The Sun and You: How Sun Exposure Affects Health

We all love a beautiful sunny day. Have you ever wondered why that is? Perhaps it’s because our bodies recognize the potent health benefits of sun exposure. On the flip side, too much sun exposure can have adverse health effects.

Everyone needs sunlight to live a happy and healthy life, but there are certain restrictions we should follow when it comes to sunlight exposure to ensure we don’t overdo it.

The Benefits of Sunlight
There are several benefits of getting enough sunlight. The sun provides our bodies with an essential vitamin, Vitamin D, which helps our bodies perform a wide range of processes.

Sunlight Improves Mental Health
One of the big benefits of soaking up some rays is the positive effect it has on our mood. Sunlight increases serotonin, which boosts our overall mood. Some studies have shown that light therapy, a process that mimics natural sunlight, can help treat depression and mood disorders. Light therapy is particularly helpful in treating seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression brought on by low levels of sunlight during the winter months.

Sunlight Improves Sleep
Our bodies rely on something called the circadian rhythm to maintain a regular sleep schedule. When the sun goes down, the brain begins to produce more melatonin, which is an important factor in preparing the body for sleep.

Without proper sunlight exposure, our circadian rhythms can get out of whack. Adequate sunlight increases the body’s ability to naturally monitor waking and sleeping patterns.

Sunlight Maintains Healthy Bone Mass
Vitamin D, which our body can absorb from sunlight, is a crucial vitamin for maintaining healthy bone strength. Just 15 minutes of sunlight per day is enough to reap the bone-strengthening benefits of Vitamin D.

Adverse Effects of Sunlight
As great as sunlight is for the human body, it also poses some risks. Most of these risks can be mitigated with proper preventative measures.

Eye Damage
If you expose yourself to prolonged sunlight without taking preventative measures, like wearing UV-graded sunglasses, you can sustain damage to your eyes. Sunlight can damage the retina, the cornea, and even be a contributing factor to the development of cataracts.

Most people know the terrible pain of sunburns. Sunburns happen when your skin is exposed to sunlight for too long, without any preventative measures like sunscreen or protective layers of clothing. Sunburns can range from mild to severe. Severe sunburns can cause permanent skin damage and result in illnesses like sun poisoning.

Skin Cancer
If you do not take preventive measures when out in the sun for years on end, your chance of developing skin cancer is much higher. Sun exposure changes the cellular make-up of the skin and can be a catalyst for cancer. You can avoid this risk by always wearing sunscreen, and protective clothing, and avoiding artificial sunlight exposure, such as tanning beds, which deliver a much higher dose of UV rays than what is natural.

Sun exposure has potent benefits for our mental and physical well-being. It’s important to get the recommended amount of sun exposure to feel your best. However, given the adverse effects sun exposure can have, it’s just as important to ensure you are taking preventative measures to protect your skin and eyes when you go outside.

13 Ways the Sun Affects Us: Positive & Harmful – UnityPoint Health
The efficacy of light therapy in the treatment of mood disorders: a review and meta-analysis of the evidence – PubMed (
Daily Sun Exposure Helps Improve Mental Health, According to Study (