Plenty of water and sunlight are necessities for life. Here in the sunshine state, we are very lucky to have access to the sunshine vitamin all year long. Although it has been engrained in all of our minds to stay out of the sun and vigorously apply sunscreen, the sun plays a vital role in our everyday health. Getting the appropriate amount of exposure to sunlight every day has a very wide variety of health benefits because of the vitamin D that is absorbed by the skin, as well as the effects that it has on the circadian rhythms (sleep-wake cycles).
Protecting the skin from overexposure to UV rays is extremely important and should not be overlooked. However, a moderate amount of daily exposure to sunlight is a positive for the body and should be explored safely in order to reap the benefits. The body responds well to vitamin D absorption and the outcome can include sleep cycle improvement, mood boosts, and heightened alertness.
Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient that the human body needs because it facilitates the function of the immune system, prevents diseases, and regulates the absorption of vital minerals such as calcium and phosphorous. The absorption of calcium that vitamin D provides is the reason it has been said that vitamin D is needed for strong teeth and bones.
The amount of sunlight exposure it takes to absorb the daily recommended amount of Vitamin D differs from person to person. According to the U.S. News, the government’s dietary recommendations are 200 IUs a day up to age 50, 400 IUs to age 70, and 600 IUs over 70. IUs are a measurement for drugs and vitamins that determine how much of a substance produces an effect on your body. They also recommend that if you are fair-skinned, spending 10 minutes in the sun during midday will give you the appropriate dose of vitamin D, and people with a darker skin tone will need extended time and also a dose from whole foods in order to not damage the skin.
The human body is incapable of creating vitamin D on it’s own, so sunlight, food sources, and sunlight are the only ways to absorb the nutrient. Contrary to popular belief, dairy products are not the only way to grow strong teeth and bones. Other foods that contain vitamin D include salmon, sardines, egg yolk, shrimp, and orange juice. Receiving doses of the vitamin from both food and sunlight is the best way to receive all of the benefits of vitamin D.
Although the risk for skin damage from the sun is always present, the benefits of absorbing vitamin D through sunlight are extremely beneficial to human health. With the decrease of outdoor activity in our daily lives, and the increase in technology use, our circadian rhythms are at risk. That means that we are exposed to less sunlight and more blue light.
Our brains are triggered to stay awake by light, whether it be from the sun or from our smart phones. The wake-sleep cycles are affected positively when we are exposed to sunlight in the beginning and middle of the day, and then are able to wind down in conjunction with the sun in order to prepare for a restful sleep while the sun is down.
Increasing natural sunlight exposure is the best method to keep circadian rhythms in check, since decreasing screen time during the day is not a very realistic goal in modern work days. However, reducing screen time of technology that emits blue light (smart phones, tablets, and laptops) within two hours of sleep time can improve cycles drastically. It may seem impossible to avoid checking your technology before bed, but it is certainly worth it. Improved sleep is one of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety, clear brain fog, and feel more active throughout the day.
Many people suffer from a vitamin D deficiency, and daily sunlight exposure can certainly help. Symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency include muscle weakness, bone pain, unexplained fatigue, and frequent bone fractures. Sunlight is an amazing health benefit that can improve the lives of people who suffer from a vitamin D deficiency, interrupted sleep, and a general feeling of fatigue. Add a dose of the sunshine vitamin to your day and reap the benefits!