With Spring well in bloom and Summer on the rise, spending time under the sunshine is just what the doctor ordered after a bleak winter spent predominantly indoors…But have you ever wondered why you tend to be in a good mood whenever the sun’s out? Well, here’s the science behind why those radiating rays are so good for us…
Sun Improves Our Sleep
Put simply, regular exposure to sunlight encourages the production of melatonin – the hormone which helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle – which allows us to drift off easier at night.
Melatonin also helps to regulate our circadian rhythms, aka the body’s internal clock that signals when to be alert and when to rest, which can be thrown off by exposure to blue light from technology, disrupted work patterns, and light pollution.
It Boosts Our Mood
Most of us will agree that it’s hard to feel sad in the sun, and there’s actually plenty of research to back this up. Basically, there’s a link between sunlight and serotonin levels, and researchers speculate this could be down to how UV light forces melanocytes to release endorphins… Hence why some people develop Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) when the shorter, wintry days arrive.
A study in Australia even found that people had higher levels of serotonin on sunny days, leading to greater feelings of satisfaction and calmness. These same effects can apply to people who use tanning beds, which is why they tend to develop a dependence on tanning sessions!
It Even Helps Our Sex Drives
Yep, even your sex drive is affected by sunlight! Researchers in Austria found that spending just an hour in the sun can boost a man’s testosterone levels by 69%, which can help balance mood, sex drive, and cognitive function – all thanks to Vitamin D.
Meanwhile, Chinese researchers conducted a study on postmenopausal women and identified a link between low levels of Vitamin D and low levels of oestrogen, the female sex hormone.
Your Bones Get A Boost Too
Vitamin D doesn’t just help out with healthy sex life, but it helps your body absorb calcium which in turn, strengthens your bones too!
More than 90% of one’s Vitamin D requirement tends to come from casual sunlight exposure, making it the prime source of the nutrient. On average, experts recommend 10–30 minutes of midday sunlight, several times per week.
It Can Lower Blood Pressure
Back in 2018, research exposed participants with a normal range of blood pressure to UV light, finding that after exposure, they saw a modest decrease in blood pressure levels, which could be down to the role of nitric oxide stored in the top layers of the skin!
Then, when it reacts to sunlight, it causes the blood vessels to widen, moving the oxide into the bloodstream. Plus, lower blood pressure is known to reduce your risk of cardiac arrest or a stroke.
It Improves Midlife Brain Health
Going back to the Vitamin D nutrient… Turns out, it could also be good for our intellect! In 2009, scientists found that higher levels of Vitamin D are linked with improved mental ability in middle-aged and older men.
Men were tested for memory, speed recollection, mood, and physical activity levels. Researchers then found that men with higher levels of Vitamin D performed better than those with lower levels.
Your Eyes Need Sunlight
Researchers based in London found that regular sunlight exposure lowered the risk of near-sightedness in children and young adults by helping the eye produce dopamine, aiding in healthy eye development.
Exposure to natural light can also help reduce adult eyestrain, which is on the rise especially during the ongoing pandemic, due to more screen time.