The Sunny Side of Life – How Sunlight Affects Cravings, Energy and Sleep

There is nothing quite like getting out into the great outdoors!

We are designed to be in nature, to breath fresh air and to get sunlight on our skin and into our eyes. While it’s important not to overdo it in terms of skin health, we do need adequate sun to maintain a healthy body and mental state.

We all know that sunlight is essential for Vitamin D which helps your body absorb and use Calcium. The recommendations are to expose large areas of skin for short periods daily.

What is less commonly known is the effect a lack of sunlight can have on your cravings because of its role in regulating Serotonin and Melatonin.

Serotonin is the hormone that makes us feel happy and content with the world. Melatonin is the hormone that helps us to go to sleep and stay asleep. These two are always in an inverse relationship meaning that when one is high the other is low.

If we don’t boost our serotonin levels especially on first waking in the morning and throughout the day, we can end up feeling tired and low for no apparent reason. Low serotonin commonly leads to strong cravings.

Remember that serotonin helps us to feel calm, relaxed and happy, so when it drops we can feel like we just need ‘a little something’ to give us a boost.

We also instinctively know that carbohydrate rich foods help to boost serotonin. So before we know it we can be halfway through an unplanned, unneeded snack that just leaves us feeling more tired and low!

If you tend to have cravings in the afternoon or evenings, there are two things you can try.

One is to get outdoors soon after sunrise.

A five minute walk around the block will set you up for a great day as the sunlight diminishes melatonin and causes serotonin levels to rise. If leaving home is unpractical for you, try eating breakfast outdoors; your back doorstep is fine. At the very least, throw back the curtains and look at the sky to really let your body know a new day has started.

Secondly, get outdoors for regular breaks during the day. A total of two hours a day (wearing sunscreen) is recommended to balance serotonin levels. Every bit counts though, so if that amount seems daunting to you now, just see if you can add five or 10 minutes at moments during your day.

At work – why not suggest standing or walking meetings and take your colleagues outdoors? Most likely you’ll be more creative and better at problem solving and thus have a more effective meeting, while also boosting everyone’s energy.

Getting outdoors is also essential to ensure optimal sleep.

To improve sleep, spend some time outdoors when the sun is highest (i.e. between 11am and 2pm.) Take your sunglasses off to allow sunlight into the retina of your eye. Five minutes of sunlight daily helps to regulate your internal body clock assisting a deeper, more restorative sleep at night.

A sound nights sleep is the strongest foundation to staying energised and full of vim, vigour and vitality. The good news is that what you do during the day sets you up for optimal sleep, so you have huge influence over the quality of the sleep you get.

Get back to nature

Many of us live and work in built-up areas with mostly man-made surroundings. Think of that last time you went for a bush walk, played in a park, or went camping. You might remember how great it made you feel.

There are however, often plenty of green spaces available to us, so even if it’s not possible to completely ‘go bush’, find a serene setting and enjoy some relaxing time in the sun. Make a point of fitting time in nature into your day and don’t discount the benefits of this.

Doing so during your work day will make you even more alert, focused and productive, so your boss with thank you for it.

Sunlight has amazing effects on your mood and overall wellbeing.

When we are happy we tend to make better choices in all areas of our lives. These include food and exercise choices but also those in our relationships, the way we communicate and ultimately how we live our lives!

Consider how much sun you currently get daily and plan a strategy to increase this. Embrace the day every morning this week! Note your mood and energy levels. Take breaks during your day to head outdoors and see how it makes you feel immediately after and also over the long term.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it so it can reach more busy people and help them improve their health and happiness. With thanks in advance.

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