For many of us, it’s not easy waking early in the morning. It’s especially tough if you burn the midnight oil watching Netflix because it’s easier to watch another show rather than get up and go to bed. Yet, rising with the sun is one of my strongest pieces of advice for optimal well being because there are just so many health benefits of
What are the health benefits of morning sun?
Firstly, let’s consider why our biology is wired to rise early (even if it doesn’t feel that way when your alarm clock goes off first thing!).
All of us has a circadian rhythm, which is the internal clock that tells our body when it should be awake and alert and when it should be tired and sleeping. You might call it your ‘body clock’.
Now, our circadian rhythm is affected by a number of factors but one of the biggest is our light environment.
As explained by Sleep Foundation, when it’s dark outside, our eyes naturally signal to our brains that it’s time to feel tired. Our body then releases melatonin, which is the chemical which makes our body tired and puts us to sleep.
Likewise, when it’s light outside, our circadian rhythm tells us we should be awake.
Morning light sets off a cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters which make you feel good.
It makes complete sense then, that the closer we align to the natural light of day, the healthier we will feel.
The science of morning sun and why it’s good for health
Light is made up of a number of wavelengths from blue to red, as well as some invisible ones: infrared light and ultraviolet light.
Whilst we only ever seem to hear about the importance of Vitamin D which is made by UVB, morning sun is actually incredibly important because it’s saturated in infrared and blue light. There is no UV light first thing in the morning – neither UVA or UVB.
Sunlight is 42% infrared light. It’s important. It stimulates collagen, increases bone healing and heals wounds. It’s why red light therapy is all the rage right now.
Not only that, infrared light is proven to be anti-ageing; it reduces wrinkles and scars. That’s not what you usually hear about sunlight is it!
Infrared light, along with cellular water, is crucial when it comes to charging your body and creating energy. Think of your body as a car – the sunlight is petrol and cellular water is your engine.
If you barely expose yourself to natural sunlight, you won’t charge.
As if all those health benefits of
morning sun weren’t enough, it might surprise you to learn that infrared light around sunrise preconditions our skin to protect us from the UVA and UVB that comes out a bit later.
Catch enough infrared light early in the morning and you’re less likely to burn later in the day.
Those of us that rise early and spend at least three minutes exposed to the early morning sun will enjoy all of the above health benefits and ultimately increase our longevity.
Natural blue light is a good thing
Morning blue light is what wakes you up by raising your cortisol and is activated when blue light hits your pituitary gland. It sets your circadian rhythm for the day.
Blue light has disappeared by sunset so you can fall asleep and melatonin then comes out to play. Light is the switch that controls this cortisol-melatonin see-saw. Interestingly, whilst melatonin is released at night, it is made during the day by morning light.
“I thought blue light was bad for you?” I hear you say.
Nature says “there is a MASSIVE difference between the blue light that falls out of the sky and the blue light on your screens or LED and energy-efficient light bulbs”. The difference? Blue light in nature is always balanced by regenerative red light and other wavelengths.
Remove the red (as in screen and energy-efficient light bulbs) and the remaining artificial blue light sets off a cascade of health effects that can result in everything from myopia (short-sightedness), macular degeneration (blindness) to obesity, diabetes, brain degeneration and hormonal issues in general.
UVA raises its head a little bit later in the morning. It is critical in making Nitric Oxide (that same magical substance we release when we exercise). Here are some of the magical things it does: it increases your energy, your memory and it’s anti-aging.
UVA light also triggers the production of serotonin and dopamine and releases endorphins along with a small opiate effect. The end result? We feel good.
by Una Phelan