I think you’ll agree with me when I say that a bit of sun makes everything better. In fact, This list outlines 10 little-known bright facts about sunlight.
Contrary to what you may believe, according to the World Health Organization exposure to sunlight can actually promote healing in certain skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, acne and fungal skin infections. One study even showed that a four-week trial of heliotherapy (sunlight therapy) showed a significant clearance of symptoms in 84% of subjects with psoriasis.
Most people – unless you’ve been living under a rock – are aware of the common association between excessive sun exposure and skin cancer. Despite this, Vitamin D deficiency could actually increase your risk of many other cancers, especially colon and breast cancer. Since the initial realisation of this connection by the Garland brothers, a further four-year study involving over a thousand postmenopausal women showed that Vitamin D supplementation results in a huge 60% drop in the risk of developing any form of cancer.
When sunlight hits our eyes, the optic nerve sends a message to a gland in the brain and signals it to shut down the production of melatonin (the hormone that makes us sleepy) until the sun goes down. As it gets dark, the gland is signalled to begin producing melatonin once again and we begin to feel drowsy at bedtime. Enjoying the sunlight whilst camping at Epworth Fields is a sure fire way to regulate your sleep-wake cycle and ensure a sound night’s sleep.
As soon as sunlight touches our skin, our body releases a compound called nitric oxide into the blood vessels – this compound helps to lower blood pressure. The benefits of this include reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes and therefore a potentially increased lifespan (all the more time to enjoy camping near Doncaster!). The sun’s rays also convert high cholesterol in the blood into numerous essential hormones, including those we need for reproduction. However, without sunlight the opposite happens; these substances instead get converted to cholesterol.
Sunlight deprivation can cause Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression which is common in winter months and in people who work long hours indoors. However, sun exposure increases the levels of serotonin – a naturally occurring antidepressant – in the brain, that can help to relieve SAD and other mild forms of depression.
Exposure to sunlight increases white blood cells (called lymphocytes) in our bloodstream. These white blood cells are essential in the defence of the body against infection and disease, so moderate sun exposure is very useful to enhance the immune system. After all, nobody wants to spend an entire camping trip being ill, right?
Exposure to full-spectrum light (such as sunlight) throughout the day, paired with nighttime darkness, has been shown to lessen some symptoms and aspects of Alzheimer’s disease. Some effects include reduced agitation, increased sleep efficiency, fewer symptoms of depression and less loss of function when compared to patients exposed to only dim daytime lighting. Sun exposure has also been linked to improvement in some cases of Parkinson’s disease, including improved mood, motor function, social activity and in some cases, the improvements have even been enough to reduce medication.
It’s a fairly well-known fact that Vitamin D stimulates the body’s absorption of calcium and phosphorus, two bone-strengthening minerals found naturally in the body. Further research, however, is suggesting that there may also be a direct correlation between Vitamin D3 and bone density. Vitamin D3 is formed during the process of manufacturing Vitamin D when sunlight hits our skin, and it regulates calcium absorption. Higher levels of Vitamin D3 are associated with a lower risk of almost all types of fractures, while lower levels are lined with higher fracture rates. Because of this, sun exposure is especially important for older adults.
Sun exposure is a natural nootropic, meaning it helps to enhance our cognitive function (ability to think). Even a quick stint in the sun could substantially increase our alertness and ability to think. It’s been shown in a number of studies that cognitive function reduced the lower the subjects’ Vitamin D levels were. Plenty of researchers have pointed out that it’s definitely no coincidence that the areas of the brain involved in complex functions are full of Vitamin D receptors.
If you pull your back or stub your toe while camping, you could try sitting out in the sun for a little while. Studies show that post-surgery exposure to sunlight minimises the need for painkillers by around 20%, by decreasing both stress and pain. This is probably due to the sunlight’s ability to enhance production of beta-endorphins (natural painkillers) in the skin. Another study showed that 88% of people suffering from chronic pain had a Vitamin D deficiency.
While sun exposure clearly has its benefits, as outlined above, it’s still important to remember that it should only be in moderation. Applying suncream is important after no more than around 15 or 20 minutes in the sun and those with fair skin typically burn faster than those with darker skin. You’re more likely to burn in more direct sunlight (i.e. between 10 am and 4 pm), but it’s suggested that even as little as between 5 and 15 minutes in the sun 2 or 3 times a week can be enough to reap the benefits of sun exposure.
Hopefully, these 10 health benefits have inspired you to bask in the sunlight! If you want to read some more of our blogs to inspire your next camping trip, click here and stay tuned for more posts.