The Importance of Sunlight
What do your eyes and have to do with vitamin D, sleep, hormones, sunburn and systemic disease prevention? It turns out quite a bit.
Our eyes aren’t just for seeing, it appears, and they might have additional importance to our health. After all, they are described as being the “windows to our soul.” Eyes might also be a portal allowing the sun’s full spectrum into our bodies, providing us with multiple health benefits, which might make you think twice about wearing your sunglasses during the day.
Humans are in sync with sunrises and sunsets through what is called our natural circadian rhythm. When we sleep, when we experience being awake and alert and the regulation of our hormones are all guided by this cadence. Because we as a civilization have moved farther away from nature, we have disrupted our natural alignment with the rising and setting sun. Many people today work night shifts or spend most of their day indoors under fluorescent lights or surrounded by screens that emit synthetic blue light. Have you thought about how this might be impacting your health?
If we were to run off into nature and into the sunset, it wouldn’t take long to regain this oneness with our natural circadian rhythm, rising with the sun and settling in for sleep as it sets. This is the natural rhythm we were intended to follow as nature created for us.
The sun’s full spectrum of light wavelengths consist of energetic blue light synonymous with morning and intended to help energize and wake us up. As the day progresses, blue light decreases and red light increases. Red light tells your body to produce more melatonin in preparation for sleep. Full spectrum light means that it contains the wavelengths of all the visible spectrum colors as well as ultraviolet and infrared. This is natural light. Our bodies take in the benefits of natural light through the skin as well as the eyes. Natural light is necessary for optimal health and regulating our body chemistry.
Our bodies are highly technical machines that interact with the environment. Our retinas connect to our pituitary gland through photosensitive cells that communicate to the brain. Sunlight speaks to us through the full light spectrum.
Waking up in the morning requires multiple signals and impacts various organs. Your brain, for example, communicates with your adrenal glands. Metabolic patterns must take place with optimal levels of hormones and neurotransmitters. Many elements come together for you to feel and be awake. When we are sleeping, our bodies’ internal temperature lowers, which induces deeper sleep and relaxation. Morning sunlight naturally raises our body temperature, which elevates mood and energizes your entire system. If you’re trying to kick the caffeine habit, you may want to walk outside first thing in the morning and allow your eyes to receive some morning sunlight. These morning rays can naturally help give you a morning boost without the need for a cup of coffee.
Ultraviolet light is higher late morning until early afternoon which also impacts hormone production, such as dopamine. This might make you think twice about reaching for those cool shades every time you leave your house. When you wear sunglasses, this hinders the communication of these light waves to your body and may result in health issues such as metabolic disorders, cognitive dysfunction, metabolic abnormalities, chronic fatigue or mitochondrial dysfunction and hormonal imbalances. Wearing sunglasses and blocking the full spectrum of light from communicating with our eyes might also increase your chances of getting a sunburn since the light entering our eyes influences melanin production.
The pineal gland is located in the brain and is influenced by the sun and the natural light coming through our eyes. Among its various mystical functions, the pineal gland is instrumental in the production of melatonin, a hormone that protects the skin, helps promote quality sleep and contains powerful antioxidant properties important in balancing mood, systemic inflammation and intestinal health. Keep in mind that some pharmaceuticals and over the counter medications reduce melatonin production, such as Aspirin.
Research has focused on the connection between our eyes, natural sunlight and circadian rhythm. A 2008 study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology found that photoreceptors play an important role in our overall health. Disturbances in circadian rhythm were seen as potential risks of increasing the development of diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Animal studies have demonstrated the impact of not getting enough natural sunlight, pointing out that natural light helps the pituitary gland, adrenals, thyroid, liver, kidneys and sex organs work better. Human studies indicate that deficiencies in light wavelengths from the sun can impair the development of male sex organs due to vitamin D deficiency, which is necessary for the production of testosterone. In a study of over 2200 men who were tracked for one year, results showed that increased sunlight exposure increased testosterone production by up by nearly 70%.
Although we have been taught to slather on sunscreen and always wear sunglasses to protect our eyes from the sun, it might be a good idea to give our skin and eyes the benefit of exposure to some natural sunlight to help support overall health. The sun’s benefits extend to promoting better sleep, energy production, cognitive function, metabolic regulation, wound healing, immune system support, managing mental health issues, building strong bones and teeth, protecting our skin, reducing systemic inflammation and preventing various diseases.
Be sure that you are supplementing with vitamin D to attain optimal levels year round. Many factors may block your ability to absorb vitamin D properly--supplementation and the utility and proper absorption of vitamin D is not so simple.
The fat soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D and K also work in synergy, increasing absorption and maintaining balance.
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