A lot of people with chronic illness find that if they redesign their lives around natural light exposure, their healing progresses at a much faster rate!
In traditional societies, and how we lived most of our evolutionary history, we had a lot of natural light exposure, some studies show a minimum of 3-8 hours a day. Conversely, artificial lights tend to trigger health problems in sensitive people, such as migraines and neurological symptoms. Shift workers have some of the highest rates of chronic disease. Mental health conditions such as depression tend to be very correlated to disrupted sleep cycles and lack of natural light exposure.
Should skin cancer be feared when it comes to natural light exposure? Cancer rates have actually skyrocketed in the modern world as our sun exposure has gone down and sun screen use has gone up. Many studies have shown no correlation or even an inverse correlation between sun screen use and skin cancer rates. The benefits of getting natural light exposure far outweigh the risks, in my opinion. You may have to acclimate slowly to build your sun tolerance if you have avoided it for many years. Ideally, sunglasses, sunscreen, and even hats should be avoided except in situations where you are getting excessive sun exposure and are at risk for serious sunburn.
Vitamin D is an obvious reason to prioritize natural sun exposure. Vitamin D is essential for bone and tooth health, immune health, mood and energy. You can get some vitamin D from foods, and we see these foods being prioritized in societies that live in the far north without a lot of sun exposure. Vitamin D comes in fatty animal foods- it is a fat soluble vitamin and needs to come along with animal fat to be properly absorbed. Seafood, egg yolks, and dairy are excellent food sources of vitamin D.
The connection between chronic disease and even acute infection and vitamin D deficiency is well established. Do people have low vitamin D levels and therefore become more susceptible to chronic and acute disease, or does vitamin D get depleted when you develop chronic or acute diseases? It may be both, and a concerning feedback loop. If you currently have
Optimizing your circadian rhythm is also an important outcome of natural light exposure. We are diurnal (daylight based) creatures who run on a 24 hours cycle stimulated by light and dark. Our various bodily systems are stimulated to produce hormones, neurotransmitters, digest foods, detoxify, and engage in many other functions at the proper time related to our light exposure. When this rhythm becomes “off” due to a disrupted sleep wake cycle, chronic disease can develop. Many people with low levels of hormones and neurotransmitters are not getting enough sunlight exposure and therefore not being triggered to produce these happy chemicals.
Another interesting function of sunlight exposure? Our good bacteria is stimulated to grow when our skin is exposure to sunlight! This is why sunlight exposure is so important when you are working to heal the gut.
Sunrise, morning light, and sunset are the best times to get exposure to natural light for balancing the circadian rhythm. These times of light exposure will help trigger our hormones and neurotransmitters properly at the proper times so that you get sleepy at night and energized during the day.
Between 10-2 is the best time to get sun exposure for vitamin D levels. Just be mindful about getting burned- pace yourself to build up a tolerance for sun exposure at this time of the day.
Here are other steps to helping improve your light exposure:
-Wear blue light blocking glasses when on electronics during the day
-Turn lights on dim or use red/orange lights in the evening
-Try to turn off TV and other electronics at least an hour before bed. Switch to reading, drawing, stretching, or other crafty or relaxing projects.
-Make sure your room is pitch black for sleep: black out curtains and maybe even a sleep mask is helpful
-An ideal sleep schedule to aim for is 10pm-6am as a sleep schedule