Sunny days make us feel better, but did you know that there are actually health benefits to sunshine? It’s widely known that spending time in the sun can help our bodies produce vitamin D, a key nutrient for bone and heart health that almost half of all American adults are lacking in. Tune in below to learn about some of the other impressive health benefits associated with sunlight.
Improved Sleep and Mood
According to Dr. Phyllis Zee, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist and sleep scientist at Northwestern University, light is the most powerful signal for the brain and internal body clock. This helps to regulate sleeping and waking activity, appetite, mood, alertness, and attention. In research that she published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, she discovered that workers who got more light during the day by sitting near a window averaged 46 more minutes of sleep on work nights compared to those that worked in darker environments. On free nights, that number increases to almost 2 hours more of sleep. As far as improved mood goes, studies have shown that when your skin is exposed to sunlight, it stimulates the production of serotonin, a brain chemical associated with better mood, energy, alertness, and less depression and anxiety.
Reduced Risk of Multiple Sclerosis
Research from a study published in the journal Neurology found that people who live in sunnier areas of the world are less likely to develop this chronic condition. Multiple sclerosis causes the immune system to attack the body’s own central nervous system. In the study, it was shown that even moderate UVB exposure, between 4 and10 hours a week, was able to lower the risk of MS in women under 40 by as much as 65% when compared to those who live in less sunny areas. The researchers believe that this is related to the effects of sunlight on vitamin D levels because vitamin D deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of developing MS. Another theory suggests that this could also be due to the sunlight itself and its direct impact on the immune system.
Better Blood Pressure
A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association discovered a pattern of lower systolic blood pressure during the summer compared to the winter. This effect was independent of outdoor temperature, and researchers think that it may be attributed to the impact of UV rays. Sunlight may increase levels of nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and in turn lowers blood pressure.