Sunlight is a remarkable force of nature. It's obvious that we can’t live without its warmth and light, but its importance to our lives goes way farther than that. From regulating our internal clock
to providing us with essential vitamin D
and lowering blood pressure
, to even being used as a therapeutic tool to help depression and other conditions . . . sunlight plays a crucial role in our overall wellbeing.
In this article, we'll dive into some of the fascinating ways sunlight impacts us, and how we can harness its benefits.
Our Bodies Are Designed to Interact with Sunlight
Do you imagine that the rays of the sun stop when they meet your skin or your skull?
For starters, the energy from sunlight passes through the skin to influence the blood
in neonatal jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes that occurs in many newborns. (Neonatal jaundice is caused by a build-up of a chemical called bilirubin, and if the condition persists, it can become serious.)
One of Imperial Rome's ancient physicians advocated putting jaundiced babies out into the sun for healing, but this practice was lost to modern medicine for a long time. It was rediscovered in England when a vial containing a blood sample from a jaundiced baby was accidentally left on the windowsill in sunlight for hours—when the sample came back the blood was normal.
soon confirmed that certain wavelengths of natural light passing through a baby's skin to reach the blood had helped the jaundice to heal. Using light as a jaundice treatment became mainstream in modern medicine.
Sunlight Sets Our Internal Clock
Sunlight also penetrates us through our eyes and enters a pathway to our brain. You may know that we have retinal cells in our eyes that we use for seeing… But our eyes also have other light-sensitive cells that serve a different function. They send electrical signals on a separate pathway in the optic nerve to a group of cells in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN)
. The SCN regulates our internal clock—our circadian rhythms.
Circadian rhythms are the interrelated physical, mental and behavioral changes that occur over a 24-hour cycle in our bodies. This includes our sleep-wake cycle, hormone production, activity of our organs
, and other important bodily functions. Experts say
that sunlight exposure, particularly in the morning, helps reset our circadian rhythms to their proper pattern so we can feel alert and awake during the day, and get restful sleep at night.
Sunlight and Depression
Another remarkable aspect of sunlight is its potential to improve mood and alleviate depression
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that commonly occurs during the winter months when days are shorter and there is less daily sunlight. To overcome this, light therapy
has emerged as a viable treatment option. Light therapy involves exposure to special artificial lights that mimic sunlight, helping to regulate mood and improve the symptoms of SAD.
(Note: Light from the sun includes a wide range of wavelengths of light, and has certain unique characteristics. Normal artificial lights might look the same, but they don’t have the full wavelengths and type of light that the sun does.)
The benefits of light therapy for depression could be because exposure to sunlight stimulates the production of serotonin
, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of well being and happiness.
Our Bodies Perceive Colors
Color is the primary way we perceive the different visible wavelengths of light. Scientists1
have shown that our bodies are filled with light-sensitive cells and proteins that act as switches and amplifiers for different chemical processes, and that different colors of light have different effects on them.
Since natural sunlight includes all of these wavelengths (colors) together, getting sun is like taking a multivitamin with a bunch of different ingredients—our bodies know what to do with the different components.
Sunlight in Ancient Cultures
Ancient cultures knew about the power of sunlight. Though they may not have had modern science, they understood at a deep level what they saw and experienced through their bodies—that the sun was essential to all aspects of life.
The ancient Egyptians worshiped the sun god Ra, believing that their sun God would not only protect them, but that it would heal them as well. This devotion to Ra and the literal worship of the Sun was seen everywhere. Even Ramses the Pharaoh had Ra’s name embedded in his. An ancient Egyptian papyrus text2
describes anointing sick and painful body parts with fluids and then exposing them to the sun for medical benefits.
In ancient Greece as well, sun therapy was taken very seriously. It was called heliotherapy, after Helios, the Greek god of the Sun. The power of the sun was so important to the Romans that they even had “right-to-light” laws guaranteeing people's access to the sun in their homes.
Sunlight Meets Modern Technology as Light Therapy
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the energy in our bodies has access points on the surface of the body. These are called meridian points
, acupressure points, or acupuncture points, depending on the context. Ancient Chinese medical practitioners knew that these points could be stimulated with needles, and that they also responded to pressure or heat.
In modern times, it was discovered that even laser light could achieve the desired effect on the energy body through these points: An American doctor who had observed Chinese practitioners using laser lights on meridian points did a study
that showed this in action. In the study, stroke patients who were paralyzed made significant improvements in their movement when lasers were used to stimulate acupuncture points on the face and other areas.
In addition, laser therapy has been shown
to trigger regrowth of normal cartilage in animals with osteoarthritis, and it’s been shown
to be effective in humans with osteoarthritis as well.
The Sun and You
These are just some of the many remarkable ways sunlight helps us live well. Of course, it's important to note that overexposure to sunlight without proper protection can lead to things like sunburn, premature aging and increased risk of skin cancer. To strike a balance, moderate your exposure and wear sunscreen accordingly.
That said, let's embrace the sun and all of its healing power
, enjoy its benefits and make the most of its positive effects on our health.
Did you know that there are practices you can do even indoors to tap into the incredible energy of the sun? It's called the Solar Body MethodTM. The idea behind it is that we can harness the energy of the sun within ourselves to boost our health and vitality far beyond just the physical.
Check out the book, The Solar Body: The Secret to Natural Healing, the SOLAR BODY™ Method course, and the Solar Energy Circuit Cards in our shop to learn these secrets.
K. Martinek and I.V. Berezin, “Artificial Light-Sensitive Enzymatic Systems as Chemical Amplifiers of Weak Light Signals,” Photochemistry and Photobiology 29 (1979): 637-50.
H. Györy, “Medicine in Ancient Egypt,” in H. Selin, ed., Encyclopedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures, 2nd ed. (New York: Springer, 2008), pp. 1508-1513.