Whether you’re into science or just read lifestyle press, you’ve probably heard many debates on whether people should stay out of the sun. Some will tell you no, it can increase your chance of developing certain diseases and give you wrinkles, age spots, and dry skin, while others will tell you it’s absolutely necessary for good health…
One thing is certain: as prehistoric beings, we evolved to spend most of the day hunting and gathering in the sun. And without the sun, we would have no life on earth.
But thanks to scientific studies and rising rates of skin cancer, we slather on heaps of sunscreen, sit under an umbrella, or layer up on clothing to protect our skin from getting sun exposure.
Don’t be afraid of the sun
While it may not be a good idea to cook yourself on a lounger for hours at a time with no protection, short amounts of exposure are actually good for your health.
We often hear about the dangers of excessive light exposure and its impact on sleep, especially at night. Excessive blue light exposure during the evening can disrupt your sleep by inhibiting melatonin secretion, which is needed in order to fall and stay, asleep. Well, the opposite is true when you get light exposure during the day — it wakes you up and establishes (or maintains) a healthy, natural circadian rhythm. You may throw off your circadian rhythm if you’re always avoiding full-spectrum, bright daytime light. And sure enough, people who get the most light during the morning and daytime begin producing melatonin earlier in the evening, therefore inducing sleep at a reasonable time.
But if direct sunlight is a good thing, is there a time for sunglasses? Yes. Just as a good UVA-and-UVB-blocking zinc oxide sunscreen can come in handy when you know you’re going to be out in the sun without shade, a pair of sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB can help protect your eyes in the same situation. Even so, if you’re in the snow, on a body of water, or at the beach where the power of UV is reflected and magnified, sunglasses are a good option to have in these situations.
Why is sunlight so important to the body
This is because when our skin comes into contact with sun rays, we produce something called vitamin D. Similar to how plants use the sun to produce energy, our body synthesizes vitamin D in the skin from sunlight, which assists in a number of crucial functions within the body. These include:
- Normal bone development and maintenance
- Maintenance of calcium and phosphorus balance in the body
- Regulation of insulin secretion
- Enhancing and modulating the immune system
- Regulating blood pressure
- Mood regulation
If you live in a country where sunshine isn’t available year-round, vitamin D is also available through various food sources.
Try to include adequate amounts of fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines, egg yolks, cod liver oil, and mushrooms. As vitamin D deficiency becomes more prevalent, many foods now come fortified with vitamin D. However, we advise you to stick to whole, natural foods rather than overly processed fortified foods.
Another option is supplementation. To ensure adequate levels in colder months, try taking a vitamin D3 supplement to maintain optimal levels.
Here are some tips on keeping your vitamin D levels up to snuff:
- Build your sun exposure gradually. Depending on where you live, the strength of the sun will vary according to season and time of day. We recommend starting out with 5-10 minutes of full exposure per day during peak hours (10 am-2 pm) in summer months and working your way up to a comfortable spot for you. Expose as much skin as possible!
- Use sunglasses in peak hours to protect your eyes.
- Use zinc-based sun protection products when needed. Ditch the chemical UV blockers and use a zinc-based cream for a physical barrier.
- Don’t forget to exercise regularly. Participating in physical activity helps to boost vitamin D levels.
Sunshine and vitamin D go hand-in-hand with one another, and it’s important to ensure levels are adequate to maintain proper body function. If you’re not sure about your levels, speak to your health professional about getting your levels checked to determine whether you’re in need of supplementation.