If I told you there was a medication-free way to improve markers in your health like blood pressure, hormone regulation, mood, fertility, anxiety, energy and sleep, is that something you’d want to know more about?
If you’re nodding along, thinking “UMM YAH??”, then keep reading 🙂
It’s no secret that a healthful diet of whole foods, regular physical activity (both strength training and cardio), sufficient high quality sleep, and supportive stress management practices all are key factors that can improve your health.
But there may be even MORE you can do to have a positive impact on your overall health and well-being…and it’s free, simple, and requires no skill!
Soak up that morning sun!
WHY is morning sun so powerful for your health?
For this we need to understand a bit about something called circadian rhythms.
Crash Course on Circadian Rhythms
Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock, essentially running in the background to carry out essential functions within your body (like body temperature, heart rate, digestion and absorption, hormone production, growth, aging, appetite, energy, immune function, and recovery).
We have a central clock in our brain known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). We also have peripheral clocks which are found in each of our cells, plus some tissues and organs (lungs, heart, skin, etc).
The biggest factor that affects our central clock and thus circadian rhythm signaling? Exposure to light!
What this means is that when you are exposed to light at odd hours of the day (or night), it can impact how your body functions. Think of the impact that scrolling IG at 11 PM when you should be sleeping has…..
When your eyes are exposed to light (like morning sun), the body shuts down melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that helps you fall asleep, but it also sets the pace for many of the body’s circadian rhythms. We want melatonin production to be shut down early in the morning – this helps us feel awake during the day, and then be able to fall asleep at night.
Further, this exposure to light in the morning helps regulate other functions and processes.
Functions like hormone production, mood and emotions, appetite and hunger, body temperature, heart rate, digesting and absorbing nutrients, immunity and recovery are all reliant on the signals your circadian rhythm sends out. Many of these are meant to cycle during the day-time hours.
…and this is why prioritizing circadian rhythm is important; it’s more than just “getting good sleep” (though that’s great!). Prioritizing your circadian rhythm regulates the levels of and sensitivity to different hormones, but it also regulates the natural fluctuations hormones go through. This impacts essentially all of the functions listed above.
3 Benefits of Morning Sunlight
- Light is a wakeup call to your pituitary gland! This gland produces and releases cortisol and serotonin, which suppresses melatonin. The brighter your exposure to sun during the day, the more melatonin you produce at night. Throughout the course of the day, serotonin is metabolized into melatonin, making it easier to fall asleep in the evening…and when you sleep better, you wake up more energized, you’re better able to regulate appetite, hunger is easier to control, and even blood sugar and blood pressure markers improve.
- Recent research from NIH found that light affects areas in the brain that regulate mood! Morning sun activates serotonin production which is associated with boosting mood and leads to feeling more calm and focused. And I mean…who doesn’t love the feeling of sun beating down on your skin?? On the opposite end of the spectrum, nighttime light can indirectly affect mood by disrupting sleep, hormone secretion, neuroplasticity, neurotransmission and gene expression.
- Next time you’re feeling anxious, stressed out, or angry — try stepping outside in the sunshine and taking 5 deep breaths. And put that phone up at night, would ya?
- Did you know ovaries (and testes) contain circadian receptors, which control FSH and LH. FSH stimulates maturation of sex cells, when then produce testosterone or estrogen. LH provides the push your body needs to release those sex cells (like in ovulation). One study shows 45 minutes of daily direct exposure to morning sunlight during follicular phase increased FSH and LH. A simple way to support fertility and sex hormone regulation is morning sunlight!
- Not only that, time in the sun helps vitamin D production, and with adequate vitamin D levels, women can produce larger amounts of progesterone and estrogen.
- In some cases, increased exposure to sunlight can boost a woman’s fertility by as much as a third and women may be 35% more likely to have successful IVF treatment.
Why morning sun and not artificial light?
Sunlight contains the full spectrum of light, which is more powerful than an overhead LED or fluorescent light.
Sunlight is also dynamic, meaning that it varies through the day depending on the time. Morning sunlight is different than midday, which is different than late afternoon.
Artificial lighting doesn’t provide the intensity or the mix of colors that natural light does, nor does it change through the day. This limits its ability to provide the cues for synchronizing circadian rhythms.
Put it into practice!
- Ideally you want morning sunlight shortly after waking, without being impeded by windows, glasses, contacts, sunglasses, or sunscreen. You’re not staring directly at the sun, but you’re basking in it that’s for sure!
- While spending as much time as possible outside would be the goal, even as little as 5 minutes on a sunny day can have a positive impact! For cloudy days, ideally we want 20-30 minutes, but anything is better than nothing, right?
- Can’t get outside first thing? Any amount of morning sun is great – even at 9 or 10 am!
- Use that time outside to do what you’d normally do: eat breakfast outside, read a book, do your morning quiet time, pray, journal, walk, stretch, play with your kids, or simply sit and focus on deep breathing.
- I challenge you to do this sans screens/technology for even more benefit and rest.
If you’re interested in having ongoing guidance in how to make simple yet impactful changes like this in your health, join The Redemptive Health Membership! Each month we focus on implementing one new habit to cultivate a holistic approach to health. Membership also includes monthly workout plans, real food recipe collections, trainings, group coaching, and a private community. The best part is you’ll feel less stressed and more refreshed as you make positive changes in your health! Click HERE for more info!