6 Ways Natural Light Can Make You Healthier (and How to Get More)
Apart from being the key ingredient in taking the perfect Insta picture, a sales pitch for homes and an added bonus for office employees, natural light can help you stay healthy in more ways than you’ve ever imagined.
Most people prefer natural light as opposed to the artificial one coming from fluorescent bulbs. In fact, the Harvard Business Review revealed in a recent study that over 1,600 surveyed people considered “access to natural light and views of the outdoors” the most important perk when it came to their home or workplace environment.
If you also prefer the sunlight to the detriment of artificial light and do everything in your power to enjoy it as much as possible, keep it up. If you’re happy with artificial light, these impressive health benefits of natural light might change your mind and turn you into an avid sun-seeker from now on. Let’s take a look!
Health benefits of natural light
It boosts vitamin D
Exposure to sunlight facilitates the absorption of vitamin D, an essential vitamin that keeps your bones strong and healthy, boosts your immune system, reduces the risk of heart disease, weight gain, and various types of cancer. After all, it’s not called the “sunshine vitamin” for no reason.
Just how important is vitamin D? Well, according to a 2010 study, this nutrient plays an important role in for more than 200 genes in our bodies. Dr. Andreas Heger from the MRC Functional Genomics Unit at Oxford, one of the lead authors of the study revealed that the study “shows quite dramatically the wide-ranging influence that vitamin D exerts over our health.” What’s even better is that it doesn’t matter where you get your vitamin D from, whether it’s by bringing the sunlight indoors or going out in the open. What matter is to get the most of it on a daily basis.
It improves sleep
Natural light can have a significant impact on your sleeping patterns. Your body’s inner clock informs you when it’s time to wake up and time to sleep, depending on the light, or darkness, you’re exposed to. Too little or too much exposure to one or the other can send your circadian rhythm spiraling out of control, jeopardizing your precious ZZZs.
Various studies, including a 2014 research involving office workers, found that the more natural light translated into 46 more minutes of sleep every night. And when you have trouble sleeping, every minute counts!
Sleep-related information you might find useful:
- Want to Fall Asleep in Seconds? Follow These Expert-Approved Techniques
- 8 Natural Sleep Remedies That Will Help You Sleep Better
- Top 9 Best Foods and Drinks That Help You Sleep Better
It prevents seasonal depression
Autumn is many people’s favorite season. Whether it’s because it’s associated with more family time, traditions, pumpkin spice and whatnot, more than 33 percent of Americans declare themselves in love with the autumnal climate. On the other hand, for about 6 percent of the American population, autumn opens the door for a serious depression known as the seasonal affective disorder. SAD is a mood disorder that people experience when seasons change, associated with the disruption of the circadian rhythm and lower levels of serotonin and melatonin caused by lack of sunlight.
“People who are dreading the winter are not able to enjoy all these fall holidays and all the things that the broader population loves,” says Kathryn Roecklein, PhD, at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Psychology. Exposure to sunlight can increase the serotonin levels and improve your mood, boost your energy and improve your mental health and wellbeing.
It benefits vision
What happens if you stare directly at the sun? Nothing good, that’s for sure. But just because staring at it directly can result in eye damage, it doesn’t mean that the light created by the sun is not beneficial to your vision. In fact, the best light to live and work in is natural light.
According to researchers, natural sunlight boosts the production of dopamine, a hormone and a neurotransmitter with an important role in healthy eye development. Soaking up in the sun for at least three hours every day can turn your eyes from dull and lifeless to glowing and healthy.
On that note, check out Eye Health: 6 Effective Tips to Maintain Healthy Vision and watch out for important warning signs: Eye Problems? Here’s What It Says About Your Health.
It reduces health risks of fluorescent lighting
“Computer screens, smartphones and fluorescent light can cause eye strain that can lead to permanent eye damage. Natural light has been shown to lower the risk of nearsightedness in children and young adults by helping the eye produce dopamine, which aids in healthy eye development,” revealed a North Carolina State University research.
The more you deprive yourself of natural light and spend in the unnatural light of fluorescent bulbs, the higher the risks for associated side-effects such as migraines, eye strains and increased stress. Not to mention that broken compact fluorescent light bulbs contain small amounts of mercury that could get released in the air and potentially affect human health.
It helps with weight loss
It might sound too good to be true, but according to a recent study that links weight to light, 20 or 30 minutes of sun exposure in the morning can help you ward off extra pounds. According to the authors of the study, higher levels of serotonin (activated by natural light) curb cravings and suppress appetite.
In addition, a study conducted in 2014 and published the journal Diabetes revealed there’s an important connection between ultraviolet (UV) radiation and obesity, in that it suppresses levels of hunger and reduces symptoms of metabolic syndrome.
How to get more natural light
Given all the health benefits provided by natural light, it would be a shame not to take advantage of it more. Here are a few ways to let the sunshine in and enjoy more of its benefits:
- Use mirrors to reflect the sunlight inside your room and brighten it up.
- Keep blinds raised throughout the day or simply remove heavy curtains to allow the sun in.
- Use smart colors for your walls: white is the most reflective color but pastel colors are also efficient in reflecting the sun rays.
- Get out as often as possible. Exercise outdoor, take a nice morning walk or perform some chores around the house.
- Supplement with vitamin D if your levels are low (talk to your doctor and ask if supplementation might be right for you)
- Move your desk closer to the window or workout at the gym, by the window.