#TooHotToSleep is trending on Twitter as temperatures have soared up to 35C in the last week. While we might consider it too hot to be comfortable, the sunny weather actually benefits our health in a number of ways. Lifestyle medicine, wellbeing coach, and MD of Sunlighten UK, Joie Risk, explains why you should soak up the sun even during a heatwave.
Many people are too scared to even step outside during a heatwave, opting to hide indoors by a cool fan.
Staying indoors during the hottest hours of the day (11am to 3pm) is wise, but a little sun exposure will do you some good.
Just 20 minutes in the sun is enough to provide you with a number of health benefits.
However, it is important to note that staying cool and hydrated is essential in avoiding heat-related illnesses.
Joie Risk reveals six health benefits of sunlight.
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Spending at least 10 to 20 minutes a day in the sun is essential for your health
Joie said: “When people spend time outside, particularly when the sun is out, they are helped in the manufacture of vitamin D.
“This is essential for a number of reasons, inside and out.
“It strengthens bones and evens the skin’s natural complexion.
“ Vitamin D is even related to losing belly fat; the higher the levels of this vitamin prior to starting a plan for weight reduction, the greater the likelihood for success, according to one study.
“Vitamin D improvement can also be connected to fending off type 2 diabetes.”
You can’t get your daily dosage of vitamin D by sitting by the window or your back door.
Joie added: “Many windows block UVB wavelengths, which prevents the synthesis of the vitamin, so people do need to go outside for the rays to work their magic.
Getting into the sun will boost your mood, even if you just take a short stroll down your street.
Joie explained: “Sunlight does not only trip the release of serotonin but other hormones, known as endorphins, as well.
“These are associated with overall calm, less depression, and happier moods.
“People may simply notice feeling better when the whole body’s system responds to the sun.
“Seasonal Affective Disorder is also believed to have a link to a lack of sunlight. This form of depression comes when a lack of sun exposure causes a person’s serotonin levels to dip low.
“There are a number of studies tying sun exposure to the treatment of mild depression as well as to alleviating the systems of moderate to severe depression.”
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The weather is too hot for most of us to get a full night of undisturbed sleep, but stepping outdoors could help you to sleep more soundly.
Joie explained: “Sunlight striking the eyes sends a message to the brain’s pineal gland.
“This message is to shut down the production of melatonin, a hormone that assists in sleeping by making people drowsy.
“When melatonin is overproduced during the day, people experience lower levels of the hormone at night.
“Sunlight exposure helps to prevent this.”
Joie advises going without sunglasses in the early morning to send your brain and body the message that daylight is here and melatonin is no longer needed.
Lowers blood pressure
There is some evidence that sunlight can lower blood pressure, which is great news for anyone who has high blood pressure or hypertension.
University of Edinburgh researchers found in one study that nitric oxide, a compound which helps to reduce blood pressure, is released into blood vessels once the sun’s light touches the skin.
This finding was prominent because it banished the notion that sunlight only stimulated vitamin D production.
By lowering blood pressure, sunlight also cuts the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
In this way, sun exposure does not only improve people’s health but prolongs their lives.
Controls depression and appetite
Staying indoors all day isn’t good for your mental health or your appetite.
Joie said: “Since lack of sunlight is tied to depression and depression is linked to appetite, sunlight exposure can help positively affect the appetite.
“The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that controls hunger.
“It works along with serotonin and aids in relieving hunger.
“Because of sunlight deficiency causing a drop in serotonin levels, a feeling of fullness sometimes cannot be achieved.
“Thus, exposure to sunlight can assist in controlling your appetite.”
Boosts your immune system
We all care about our immune systems more than ever with COVID-19 sticking around.
Exposure to sunlight will help to suppress an overactive immune system.
Joie said: “This is why sunlight is sometimes used to treat such autoimmune diseases as psoriasis.
“White blood cells also increase with sunlight exposure.
“These play a prominent role in fighting off diseases and defending the body when at risk of infection.
“While best kept in moderation, sun exposure is extremely helpful to the immune system.”