By Hannah Shabb
Most of the time we hear about the sun causing wrinkles, skin cancer or sunburns. But the sun also does a bit of good, provided you always apply sunscreen and take breaks under the shade.
Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin.” It is an essential nutrient that the human body creates when our skin interacts with UVB rays from the sun. Vitamin D contributes to bone health, cardiovascular health, and provides support for a healthy immune system. Although there are many supplements that can be taken to improve your health, in the case of Vitamin D, direct sun exposure provides you with the most effective benefits.
If you want to sleep better, get in the sun more! Research suggests that the sun plays an important role in the balance of hormones, such as serotonin and melatonin. They are important for falling asleep and staying asleep with fewer disruptions. Natural light during the day is also linked with other aspects of human biology, such as the circadian rhythm, which is a kind of internal system that helps to dictate how and when you sleep.
Lower Blood Pressure
Surprisingly, high blood pressure is common among Americans, and through recent studies, the sun has been shown to lower blood pressure. Nitric oxide, a molecule found on the surface of the skin, reacts with sunlight and moves to your blood vessels, causing them to widen and increase blood circulation. As your blood pressure lowers from the sunlight, the risk of a stroke or heart attack decrease as well.
There has been increasing evidence that sun exposure contributes to feelings of positivity and may help to ease depression. The sun supports the production of the chemical serotonin in the brain; depression is linked to low serotonin levels, and in months where sun availability is minimal, it is even more important to increase sun exposure whenever possible. People who lack enough serotonin in the brain are a risk of developing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a condition caused by low levels of sun exposure during the fall and winter months. Sun exposure is one of the primary treatments for reversing symptoms and health risks associated with SAD
Contact Hannah Shabb at hshabb ‘at’ stanford.edu.