Considering that it’s summertime, most of us are probably pretty familiar with the sun, and many of us are probably sick of it by now, with hot days and sticky nights still going strong. However, even if you prefer the benefits of colder weather, that doesn’t mean you should give up the sun altogether. For a lot of Americans, we don’t get as much sun as we should, due to long hours indoors for work coupled with living in an area of the country that gets dark much sooner in the day. Nonetheless, everyone should get as much sunlight as possible, due to its restorative and positive effects. The effects are especially important for children, whose growing bodies need the sun’s rays to help develop strong bones and a healthy system.
Even with all of the benefits of getting enough sun, many people feel that there is plenty to worry about as well. Sunburns, skin damage and cancer are all side effects of getting too much daylight, so it’s important that you soak up some rays in a safe and healthy way. Today we’ll be discussing the importance of sunlight, how it affects your body, and how to keep it from becoming a problem.
Types of Sunlight
If you ever paid attention in science class, then you know that the sun emits Ultraviolet radiation in the form of UV rays. However, what you may not have known is that there are three primary types of UV rays that enter our atmosphere, and each one can affect your body differently.
These rays are the most commonly produced by the sun, and as such, they pass through our ozone layer and atmosphere without any interruption. However, just because they are not blocked by our ozone doesn’t mean that they are necessarily safe. In most cases, UVA rays are relatively harmless, provided that you don’t stay in the sun for extended periods of time. After a while, however, these rays can contribute to skin damage, wrinkling, and even play a part in developing skin cancer.
One thing that’s important to note about UVA rays as well is the fact that most tanning beds use these rays to give your skin color. If you go to a tanning salon on a regular basis, make sure to use sunscreen and don’t stay in the bed for longer than is necessary. Also, just because you are tan already doesn’t mean that you are protected from UVA damage, as it can accumulate and get worse over time.
As we move up the ladder with regards to the different rays of the sun, the level of danger increases. For example, UVB rays are much more damaging than UVA, and can cause severe skin problems if you get too much exposure. Fortunately, most of these rays are blocked by our ozone layer, but enough of them get through that you should at least be aware of their existence and act accordingly.
The most common issues created by UVB rays are sunburns, cataracts (eye clouding) and immune system imbalances. Also, scientists believe that UVB rays can cause cancer much more frequently than UVA rays, most notably in the form of Melanoma. If you get sunburned a lot, then you may have a higher risk of developing these problems.
By far, the most dangerous sunlight that our star emits is UVC rays. These are potentially deadly if you get exposed to them, but thankfully our ozone layer repels almost all of them, so you have nothing to worry about. Just maybe don’t use aerosol cans anymore.
Top Five Benefits of Sunlight
At first, it may seem as if we are trying to scare you off of the sun altogether. While it is true that there are some potentially disastrous downsides to too much sun exposure, the fact remains that getting enough sun has far more benefits than anything else. In fact, worldwide, only 0.1% of all diseases and disabilities that adversely affect a person’s life are caused by too much sun. That means you statistically have a greater chance of dying of obesity or being killed in a car crash than you do getting a dangerous ailment from the sun.
That being said, here are five reasons you should embrace the daylight.
Vitamin D Production
Probably the biggest reason to go outside and soak up some rays is the fact that doing so naturally increases your level of Vitamin D. This essential nutrient is vital for a host of bodily functions, most notably bone production. In fact, one common ailment that kids used to suffer from in the old days was rickets, which was brought about by reduced exposure to sunlight. We’ll get into the specific benefits of the sun on children later, but Vitamin D production is by far the best upside to getting enough sunlight.
Odds are, you’ve experienced this yourself at some point; going outside to get some fresh air and being immediately uplifted by seeing the sun out. The fact is, human beings are naturally attracted to the sun, and the less we see it, the more depressed we get. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can usually be reduced or eliminated entirely by going out and seeing the sun, part of which is because sunlight helps regulate melatonin levels. Melatonin is vital to your overall mood, so the better you can regulate it, the happier and more relaxed you will feel. There’s a reason so many people vacation where it’s sunny and warm.
