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In order for our body to thrive, it needs just the right amount of sunlight. If you don’t get enough sunlight, you can starve your body of vitamin D, which can lead to all kinds of health problems. If you get too much sun exposure meanwhile, you can risk exposing it to too much heat and UV rays, which can also cause health problems. Below are some of the risks of too little sunlight and too much sunlight, as well as tips on how to get just the right amount.The risks of too little sunlight
Most people don’t get enough sunlight in the winter. This can particularly be a problem for those living in areas of the world that experience shorter daylight hours. It’s important to get sun exposure every day because it helps our bodies to produce vitamin D. There are a few health problems that can occur as a result of a vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is important for the strengthening of bones. Many people get achey bones and joints in winter as a result of a vitamin D deficiency. This can lead to an increased risk of developing osteoporosis (brittle bones) - and in serious cases rickets (soft, weak bones).
Reduced immune system
Vitamin D also plays an important part in strengthening our immune system. Those that don’t get enough sun exposure can have a lower immune system, leaving them more susceptible to illness and infections. It’s a contributing factor to why so many people get colds and infections in winter.
A lack of sun exposure may lead to depression (sometimes referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD). Vitamin D is believed to play an important part in regulating our mood. Sun exposure meanwhile also helps to trigger serotonin production, making us happier.
A lack of sunlight can also cause fatigue. This is not just because of lack of vitamin D, but also because of the disruption caused to our circadian rhythm (our body clock). Our body relies on exposure to sunlight in order to tell us when it is night and day. If we aren’t getting sunlight during the day, our body may continue to produce melatonin (the sleep hormone) making us feel tired
The risks of too much sunlight
Too much sun exposure is also a problem. It can expose us to too many UV rays and it can cause our body to become overly hot. Below are a few problems caused by too much sunlight.
When exposed to too many UV rays from the sun, those of us with fairer skin can often experience sunburn. Scarring such as tummy tuck scars can also become more prominent when exposed to too much sunlight. Moles, freckles and liver spots can also develop on the skin. There is also a higher risk of developing skin cancer if you regularly expose your skin to too many UV rays.
Exposing our eyes to too many UV rays can also cause problems. You have a higher risk of developing cataracts if you regularly spend a lot of time in direct sun. You may also develop corneal sunburn which can lead to painful inflammation. Both can lead to blindness if not treated.
Heat stroke occurs when your body temperature gets too hot. Symptoms of heat stroke include a headache, dizziness, red skin, lack of breath and feeling of being uncomfortably hot. Heat stroke can be life-threatening if a person does not take time to cool down.
When the body gets hot, it sweats more, causing us to lose a lot of water. If you are unable to hydrate regularly, you may experience dehydration. Those that regularly spend a lot of time in direct sun without properly hydrating themselves can experience regular dehydration, which may lead to other problems like urinary tract infections and kidney stones.
How to get the right balance of sunlight
Like most things, it’s important to find a healthy balance when it comes to sun exposure. Below are some tips on making sure that you get the right amount of sunlight.
Go outside during daylight hours every day
To get your daily fix of vitamin D, try to get into a habit of going outside everyday during daylight hours - even if it’s for no more than 10 minutes. Even on an overcast day, it will still have an impact. If you work indoors all day, use your lunch break as an opportunity to get outside. At the very least, try to open the blinds or curtains in order to let some sunlight into your home.
If you find yourself squinting, wear shades
If you have to squint outdoors because it’s too bright, it’s a sign that you should be wearing shades. Keep some sunglasses with you to protect your eyes from UV damage.
Slap on some sunscreen – especially in summer
If you’ve got fairer skin, it could be worth slapping on some sunscreen in the summer months. This is when UV rays are at their strongest - it may only take half an hour of direct sunlight to cause damage to your skin. Make sure to use the right strength sunscreen and look into options like kids’ sunscreen if you have kids.
Know when to seek out shade
When it’s sunny and hot, make sure to listen to your body. If you’re getting uncomfortably hot or starting to get a headache, seek out some shade. The shade will cool your body down and prevent you from suffering heat stroke.
Take vitamin D supplements in winter
There may be some days in winter when your body cannot get enough vitamin D from the sun. During these months, it could be worth taking vitamin D supplements to make sure that your body is getting enough of this vitamin.
Avoid tanning beds
Tanning beds produce more UV rays than the tropical midday sun. While they can help you get a tan, they can also damage your skin and put you at added risk of health problems like skin cancer. For this reason, it’s best to avoid them altogether and stick to fake tan.