Everyone has heard that sunlight is good for us because it helps us make Vitamin D. Unsurprisingly, there are other benefits to getting sunlight that would make this post much longer if we covered them all. One of the most underappreciated benefits of exposing ourselves to sunlight is regulating our circadian rhythm. The term “circadian rhythm” refers to our bodily processes that are regulated within the 24-hour cycle of day and night – the obvious difference between these two times is sunlight.
When our bodies, more specifically our eyes, register the amount of light provided by the sun it sets off a cascade of events in our entire body to tell us what time it is within the 24-hour cycle. Our eyes are the bridge between our internal and external environment when it comes to this light mechanism and the pineal gland, which secretes melatonin to help us feel tired at the end of the day and fall asleep at night is also regulated via this light pathway. Which makes it important for us to get sunlight in our eyes – NOT directly looking at, but being outside with the sun early in the morning to help our brain and body regulate to the rhythmical nature of many of our body’s processes.
Another benefit of being out in the sun is the release of a chemical called Nitric Oxide (NO). You may have heard of this before due to the popularity of it in supplement form. One of the many responsibilities of this NO is to relax the smooth muscles of our blood vessels which eases the burden on our heart in transporting blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout our body. Interestingly, a group of researchers found a correlation between exposure to UVA radiation, which is one of the spectrums of light provided by the sun and lower blood pressure. Now this is not a call to ditch all BP medications and think sitting in the sun can replace them but to spread the word that nature, namely the sun is scientifically proven to make us healthier beyond the typical vitamin D topic.
We hope this information was both interesting and insightful to help guide some healthy lifestyle choices like simply sitting out in the sun! Stay tuned for our next blog about treating elite athletes…
Bedrosian TA, Nelson RJ. Timing of light exposure affects mood and brain circuits. Transl Psychiatry. 2017;7(1):e1017. Published 2017 Jan 31. doi:10.1038/tp.2016.262
Weller R. B. (2016). Sunlight Has Cardiovascular Benefits Independently of Vitamin D. Blood purification, 41(1-3), 130–134. https://doi.org/10.1159/000441266