How daylight affects us
Why exposure to sunlight is so important
Daylight has a significant effect on people, perhaps more than you realize. Daylight is a vital source of energy. Natural sunlight puts us in a better mood because it influences the production of serotonin*, which is popularly known as the happiness hormone. Serotonin plays an important role in the regulation of our sleep, mood and even appetite.
When you take in sunlight through your eyes you increase your body’s ability to produce the hormone that helps you sleep at night. The retina of your eyes is directly connected with the pineal gland, which produces melatonin, which is closely associated with sleep. During the dark winter months, it is a good idea to avoid wearing sunglasses. Go for a walk every day if you can and look up at the sky, even on cloudy days.
Daylight is a combination of sunlight, direct and indirect. It affects our circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle. Sunlight sets our inner clocks. If we do not get enough exposure to daylight, we might not be in the best mood, or we may feel a lack of energy. Some people experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as the winter blues, or have an urge to hibernate. When winter darkness falls and there are fewer hours of daylight, light therapy and therapeutic light can be used to help correct an imbalance in the circadian rhythm. With morning bright-light exposure, the rhythms are re-set and energy levels can be kept higher.
Getting enough exposure to sunlight is a vital form of self-care. Going for walks, bicycle rides or even just a going for a brisk walk around the block during your lunch break – find ways to make sure that you get enough energizing daylight and get a nice break from the screen and daily activities.
According to a study titled “The Indoor Generation” by the Velux group, contemporary people who live in cities spend an average of 90 percent of their day indoors.
Artificial light from the lamps in our homes and workplaces does not have the full colour spectrum that nature provides through daylight and which our eyesight has evolved to capture. For this reason, artificial light can be a source of physical discomfort, such as headaches, because our brains are trying to compensate for the colours that are missing from the light entering our eyes.
It's essential for our mental and physical well-being that we are exposed sunlight on a daily basis all year round. Artificial lighting is a poor substitute for the life-giving energy of sunlight.
As a reminder to let the full spectrum of natural light into your eyes every day, it may help to remember the expression “To see the light of day”.
Extra Vitamin D
When your skin is exposed to direct sunlight, it produces Vitamin D, which is important for our immune system, our muscular functions, and the formation of our bones. During the longer hours of sunlight in the summer months, our bodies take in more Vitamin D. In the wintertime, the amount of daylight in the Nordic countries is not enough for the sunlight to be the sole source of the Vitamin. It is recommended that you take a daily supplement of Vitamin D or be sure to include it in your diet. Vitamin D is not found in plants, but is found in fatty fish, such as herring, mackerel and salmon, and to a lesser extent in meat, dairy products and eggs.
Daylight and your skin
The sun shines down upon us every single day of the year. Even when the skies are overcast and you cannot see the sun through the clouds, the rays of sunlight still reach your skin. By using skincare products that contain sunscreen, you can prevent sun damage while still receiving the healthy benefits of sun exposure.
With the help of the antioxidative defense system in your skin, the body has the ability to withstand the UV rays that can damage the skin. You can supplement your external sun protection by supporting sun protection from the inside through the dietary choices available at your supermarket. For more inspiration, read our article about how diet can help your skin handle the sunshine here.
* Serotonin is a chemical neurotransmitter that relays signals between different areas of the brain. It is this function that is affected by anti-depressive medication. When it is dark, we use a certain amount of serotonin to produce melatonin, which makes us sleepy.