Updated: Jan 21
We all know sunshine makes us feel wonderful, it creates happiness when it pokes it head out through any clouds. We are also aware of how much we need to be aware of the power of the sun. So what are the real benefits and how do you make sure you can maximise them, while avoiding the risks?
Benefits of Sunshine
It's not in your mind that when the sun comes out it makes you feel better - it's science. The sunlight enters your eye and stimulates neurons in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that influences your mood. These nerve impulses stimulate the production of serotonin - the feel good hormone. When its dark outside (night or cloudy) melatonin is released in it' place. Melatonin is the hormone that causes you to feel drowsy, which is why we try to stimulate it before we head to bed.
This stimulation of serotonin assists in keeping depression and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) at bay in some people.
Ultra violet light can clear up the itchy flaky signs of psoriasis. Sunlight therapy - exposure for 30 mins a day is recommended to help with the symptoms of many skin disorders.
Vitamin D Production & Immunity Boost
When natural light hits your skin it triggers the production of the precursor to Vitamin D and T cells which boost immunity.
Strong Bones & Muscles
Vitamin D is also required by the body to support the absorption of calcium which is required for strong bones. Calcium absorption also helps muscles retain strength and avoid the development of muscle weakness.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Research shows that sunshine reacts with nitric oxide that is stored in the top layer of the skin by causing blood vessels to widen as the oxide moves into the blood stream. This results in a reduction in blood pressure.
Assists with Sleep
The amount of sunlight you get assists your body regulate your sleep clock and it's been said that morning light is beneficial to tell your body when it is time to get sleepy. So the old adage of being a 'night owl' or a 'early bird' is a bit of a catch-22. Get a late start to the day and your body will keep you awake longer, creating a cycle. So get up and let the early morning sunshine hit your skin.
We all don our sunglasses when we head out in the sunshine to protect our eyes, but it is also beneficial for us to allow our eyes to absorb sunshine. Sunshine can actually have a curative effect on our eyes.
All of the above benefits of sunshine on our body, of course come with fine print to ensure we maximise the benefits and reduce the risks. So how much sun should we be getting?
The ABC Health & Wellbeing says the following; "A group of experts from a wide range of medical disciplines have come up with some rules of thumb and published them in the latest Medical Journal of Australia."
Basically different areas and times of the year and day for when you should expose yourself to sunlight without protection. Your body will produce the highest levels of vitamin D between 10am and 3pm, but this is also the time when the sun is at its strongest. So it is advised to not be out more than 15 - 30 mins (depending on your natural skin colour) without protection.
So maybe try soaking up some rays during your lunch break for 15 mins or for 30 - 40 mins on your walk to work. Remember, sunscreen and long sleeves are recommended, but it is also recommended that you expose your unprotected skin as well.*
* We recommend you take into consideration your location, time of year and natural skin colour before you head out into the sunshine to make sure you are doing the right thing for your individual needs.