Depression warning: Why natural light may be the best medicine this winter
(NaturalHealth365) Over the past few decades, most public health messages regarding the sun focus on the “dangers” of spending too much time in the sun. After all, we know that too much exposure to UV radiation has the potential to cause skin cancer, but there are so many (other) factors that contribute to your cancer risk.
On the other hand, a much greater disease risk is created by a lack of ultraviolet radiation exposure. In other words, failure to get enough sunlight leads to vitamin D deficiency – which can result in musculoskeletal disorders and a higher risk for life-threatening cancers and autoimmune diseases.
Simply put, a lack of natural light exposure – especially during the winter months – has been recognized as a significant contributor to seasonal affective disorder (“SAD”) … while exposure to more sunshine has been found to make us feel much better.
Light therapy is the go-to treatment for SAD
As the days grow shorter and darker during the winter months, individuals who have “SAD” usually develop a specific group of symptoms. They may have a tough time waking each morning, they eat more, lose energy, gain weight, and have difficulty concentrating.
In addition, relationships begin to suffer, and they often end up feeling depressed. These symptoms often stick around through the winter months until the days get longer and they’re able to get more sunshine.
Light therapy, which shows the importance of getting natural light, has become the go-to treatment for SAD – although other remedies may be required to improve ones health condition. In fact, between 60-80% of people suffering from SAD benefit from routine light therapy, although the amount of light needed for treatment may vary.
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Most people begin to respond within just a couple days of treatment.
Other health benefits of getting plenty of natural light this winter
Beyond treating SAD, getting plenty of natural light this winter – and all year long – offers a variety of health benefits. One key benefit is vitamin D synthesis, which is essential since vitamin D can be synthesized in your skin by a reaction that’s actually triggered by sunshine exposure.
Vitamin D insufficiency contributes to poor bone health and many other illnesses. There’s even substantial evidence to support the idea that getting enough natural light to boost vitamin D levels may lower your risk of multiple sclerosis. Natural light also helps regulate key hormones in the body responsible for nighttime sleep and overall mood.
There’s also a connection between low levels of vitamin D and metabolic syndrome, with studies showing that people with type 2 diabetes and other facets of metabolic syndrome have a high prevalence of low levels of vitamin D. Individuals with heart disease often have vitamin D deficiencies, and researchers have even found a potential link between exposure to natural light and the prevention of high blood pressure.
The key is to make sure you have a balanced approach to sunlight exposure. While excessive UV exposure continues to be a problem, lack of exposure to natural light brings with it negative effects, as well.
So whether you’re feeling depressed during the darker winter months or you want to boost your overall health, more natural light may be just what the doctor ordered this winter.
Sources for this article include: