We’ve all heard about the amazing benefits of sunlight exposure that can impact our mood. We’ve also been warned of the sun’s harmful UV rays and are told to protect and cover up. The truth is that both are true. Protecting your skin and eyes from the sun is important, but limited sun exposure, especially during the dark winter months, can lead to depression in many people and can increase the risk of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). That’s why it’s important to have a balance that includes a healthy amount of sunlight.
The Sun and Serotonin
You may have heard of melatonin—an important hormone that increases at night and in darkness to help you sleep. Well, serotonin is another key hormone that helps to stabilize mood and gives the feeling of happiness and well-being. Sunlight triggers the release of serotonin in the brain, so when you have decreased sun exposure, serotonin levels can decrease. Low levels of serotonin are linked to depression, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders (1). When serotonin levels are normal, you tend to feel happier, calmer, and less anxious.
The Sun and Vitamin D
When your skin comes in contact with sunlight, your body produces vitamin D. Although the sun is the best source, you can also get vitamin D from natural supplements and certain foods, such as eggs, fatty fish, and dairy. Whether you get it from the sun or from a supplement, vitamin D plays a very important role in your body. It helps to regulate the immune system and may decrease susceptibility to infection and autoimmunity (2). Vitamin D’s other function is to help absorb calcium, which is the main building block for bone development. If the body doesn’t get enough vitamin D, you have a risk of softer bones or osteoporosis. Vitamin D also plays a role in regulating mood, where low serum vitamin D levels are associated with reduced cognitive function and depression (3).
How to Safely Soak up the Sun
There are ways you can safely get adequate vitamin D from the sun. It is recommended to expose arms and legs to sunlight for about 5-15 minutes three times per week during the summer months (4). The length of time may be longer for those with darker skin because increased melanin may block vitamin D production. Always be sure to put on sunscreen before turning pink.
If you’re not able to get enough sunlight exposure, vitamin D supplements are a great way to fill nutrient gaps. If you’re looking for the best supplements based on your needs, Persona offers a better way. Take our free online assessment to see if you may need vitamin D, along with other supplements that could benefit your health. You can also get vitamin D in our quick and easy Fab 8 Optimal Health Essential Pack. Ready to have the right vitamins for you delivered right to your door? Get Recommendations or See Essential Packs.
- Sansone RA, Sansone LA. Sunshine, serotonin, and skin: a partial explanation for seasonal patterns in psychopathology. Innov Clin Neurosci. 2013;10(7-8):20-4.
- Aranow C. Vitamin D and the immune system. J Investig Med. 2011;59(6):881-6.
- Jorde R, Sneve M, Figenschau Y, Svartberg J, Waterloo K. Effects of vitamin D supplementation on symptoms of depression in overweight and obese subjects: randomized double blind trial. J Intern Med. 2008;264(6):599-609.
- The known health effects of UV. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/uv/faq/uvhealtfac/en/index1.html. Accessed June 3, 2019.
This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information from this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article.