As Gambians in the country are gearing up for the country’s 50th Independence anniversary celebration, the Daily Observer brings to you some benefits of Sunlight, as thousand of Gambians and non-Gambians alike are expected to converge at the Independence Stadium in celebrating the day.
Most people enjoy sunlight, while others don’t enjoy it but there are many known benefits of sunlight on mood and health, but regular sunlight exposure also can have long-lasting, positive effects on bone, heart, immunity and disease prevention. Sunlight often serves to encourage exercise, physical activity, travel and social interactions.
Below we have the benefits
The most well understood benefit of sunlight is the production of vitamin D. When skin is exposed to sunlight, a series of chemical reactions begin that converts precursors of vitamin D to the active form of vitamin D. Vitamin D is needed for the intestinal absorption of calcium and the maintenance of calcium and phosphate levels necessary for healthy bone formation. It is also important for proper immune function, cell growth, and nerve and muscle function. Some foods naturally supply vitamin D, such as fish and liver. Other foods, such as milk and cereal, are typically fortified with vitamin D.
It is common for people to refer to a good mood as a “sunny disposition,” and to associate lack of sun with sadness or depression. Scientific research has examined the frequently observed relationship between sunlight and mood. A study from Denmark, published in the September 2011 issue of the “Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health,” demonstrated that outdoor work, even in the winter, provided enough sunlight to counteract mood difficulties. Research published in the March 2013 journal “BMC Psychiatry,” demonstrated a measurable change in a component of blood, interleukin 6, in depressed participants who were exposed to the sun, but not in non-depressed participants exposed to sun. This suggests that sunlight may affect mood in some people, but not others.
Blood Pressure and Heart Health
Exposure to sunlight has a beneficial impact on blood pressure and heart health. A study published in the March 2010 “European Heart Journal” showed that the beneficial effects of sunlight on heart health and blood pressure may be related to the chemical nitric oxide, which acts on blood vessels to decrease blood pressure. Nitric oxide activity may be modulated by sunlight. The immediate effects on the heart and blood pressure appear to be short-term, lasting less than 24 hours without additional sunlight exposure.
Vitamin D or sun exposure have been correlated with a possible role in preventing cancer and infection, and keeping the immune system balanced. It is unclear whether the production of vitamin D or another mechanism of sunlight is responsible for these associated effects. An article published in the September 2008 “Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology” noted a reported 30- to 50-percent reduction in the risk of certain cancers with an increase in sun exposure or vitamin D intake of 1,000 IU/d. The exact process leading to these outcomes, however, is not well-defined.
The presence of sunlight generally draws people to relax, socialize, enjoy the scenery of the outdoors and often take memorable photos. It is common to vacation or take time to relax in regions with great amounts of sunlight. Beside the direct effect on mood, sunlight encourages enjoyable outdoor activities that enhance quality of life. While sunlight is beneficial, balance is the key. It is important to maintain a moderate amount of sun exposure, because excessive sun can increase the risk of skin aging and skin cancer.
Also, stress is an inevitable fact of life. However, you can fight it naturally: simply step outside on a sunny day. Researchers from the Baker Heart Research Institute in Melbourne found that levels of serotonin—a neurotransmitter that regulates appetite, sleep, memory, and mood—are lower during the winter than the summer. The research team noted that the only factor that affected participants’ moods was the amount of sunlight they were exposed to on any given day. More sunlight meant better moods; less sunlight lead to symptoms of depression.
Sunlight Can Reduce Surgery Pain and Stress
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University conducted a study to see if sunlight affected the moods and pain medication usage of patients undergoing surgery.
They found that patients who were placed in bright rooms reported less perceived stress and took less medication per hour than patients in dim rooms. This study also suggests that even indirect exposure to sunlight (i.e. through a window) can improve one’s mood.
Natural Daylight Can Improve Sleep
Sunlight shuts off the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone produced at night that makes you feel drowsy. Constant exposure to sunlight can help your body maintain its circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that regulates biochemical, physiological, and behavioral processes and makes you feel tired when it’s dark outside.
Going outside for 15 minutes at the same time every day, preferably in the morning, tells your body that it’s no longer nighttime. Sunlight that’s unhindered by sunglasses will reach the brain’s pineal gland more easily and signal it to stop releasing melatonin.
Sunlight Can Reduce Cancer Risks
Studies have linked vitamin D, known as the “sunshine vitamin,” to protection against colon, kidney, and breast cancer. It’s also linked to improvements in bone health and overall mortality. Neurological, cardiovascular, and immune diseases are associated with vitamin D deficiency. By increasing your exposure to sunlight, you can decrease your risk for these diseases.
Vitamin D combined with other cancer treatments also tends to improve the patient’s prognosis. However, dietary, genetic, and environmental factors can mask the effects of vitamin D on the body.
Like Everything Else, Sunlight Should Be Enjoyed in Moderation
Sunlight has many health benefits. However, you should keep exposure moderate. Factors such as skin pigmentation, time of day, and how much skin is exposed all determine the healthiest dosage of sunshine for you.
Those with fair skin should spend no more than 10 minutes outside during the hottest time of the day without sunscreen. After that, the risk of developing skin cancer increases.
Those who tend to tan and not burn can get about 15 minutes of sunlight exposure without sunscreen, while those with darker skin may require up to six times the sun exposure of a fair-skinned person to reap the benefits of vitamin D.