Updated: Dec 20, 2022
We have recently changed the clocks which marks the beginning of noticeably longer days. If you haven’t changed your clocks yet then stop living in the past and get with the times. What happens in our bodies when the sun shines just a little longer? Many people have heard of seasonal depression, when the increased darkness throughout the day decreases our mood, but let's investigate how the increased daylight is influencing our bodies in April.
Let's start by taking a look at what is happening with the sun in April. At this time, the sun is just beginning to reach the angle in the sky that people above 32 degrees latitude (north of Atlanta, Georgia and Los Angeles, California) need to produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D is responsible for facilitating the absorption of calcium in our bones, so it improves our bone health, but it can also improve our immune system and cognitive health. This is one of the reasons why we are generally healthier in the spring and summer.
How can sunlight improve our mood? Well ironically it is the UVB light that everyone is so afraid of that is responsible for this. UVB promotes the production of beta-endorphins in our skin cells, which then goes into the bloodstream and circulates through our bodies to the brain, making us feel good. To put it more simply, the UV rays from the sun create the feel good hormone in your body. This hormone helps improve our feeling of well being, reduces our experience of pain, increases relaxation, and even promotes wound healing.
In addition, sunlight can also help with reducing the risk and management of chronic illness. Studies have found that a lack of sunlight in childhood increases the risk of type one diabetes because of lower levels of Vitamin D. This was found because children who took vitamin D supplements daily had an 88% decrease in the risk of developing type 1 diabetes. Sunlight can also reduce inflammation in the body which prevents other chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes as well. Also, interacting with sunlight can help to lower cholesterol levels, leading to better management of heart disease and hypertension.
Many of the health benefits of daylight are just beginning to take effect again in April. We feel healthier because of its effects on chronic illness, we stay healthier because of the production of Vitamin D, and we feel better because of the beta-endorphins that flood our brains. Of course I’m not telling you to go tanning for hours or to forget your sunscreen. Too much sun exposure can lead to skin melanoma so it is important to stay protected. This is especially true for people with lighter skin tones who don’t have the increased melanin in their skin which is a natural sunscreen. But we shouldn’t be afraid to show a little skin in the spring and summertime. It's good for you!