Sunlight is just more than feeling good just as the current shutdown in some parts of the world is more than the cold. Experts insist that sunlight with enough protection is critical to healthy living. Sunlight is a source of solar radiation which are of two types: UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays will usually penetrate deep into the dermis of the skin while UVB rays usually shine on the superficial skin layers. UV rays have both positive and negative impacts on health.
Exposure to sunlight has a huge impact on the mental health of an individual. Its benefits are widely known in the quality of sleep of humans. It also has a crucial role to play in depression and seasonal affective disorders. Exposure to sunlight releases serotonin which helps to promote happy mood. Serotonin also makes you feel less hungry, that is the resaon why field workers are alot slimmer. Their appetite is better controlled. Another hormone released by the brain is melatonin. Melatonin helps control sleep and prevents depression.
Vitamin D is widely known as the sunshine vitamin and its functions in the body are enormous. It occurs naturally only in very few foods. Most Vitamin D that is required by the body is produced when exposed to natural sunlight. It is crucial for the overall health of an individual by helping in muscle function, protecting against inflammation, improving the general functioning of the brain. Some authorities state that it helps prevent cancers. Vitamin D contributes to the production of insulin by the islets of pancreas. Insulin levels are required to be adequate to help metabolise glucose and keep diabetes mellitus at bay. A lack of vitamin D increases the risk of dementia. Many people associate Vitamin D only to bone health. Yes, it has a huge role to play by encouraging the absorption of calcium. Calcium is a micronutrient that is needed for strong, healthy bones.
Sunlight allows for outdoor activities and hence can help in weight loss. A little sunshine daily encourages outdoor activities like walking, running and cycling.
Exposure to sunlight helps in boosting immunity and staving off infections. Research support that exposure to sunlight helps keep cold, rhinitis and flu away. Exposure to sunlight helps in the fight against skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
There are some chemicals in the body that can only become activated when the skin is exposed to sunlight. A good example is nitric oxide. Nitric oxide functions to help dilate blood vessels. When the blood vessels are dilated, there is lowering of blood pressure. High blood pressure otherwise known as hypertension has a huge disease burden and leads to several debilitating complications.
The several health risks associated with excessive exposure to sunlight are not more than the benefits but are serious. Excessive exposure to UV rays present in sunlight is known to predispose to certain skin cancers such as malignant melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. Also, long-term exposure can predispose to macular degeneration and cataract in the eyes. The fear of acceleration of skin aging and wrinkling as a result of excessive exposure to sunlight is not lost in science.
The concern of public health has been to create a balance between too much exposure and too little exposure in order to increase the benefits to humans. Early morning sunlight has been proven to be most of benefit. It is advisable to avoid sunlight when the UV index is three or higher. Also, it is adviced that exposure of 10 to 15 minutes on most days of the week at or before 11am and after 3pm is adequate to provide the benefits of sunlight and reduce significantly the risk of excessive exposure. To protect oneself from excessive sunlight exposure includes, using protective clothing, seeking shade, using sunscreen, wearing a hat and sunglasses that block UV rays.
The conversation on sunlight and health is still ongoing and inexhaustible but the benefits yet identified are numerous. It is therefore good to remember that we should get outside for sunlight as much as possible and as safely as possible.