Should We Fear Sunlight? 4 Health Benefits and 3 Risks of Sun Exposure


Summer is not far off!

In many parts of the world, summer means that people take off several layers of clothing to get some breeze and soak up the sun.

Our body loves sunlight, and there are biological reasons for this. Not only does the type of light that the sun emits cause our brains to release serotonin, a hormone that makes us feel joyful and calm, it also helps activate the key mood booster vitamin in the skin.


However, ozone depletionthe thin part of the earth’s atmosphere, which absorbs almost all of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation, makes exposure to direct sunlight dangerous.

Knowing this, it can be difficult to determine whether sun exposure is more beneficial than harmful, or vice versa.

This article summarizes recent research on the benefits and risks of sun exposure. It also summarizes the most recent recommendations for staying in the sun as safely as possible to minimize the risks and reap the benefits.


4 health benefits of sun exposure

Sunlight triggers the release of serotonin

Spending time in natural sunlight increases the production of serotonin, a brain hormone that promotes feelings of calm and joy. It also helps regulate mood and emotions, appetite and digestion. When waves of sunlight enter your eyes, they stimulate the part of the retina that signals the brain to produce serotonin.

Low serotonin is associated with depression and seasonal major depression (formerly known as SAD). A seasonal major depression is a form of depression caused by the changing seasons and often peaks during colder seasons with shorter days.

Although medical scientists are not entirely sure what causes depression, in many people it is likely due to an imbalance of neurotransmitter hormones such as serotonin in the body, among other factors. Our skin has serotonergic system able to generate serotonin when exposed to the ultraviolet light of the sun.


Sunlight Promotes a Healthy Sleep Cycle

Exposure to sunlight as well as darkness has a specific effect on the brain that promotes sleep-wake cycles. Sunlight helps you wake up, and darkness helps you fall asleep. Melatonin is a hormone the body produces to help you sleep.

The pineal gland of the brain needs serotonin to produce melatonin. If you remember from the previous point, sun exposure promotes the release of serotonin. In other words, the serotonin released during the day as a result of sun exposure provides the pineal gland in the brain with the raw material to produce melatonin, which helps us sleep.

At the same time, the blue light emitted by LED devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers and flat screen TVs blocks the release of melatonin, having the opposite effect.


Sleep Foundation recommends exposure to natural sunlight during the day and limiting exposure to LED devices in the hours leading up to bed to pave the way for timely release of serotonin and melatonin and healthy sleep-wake cycles that leave you feeling refreshed and energized.

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Sunlight can help strengthen bones

calcium and phosphorus important to human health, but they won’t penetrate your bones without Vitamin D. Most of the vitamin D used by our body is produced in the skin.

The UV rays emitted by the sun make the vitamin D produced in the skin usable. When the skin is exposed to sunlight, UV rays penetrate the outermost layer of the skin, called the epidermis, and initiate a process called photolysis. Photolysis converts provitamin D3, an unusable form of vitamin D, into previtamin D3. Previtamin D3 can then undergo other processes into vitamin D3, which is used for calcium uptake by the bones, or it can be further photolyzed into other forms of vitamin D that serve as a reservoir for later use.

Sunlight and nature can improve overall well-being

Spending time in nature is beneficial for many aspects of human health and wellness. Being able to observe flora and fauna in real time while having access to natural sunlight can have a significant impact on how you feel. In short, spending time in nature with access to sunlight:

  • Restores
  • May help you recover from stress
  • Can give you natural vitamin D
  • May fight seasonal depression
  • Promotes collaboration and environmentally sustainable behavior
  • Positively affects the functioning of the immune system
  • Can promote creativity

We detail how spending time outdoors can improve your health and well-being. in this article.

3 health risks from sun exposure

Increased risk of sunburn and skin cancer

Spending time in the sun can have its benefits, but if we stay in the sun for too long, especially during the peak hours of the day, it can be dangerous to our health.

The sun emits two types of radiation: UV-A and UV-B light. UVB light causes painful sunburns and skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

UVA light does not cause sunburn, but it is even more harmful than UVB because it penetrates deeper into the skin and causes melanoma, a deadly skin cancer.

One of the main reasons planet Earth is capable of supporting life is because of the unique stratosphere that encloses it. Each layer of the stratosphere plays a vital role in creating the environment that allows life to flourish. The layer closest to the earth is the ozone layer, and it absorbs most of the harmful solar radiation, allowing only the amount necessary for life to thrive.

Unfortunately, industrial gases and chemicals eat away at the ozone layer, making it easier for us to get sunburn and skin cancer.

Increased risk of heat stroke

With the peak of the summer months, temperatures also peak. Time spent outdoors can be enjoyable, but it also increases the risk of heat stroke. Heatstroke is when the body becomes so hot that it cannot control its temperature even after sweating profusely.

Short-term symptoms include confusion, loss of consciousness, hot and dry skin, profuse sweating, dehydration, and high body temperature. Heatstroke is fatal if treatment is delayed.

People around the world are experiencing hotter summer than ever before. In fact, according to a group of scientists, by the end of the century, summer weather on the globe could last up to six months, which will negatively affect our ecosystems.

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Accelerates skin aging

Exposure of the skin to the sun for short periods of time helps the skin convert provitamin D3 into a usable form, but if you are constantly in the sun for long periods of time, it can cause permanent damage to skin cells as well as eye cells.

UV rays from the sun penetrate the skin and after a while they cause damage to the fibers that keep the skin firm. When these fibers are damaged, wrinkles appear; this is called photoaging. In addition, repeated exposure may change the color of your skin, causing discoloration or hyperstaining in areas of the skin that are most commonly exposed to sunlight.

Preventing skin aging isn’t just about how we look; when the fibers in our skin get damaged, it also compromises our skin. strength and stability. The skin fibers are fragmented, which negatively affects wound healing, nerve function, immunity, vasculature, and more.

Tips for Reducing Sun Exposure Risks and Reaping Benefits

CDC has set of recommendations to reduce the risk of sun exposure and benefit.

  • Spend time outdoors in the early hours of the day and in the late hours of the day and evening. The sun’s rays are most direct between 10:00 and 16:00, and there is a greater chance of sunburn.
  • Wear sunscreen with at least 30 SPF that blocks both UVA and UVB radiation. Your dermatologist may recommend a higher SPF for your skin tone.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours to exposed skin. You must do this even if you are not in direct sunlight and if it is cloudy.
  • When spending time outdoors, wear long-sleeved, breathable clothing, hats, and sunglasses.
  • Look for shade so you can enjoy nature views while staying protected from too much sun exposure.
  • Stay hydrated. Aim to drink at least eight cups of water a day, and more if you’re sweating or exercising.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about taking a vitamin D3 supplement, especially if you’re prone to sunburn.

Main conclusions

Spending time outdoors in the sun has many benefits for your health and overall well-being. It can help fight depression, help you sleep better, and even promote healthy immune system function. However, spending too much time in the sun during peak hours, especially without sun protection, can be very detrimental to your health.

No need to be afraid of sunlight; Without it, life on earth would be impossible. Also, you don’t have to constantly hide from the sun. However, it is important to be careful and protect your skin and eyes from the sun when its rays are strongest. Wear sunscreen and sunglasses that protect you from UVA and UVB rays, reapply sunscreen every two hours no matter where you are or what the weather is, and look for shade whenever possible.

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