Health & Wellness

Let the Sunshine in! – The Vital Role of Light

sunshine

Most people enjoy the benefits of sunlight and sunshine. When daylight hits, we open our curtains and blinds to let sunlight stream into our homes. On sunny days, we enjoy taking walks, sitting outside, and going to parks and beaches. Why?  Because sunshine makes us feel happy and energized. The origin of the English nursery rhyme and song “Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day” dates to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Scholars believe that similar sentiments have roots that go all the way back to ancient Greek culture. That is because the desire for sunshine over rain is a common theme that spans the ages and cultures of humankind.

A lack of sunshine, sometimes combined with dreary weather, can trigger a range of negative emotions in some people. This includes feelings of sadness and depression, stress, anxiety, and sometimes even anger. WebMD, a reliable source of health information, shares that in one study, “…nearly 9 percent of people fall into the “rain haters” category. This group feels angrier and less happy on days with more precipitation. Another study found that rain even increased the number of negative posts on Facebook.” The fact that weather and seasons can have an influence on human mental health is a significant factor. Scientists and medical doctors are examining ways to use light to make people feel happier.

Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, or heliotherapy, provides exposure to daylight, or artificial light, that mimics elements of sunlight. This is used to treat conditions such as seasonal affective disorder, depression, jet lag, sleep disorders, some skin problems, and more. Different kinds of lights may be used in light therapy, such as red, blue, and LED lights. NASA is credited with the development of LED lights for experiments related to plant growth in space. LED light therapy offers a non-invasive treatment that can be done at the doctor’s office or at home. Because exposure to natural and artificial has the potential to damage skin, it is vital to discuss the health risks of light exposure with a medical doctor before seeking any therapies.

Scientists agree that light plays a significant role in balancing our circadian rhythm, a natural, internal process that regulates one’s sleep-wake cycle and repeats every 24 hours. When circadian rhythm is thrown off, it can lead to significant problems such as insomnia. A lack of light is also associated with a decrease in productiveness and energy. For this reason, many offices install bright and specialty lighting in areas where there are less windows and natural sunlight. A lack of light can lead to decreases of Vitamin D made from cholesterol in the skin when exposed to the sun. Thus, getting adequate amounts of sunlight is necessary to maintain optimal Vitamin D levels. Healthline shares, “In the body, Vitamin D helps to regulate amounts of calcium and phosphate and keeps our bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. And it is estimated that more than 40% of American adults suffer from vitamin D deficiency.” It’s important to have a doctor monitor levels of Vitamin D in the body. If a deficiency is noted, they may prescribe supplements and/or recommend appropriate diets, treatments, and therapies.

Should you desire to spend more time outdoors in the sunshine to increase your mood, understand that unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause issues. Sunburn, which can harm the skin, is most common. Overexposure to the sun can create other problems, from increased cases of dehydration to skin cancers. In addition, lots of sun exposure can affect the eyes and the immune system as well. Yet, per Forbes, there are some benefits to moderate sun exposure. Some studies show that the sun can cause a drop in blood pressure. What’s most important is to find a safe balance of exposure to light, keeping skin protection in the form of sunscreen, clothing, eyeglasses, and more in mind so that one may stay happy and healthy while minimizing risks.

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