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Sunlight Exposure and Mental Function

Sunlight Exposure and Mental Function

When people say “get out of your side and spend some time outside,” they are not just talking; sunlight has some amazing benefits for your health, both physical and mental. Most people know about the ill effects of excessive sunlight for the skin, including sunburn, skin cancer, and premature aging but are unaware of the benefits. In fact, in a bid to protect their skin from the sun, many people don’t get enough sunlight and may suffer the ill effects but will be unaware of the cause.   

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Here are 3 reasons why you need to get more sun:  

Boost vitamin D levels  

Did you know that vitamin D deficiency can improve symptoms of depression? Depression is a mood disorder characterized by persistent low mood, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and a loss of pleasure in normally enjoyable activities.   

Research has shown that people who have depression often have lower levels of vitamin D than people without. Getting more vitamin D through sunlight or supplements can improve symptoms of depression. A 30 minute episode to sunlight produces between 8000 and 30,000 IU of vitamin D depending on your skin tone. Dark-skinned people produce less and light-skinned people produce more.  

Better quality of sleep  

Your body operates on an internal 24 hour clock known as the circadian rhythm. This clock regulates your sleep and waking patterns through the release of hormones and helps you feel more alert during the day and sleepier at night.   

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During the day, exposure to sunlight causes your brain to release serotonin, a chemical that boosts your mood, and melatonin, which helps you fall asleep at night. The more sunlight exposure you get, the more melatonin your body produces at night. This helps you fall asleep faster and enables a deeper, uninterrupted sleep through the night. The amount of bright light exposure you get each day is essential for keeping your circadian rhythm balanced.   

Reduced access to sunlight can put you at risk for seasonal affective disorder  

As stated in the first point, getting enough sunlight exposure can relieve depression symptoms by stimulating the release of vitamin D. But did you know that low exposure to sunlight can trigger a mood disorder known as seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs when the season changes and access to sunlight is reduced such as during winter or rainy seasons. Serotonin is a hormone released through exposure to sunlight which helps to boost your mood and increases your alertness. When sun exposure is reduced, serotonin levels decrease and results in poor mood.   

Seasonal affective disorder has symptoms that are similar to major depressive disorder but are relieved when the seasons change and more sunlight is available.   


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Getting too much sun can be bad for your skin but you shouldn’t avoid the sun completely. Sunlight has numerous benefits for you, from improving skin conditions to relieving symptoms of mood disorders. Make sure to spend time in the morning sun (before 10am) to achieve maximum benefits. Use sunscreen when going out after 10 am to prevent damage to your skin and if you plan to spend more than 15 minutes outside. If you live in a place where seasonal changes may affect access to sunlight, consider investing in a light box.