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Sunlight therapy for depression

It is quite difficult to understand just how much of a positive impact exposure to light has in terms of one’s health and feelings of…

It is quite difficult to understand just how much of a positive impact exposure to light has in terms of one’s health and feelings of well-being.

Sunlight is often labeled as something to avoid as it is blamed for causing skin cancer. While it is true that overexposure to sunlight can be a contributor to melanoma, a lack of sunlight is associated with reduced cognitive function among depressed people

Why is Exposure to Sunlight Important?

The positive effects of sunlight have been known since as far back as Ancient times and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) expert Dr. Damien Dowding suggests that the sun has an influence on every aspect of both mental and bodily functioning.

Even in animals seasonal behaviours are apparent such as squirrels who hibernate during the winter months. Plants also require sunlight in order for photosynthesis to take place. Sunlight is essential to all existence, and yet, its importance is often ignored particularly today, as most people work indoors – a direct contrast to the beginning of the 20th Century, when over 70% of Americans worked outside.

How Does Sunlight Impact the Body?

The brain requires light in order for brain chemical and hormones to be properly balanced which impacts quality and amount of sleep. Lack of exposure to light reduces both melatonin and serotonin production with the latter resulting in some people suffering from depression symptoms and/or seasonal affective disorder or SAD.

Some researchers have suggested that light is also a factor in the immune system and sunlight also produces metabolic effects similar to that associated with physical training. In the past, tuberculosis sufferers were sent high up in the Alps to receive regular light therapy. More recently studies have shown a link between cancer mortality rates decreasing when sufferers are exposed to increased amounts of sunlight.

A main aspect of sunlight is in the production of Vitamin D which is made in the skin by ultraviolet light and is essential for bone development and also helps the body in absorbing calcium which in turn is also important in terms of nerve functioning and blood clotting.

Implications of Sunlight Starvation

Lack of sunlight was recognised as far back as 1822 as a factor in people developing rickets and alarmingly those working night shift are twice as likely as those who work during the day to suffer from heart disease in addition to lowered immunity.

One of the main conditions recognised as a direct consequence of lack of exposure to sunlight is that of SAD which usually responds well to light therapy involving the patient sitting next to a light-box for around two hours a day typically during the months from October to March.

While sunlight helps to regulate the hormones serotonin and melatonin, it has also been shown to affect brain blood flow. This has in turn been linked with cognitive functions.

Caution should always be practiced when exposed to the sun, especially in mid-afternoon and during the warmer seasons. Certain medications can cause increased sensitivity to sunlight, and also the anti-depressant herb St. John’s Wort (if you have fair skin), so it is important to be aware of this beforehand.

You should get at least one hour of daily, direct exposure to the sun every day to alleviate depression. To avoid overexposure it is better to do this in the earlier hours of the day.

Culled from: www.alternativedepressiontherapy.com

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