Skin Disease Treatment
Obviously, too much sun can cause more damage to your skin than good, but regular exposure to UVA and UVB rays can actually help treat such diseases as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and vitiligo. There is even some research that suggests that moderate sun exposure can help reduce the chance of cancer, although it’s not yet conclusive and can vary widely between people. Overall, however, sitting in the sun for at least thirty minutes a day can be hugely beneficial to anyone suffering from these skin ailments.
Keeping Your Natural Rhythm
As we mentioned, human beings are naturally drawn to sunlight, but it can have much more of an effect on our bodies than we know. For example, our sleep cycle is determined by sunlight, which is why so many of us are exhausted all the time. Artificial light can disrupt our circadian rhythms, which regulate when we sleep and how much sleep we need. Getting enough sunlight can help reset these “biological clocks” so that we can get more rest and rely less on coffee to stay awake throughout the day.
For many people, especially women, fibromyalgia is a constant source of discomfort and pain. Since modern medicine is still trying to wrap its head around the causes, symptoms, and treatment of this disease, many sufferers are given ineffective treatments or simply told to wait until it becomes unbearable. Thankfully, there is a source of relief that is abundant and, best of all, free. Daily sunlight exposure can help relieve some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia, most notably a reduction in overall pain. While the effects differ between people, sunlight seems to have a net positive effect for sufferers.
Additionally, the sun’s rays can also help with skin regeneration, especially with regards to wound healing. Simply put, if you have a cut or scrape that is taking a while to heal, exposing the area to sunlight for twenty or thirty minutes could help your skin repair itself faster.
Sunlight and Children
As we mentioned, the best reason to go outside during the day is to assist in Vitamin D production. The same goes for children, but the effects are far greater and more necessary. Since kids’ bodies are still developing, they need robust and healthy bones that can grow with them as they get older. Not getting enough sun can contribute to poor bone health, which can lead to an increase in fractures or other bone diseases, such as rickets.
Thus, it’s imperative that you have your kids go outside and play in the sun for at least an hour a day to help regulate and maintain Vitamin D production. Even just sitting out on the porch for a while can give your kids the boost they need.
Top Five Ways to Stay Safe in the Sun
If you’re ready to get out there and start soaking up the rays, then it’s important that you do so safely. This goes double for children, as too much sun exposure could lead to problems later on in life. Here are five ways to get the sun you need without overdosing.
The best way to protect your skin is to use sunscreen. While it may be tempting to get as high of an SPF as possible, the fact is that anything over 30 is probably not as effective as it claims. Thankfully, most brands are SPF 30, so you shouldn’t have to worry. Also, make sure that the formula protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Typically, it will say “broad spectrum protection” on it, which means that it should protect against both.
One of the best things about sunlight is the fact that you don’t need a lot of surface area to get the benefits. What this means is that, even if you are fully clothed, you can still get a lot of positive effects from sunlight without risking your skin. Thus, make sure that you and your kids are well covered when out for extended periods of time. One thing to keep in mind is that light colors and thin clothing will not keep out harmful rays, so be sure to either have thick or dark layers, so you don’t risk burning.
The brightest parts of the day are usually between 10 am to 4 pm, so that means that if you are out during these hours, you get far more UVB rays than you would later in the afternoon or evening. Thus, make sure that if you or your children are outside during these times that they have sunscreen or clothing on to protect against extended damage. Also, try to limit the amount of time you spend in the sun, as several hours or more could have an adverse effect overall. Again, sunscreen and covering can help, but still keep an eye on the clock to be safe.
Sunglasses and Protective Eyewear
One of the other significant downsides to too much sun is that it can damage your eyes. Make sure to wear sunglasses when out during the day, especially if you are in areas with excessive brightness, like the beach. If possible, wear a hat or visor as well to keep your eyes from having to work too hard to stay focused.
If you spend a lot of time in the sun, you’re going to get sunburned eventually. While getting burned on occasion should not have an overall adverse effect on your body, getting sunburned too often can be dangerous. Thus, if you or your children tend to burn easily, make sure to increase your protection efforts and adjust as needed.
Overall, when it comes to your health and well-being, getting enough sun is crucial to help your body stay in tip top shape. As long as you are smart and aware of how much sun you and your children are getting, a daily dose of sunshine is just what the doctor ordered.