of Apollo, we've compiled a list of 8 health benefits of sunlight.

8 health benefits of sunlight

1. Strengthens immune system
2. Improves sleep
3. Helps maintain good bone health
4. Increases energy levels
5. Eases symptoms of depression
6. Alleviates stress
7. Helps to keep you fit
8. Can extend your life

Yellow flowers in the sunlight


1.  Strengthens immune system

The science is crystal clear: having a healthy, functioning immune system can make you less susceptible to disease and increase your ability to fight off infection. Vitamin D plays a critical role in this, and vitamin D deficiency has been associated with increased autoimmunity. Considering it's the main source of vitamin D, ensuring you get enough sunlight will help to strengthen your immune system. Simple right? But that's not all. The sun's benefits for immunological health aren't confined to vitamin D synthesis. In his book, Heal Yourself with Sunlight, Andreas Moritz writes:  


It’s powerful immune stimulating effect makes sunlight one of the most important "disease-inhibitors". Regular exposure of our body to the germicidal wavelength of ultraviolet light (UV) of the sun successfully controls germs, mites, molds, bacteria and viruses.

These reasons alone are more than enough to go and absorb the sun's medicinal rays. Your immune system will thank you!

2. Improves sleep

Today, most people are exposed to a lot of unnatural light sources—laptops, phones, electric lights. The issue is, when you use this blue light after sunset, it can disrupt your circadian rhythm (the natural internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle), and trigger bad sleep.

Your body produces a hormone called melatonin that helps with the timing of your circadian rhythm. You begin producing melatonin when it gets dark, and exposure to unnatural light can block its production.

Because your circadian clock is the most sensitive roughly 2 hours before you go to sleep, you need to be careful about the kind of light you're exposed to. Instead of going on your phone, using electric lights, or watching TV, try reading, using candle-light, or consider purchasing some blue-light-blocking glasses. Research has also shown that by getting an hour of natural light in the morning you don’t only improve energy and alertness, but also the quality of your sleep. Sunlight regulates your circadian rhythm and triggers the increase and decrease of melatonin levels. This means the more daylight exposure you get, the more melatonin your body will make when it’s time to go to bed. It's time to get a good night's rest!

3. Helps maintain good bone health

Sunlight is by far the best source of vitamin D. Because vitamin D helps your body to maintain calcium, getting enough sunlight is essential for maintaining strong and healthy bones. The best time to ensure you're soaking in enough of this amazing, multi-purpose vitamin is between 10 am to 3 pm— the most apt time for the synthesis of vitamin D from your skin. But you don’t need as much sun exposure as you think to benefit from it. For fair-skinned people, 15 minutes is enough. So, if you want to keep your calcium in check, and prevent thin, brittle, or misshapen bones, then go and soak in that healing sunlight!

4. Increases energy levels

Sunlight powers your mitochondria to produce ATP more efficiently. ATP is the cellular energy which drives all bodily processes, from breathing, to thinking, to digesting. As you receive more sunlight, your levels of ATP production increase, meaning more energy for doing the things you love!

5. Eases symptoms of depression

There’s a deeper reason behind your love of sunshine, and it goes beyond its relaxing warmth and light. Sunshine raises your body’s serotonin levels. Among many other things, serotinin is responsible for regulating your happiness, anxiety, and mood. Though scientists are unsure of the exact causes of depression, one theory is that it’s due to an imbalance of neurotransmitters, like serotonin. By getting enough sunlight, you can help to ease the symptoms of depression by boosting this all-important chemical.

Exposure to natural light can also lessen the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is the change in mood that can occur in the winter months when there are less hours of daylight. Today, we often turn to pharmaceutical drugs to help with our mental conditions, and while these can be effective, science shows sunlight can also be a powerful means to improve cognitive function.

6. Alleviates stress

Melatonin does more than help to regulate your circadian rhythm. Because mood and sleep are closely connected, melatonin can also lower stress reactivity. As previously mentioned, sunlight exposure will help your body naturally regulate melatonin. Coupled with the boost of serotonin, melatonin regulation can help to alleviate stress. Not only this, but because you’ll often be engaged in some kind of light exercise when outside (walking, cycling, playing a sport, etc.) this will also help to build up a resilience to stress.

7. Helps to keep you fit

No, this doesn't just mean exercising when you're outside. Recent research has shown that the sun actually burns fat! According to Dr Peter Light:

“When the sun’s blue light wavelengths — the light we can see with our eye — penetrate our skin and reach the fat cells just beneath, lipid droplets reduce in size and are released out of the cell. In other words, our cells don’t store as much fat.”

So, not only are you outside and probably engaged in some kind of movement, but the sun is also doing its bit to help you shed those pounds!  

8. Can extend your life

If all the above benefits weren’t enough of a selling-point, this 2016 study found that sunbathers may actually live longer! The study followed 30,000 Swedish women, monitoring them for 20 years, and revealed that those who were exposed to more sunlight lived 6 months to 2 years longer than those exposed to less. What's more, there was less heart disease and fewer non-cancer deaths than those who reported less sun exposure. Though more research needs to be conducted in this area, think of it as the cherry on top of the many benefits of sunlight!

Takeaway

Here at Envol, we take the sun seriously. As one of our 7 nourishments, we see it as a core element within any effective approach to health and wellbeing. By ensuring you get enough sunlight every day, you can reap the rewards of this life-sustaining energy. Even 10-15 minutes can do wonders for your health, so go out and get that sun!

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