Mr. Golden Sun, Please Shine Down On Me: The Importance of Sunlight

By: Shoshanah Marcus  |  May 12, 2020
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By Shoshanah Marcus, Staff Writer

Living the majority of my life in Florida, I have been warned from an early age about the harsh and damaging impacts of the sun. However, after being in college in New York, where the sun already sets by the time I end class, I have felt drained and exhausted. Since I have been socially distancing inside my house, I have felt increasingly lethargic and overall low-on-energy despite returning to the Sunshine State. Just like too much sunlight can have a negative impact on one’s body, so too can a lack of sunlight. 

One of the most important benefits of the sun is that it boosts vitamin D levels, which ultimately allows for calcium regulation and bone formation. Although it is well-known that too much sunlight can contribute to skin cancer, according to researcher Michael F. Holick, “[T]here is overwhelming scientific evidence suggesting that maintenance of an adequate vitamin D status is important for the prevention of a wide variety of deadly cancers.” Despite the major perks of sunlight, over a billion people in the world are vitamin D deficient, which could suggest that people are not getting enough sunlight. Not only does the sun allow for the production of vitamin D, but it can also prevent depression. Sunlight can lift a person’s mood through the release of hormones such as serotonin. Higher levels of serotonin can help a person feel focused and more positive; low levels of serotonin are associated with a higher risk of depression. Lack of sunlight can also create an imbalance of progesterone and estrogen, some of the female sex hormones that allow for the development and regulation of the female reproductive system, and lower levels of testosterone, the primary male sex hormone.

Raven Ishak’s “What Happens to Your Body When You Don’t Get Enough Sunlight,” outlines the timeline of what actually happens when someone is not getting enough sunlight. She explains that after one day without enough sunlight there is “nothing to worry about.” After one week, there may be some negative symptoms present such as drowsiness or negative feelings overall. Without sun exposure, less endorphins are produced in the body, so it is normal to feel down. However, after one month without sunlight, there can be more damaging effects, such as a hormone imbalance. Moreover, long-term lack of sunlight can impact one’s sleep cycle and can cause one to become more forgetful. Ishak concludes that “once you hit the six-month mark, your mood and energy levels will be at an all-time low.” Not only may one be depressed and plagued with chronic fatigue, but one may also have lowered cognitive function with chronic stress and overall forgetfulness. Additionally, one could experience extreme vitamin D deficiency which can weaken the immune system and have long term ramifications.

However, all of these symptoms can be prevented. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends getting anywhere from five to fifteen minutes of sunlight on your arms, hands, and face two to three times a week in order to obtain the proper amount of vitamin D. Also, there are many food sources of vitamin D such as salmon, tuna, eggs, mushrooms, and cheese. In extreme cases, one should consult his or her doctor to discuss potentially taking vitamin D supplements. Ultimately, a daily walk around the block or an increased diet of foods containing vitamin D could prevent the damaging impact of the lack of sun exposure and facilitate a happy, healthy lifestyle.

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Sources: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068797/

https://cjasn.asnjournals.org/content/3/5/1548.full

https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/benefits-sunlight#benefits

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2290997/

https://www.domino.com/content/what-happens-if-you-dont-get-enough-sunlight/ 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6555814/

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