Here comes the sun! After a long and dreary winter, we are so excited to finally welcome spring’s sunny days and blue skies. If you’re anything like us, these brighter mornings will have you walking with a spring in your step as you look forward to a fun few months of warmer weather. Sunshine is nature’s ultimate mood booster, and it’s not just because it gives us an excuse to drink rose and fire up the barbeque — there are actually a number of medical reasons why sunlight is good for our health.
Exposure to bright sunlight during the day increases the amount of melatonin we produce at night. Known as the “sleep hormone,” melatonin is a produced by our pineal gland and impacts our bodies in a lot of positive ways including improving sleep, helping to synchronise our biological clocks, and lowering our stress reactivity.
Eases mild depression
Moderate sun exposure has been shown to increases levels of natural antidepressants in the brain that can actually help relieve anxiety and forms of mild depression. On sunny days, our brains produce more serotonin, a mood-lifting chemical known as the “happiness hormone”. Seratonin can improve our mood, encourage better focus, and help us stay calm and alert.
Lowers blood pressure
In a landmark study, a group of researchers at the University of Edinburgh have found that as sunlight touches our skin a compound called nitric oxide is released into our blood vessels, lowering our blood pressure.
One of the most important nutrients we get from the sun is Vitamin D. Vitamin D stimulates the absorption of bone-strengthening calcium and phosphorus in the body. On top of that, new research has also indicated there is a direct correlation between bone density and the hormone Vitamin D3, which our body makes from sunlight. When you have higher levels of Vitamin D3 in your blood, you are at a lower risk of suffering fractures of virtually all types.
Sun exposure is very helpful for your immune system. New research has shown that sunlight energises our T cells, which play a critical role in our immunity, helping our bodies fight disease and protect against infection. Sunlight can also help suppress an overactive immune system, which could explain why exposure to UV light is used to treat autoimmune diseases like psoriasis, which affects two out of every 100 people here in the UK.
Too much of a good thing…
While sunshine has plenty of benefits, we mustn’t forget that it’s still the number one cause of skin cancer. How much time in direct sunlight is safe will differ from person to person, depending on your skin tone and a range of other factors. But most experts agree that if you plan to be in the summer sun for more than ten mins, you should apply sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30. Not sure which sunscreen is for you? Take a look at our Safer Sunscreen recommendations.