Most people are familiar with the risks of unprotected sun exposure, such as sunburn, wrinkles, freckles, eye damage and skin cancer.
However, although overexposure to the sun is bad for your health, getting enough exposure to sunlight is necessary and beneficial. Adequate time in the sun gives you several benefits:
- A boost in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates your appetite, sleep, memory and mood
- Support of your circadian rhythm, which leads to better sleep—sunlight “turns off” melatonin production each morning, which is the hormone that makes you feel drowsy as it gets darker at night
- Production of Vitamin D, which is needed for important body functions such as strengthening your bones and contributing to your immune system
- Relief of stress and pain, and help for individuals suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression
- Lowered risk for nearsightedness—research indicates that children who spend more time exposed to sunshine outside may reduce their risk of becoming nearsighted
The key to reaping the health benefits of sunlight while avoiding the risks is balance and moderation. The U.S. National Institutes of Health recommend about 10 to 15 minutes in the sun without sunscreen. The time of day and your skin pigmentation will affect how much unprotected time in the sun is healthiest for you.
It’s especially important to wear sunscreen or limit direct sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are the strongest. And while you’re out enjoying the sunshine, don’t forget UV-blocking sunglasses to protect your eyes.