November 7, 2016
394 Many Benefits of Sunlight [7 Nov 2016]
This week we will explore the many health benefits of sunlight. A rather ironic topic since we are entering the season of lowest sunlight here in Saskatchewan. Sunlight provides us with a broad spectrum of radiation in the 300 – 2,000 nm wavelength range, of which only 400 – 780 nm is visible. And most of that range is proving to be beneficial, if not essential, to our health.
The most well-known and studied benefit of sunlight is vitamin D synthesis in the skin from ultraviolet B (UVB) wavelengths. I have written many times [#179, 328] on how to optimize vitamin D synthesis while minimizing risk of skin cancer.
Another benefit is in preventing and treating depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder [#041] caused by the shorter days of winter can be effectively treated with special sun lamps. Other types of depression also respond to light therapy [#347]. Lamps designed for this light therapy usually lack the UVB necessary for vitamin D synthesis – the only vitamin D lamp I am aware of is the Sperti Sun Lamp at $650.
Sunlight regulates our circadian rhythms, helping us to stay alert during the day and sleep at night. Blue wavelength light in the evening is especially bad for keeping us awake. Wearing orange tinted sunglasses in the evening, even in the house, should help you sleep better.
Full spectrum fluorescent lighting has been found to reduce stress hormones, improve behavior problems, and calm hyperactivity in school children. Workplaces installing full spectrum lighting report improved employee morale, greater productivity, reduced errors and decreased absenteeism [#012].
Recent research has shed light (pardon the pun) on the benefits of near infrared (IRA) light on our health. This is the light that is just beyond red – we can’t see it and do not feel it as heat (the far infrared IRB and IRC do produce heat). Infrared A is not produced by non-thermal light sources (fluorescents and LCDs) and is filtered out by window glass, so the only sources are incandescent lights, fire and, of course the sun. IRA penetrates through clothing and skin, deep into the tissue where it activates an enzyme, cytochrome C oxidase, in the mitochondria which increases ATP energy production. And who couldn’t use more energy? Unfortunately most infrared saunas emit the far IR and lack the beneficial IRA.
There is no substitute for sunlight. All artificial light sources are lacking in some vital spectra that we need for optimal health, referred to as “biological darkness”. Those of you who can go south for the winter can continue to obtain these benefits; the rest of us are left behind in the biological dark.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.