How much sun is too much?

Getting some sun is essential for health. We need vitamin D from the sun but once we reach the necessary sunlight quota for the day, more is not better. In fact, more can contribute to the development of skin cancer.

Why is Vitamin D important?

Sunlight helps your body make this nutrient which is important for building strong bones (along with calcium from the diet), blood cells, and the immune system. It is difficult to get vitamin D from food with some oily fish and mushrooms providing only small amounts.

Sunlight and sleep

Sunlight also plays a role in our body’s circadian rhythm- i.e., our ‘internal clock’. Our eyes respond to daylight received to gauge sleep and sleep patterns. Those who receive early morning sunlight may find it easier to get to sleep at night.

Sunlight and mood

Sun may help boost a brain chemical called serotonin. Serotonin is often called the ‘happiness hormone’ due to its mood-boosting effects. In fact, the term, ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ (SAD), has been coined to describe the effect of low levels of sunlight on people living in countries that experience low levels in winter. 

How much sun is recommended
The three main types of skin cancer seem to be caused by too much time in the sun, making adequate sun protection super important.  Too much sun can also make skin age faster= wrinkly, leathery skin, and dark spots.

Those with darker skin naturally produce more melanin which provides some natural protection against the sun. The darker your skin, the more time you can spend in the sun before experiencing the harmful effects of the UV light. In fact, those with darker skin need more sun than those with fair skin to produce adequate Vitamin D.

And don’t forget your eyes- these same run rays that damage your skin may also damage your eyes too!

Recommendations to avoid Vitamin D deficiency vary from 10-30 minutes per day, depending on ethnicity and time of year- those with darker skin and in winter months need to err on the side of more. Other factors that may affect the time needed in the sun include the country you live in, how far you live from the equator and just how much skin you expose to the sun.

So, aim to get out in the sun daily, but use sunscreen/adequate clothing when spending long amounts of time in the sun, and definitely avoid getting sunburnt!

References

https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-sunlight-health-effects
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-d-from-sun

About the author

Cheyenne Holman

Cheyenne Holman

Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD)
Accredited Sports Dietitian
Certified Personal Trainer
Yoga Alliance Certified Yoga Teacher