Sunshine contributes to Better sleep and lessening of Alzheimer's symptoms !

Sunshine contributes to Better sleep and lessening of Alzheimer's symptoms !

Sunshine contributes to Better sleep and lessening of Alzheimer's symptoms !

The big, beautiful sun that climbs into the sky every morning can be just as good for your health as it can be damaging. In fact, some experts now believe that the sun's rays can be more beneficial than harmful, provided you get the right amount.

Sunlight may help to reduce high blood pressure, a major factor for heart attacks and stroke. Moderate exposure to the sun’s UV rays appears to help lower blood pressure.

Researchers found exposure to sunlight alters the level of nitric oxide in the skin, dilating blood vessels and thus easing hypertension. Small amounts of nitric oxide are transferred from the skin to the circulatory system, lowering blood pressure. As blood pressure drops, so does the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The effects of sunshine on blood pressure and cardiovascular disease will vary according to season and latitude. Higher levels are observed in winter and in countries that are farther from the equator, where ultraviolet from the sun is lower.

Avoiding excess sunlight exposure is critical to prevent skin problems, but not being exposed to it at all, out of fear or as a result of a certain lifestyle, can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Among people with normal blood pressure, the effect of ultraviolet light is modest, But for those with high blood pressure, the benefit is more significant. Avoiding sunlight or using sunblock constantly out of a fear of skin tumors may cause a new risk factor for heart disease. This isn’t to say that you should sunbathe or use tanning beds in hopes of lowering blood pressure, however. What is recommended is spending a moderate amount of time outdoors.

Even dermatologists, who worry about the sun's ravaging effects on the skin in the form of melanoma, age spots and wrinkles, acknowledge that we could all use a little sun exposure. "Being out in the sun boosts our mood, improves sleep, and promotes vitamin D production," says James Spencer, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. "There's no controversy about that." Still, he emphasizes, the operative word is little when it comes to exposure. "The majority of people aren't putting on sunscreen every time they step outside, and that 5 or 10 minutes a day of casual exposure is probably all you need."

There are many other benefits to small daily dose of sunlight, including:

· Better sleep. Natural daylight helps shut off your body's production of melatonin, a hormone produced at night that makes you drowsy. This can help you maintain a normal circadian rhythm, so you're more likely to feel tired at bedtime when it's dark outside. Going outside for 15 minutes at the same time each day, preferably in the morning, gives your body a clear signal that it's no longer night. Also, forgo the sunglasses for at least a little bit of time, since this will enable sunlight to pass unhindered through your eyes to the brain's pineal gland, triggering the gland to stop releasing melatonin.

· Happier outlook. A type of depression called seasonal affective disorder affects some people during the winter when they don't get enough sunlight. Experts now believe that sunlight has widespread mood-elevating effects, possibly because the "happy" hormone serotonin increases when nights are short and days are long. In fact, psychiatrists often recommend that depressed individuals go outside in the sun for 30 minutes a day. You can also slather on all the sunscreen you want and still reap the mood benefit.

· Protection from autoimmune diseases. Exposure to UV radiation appears to suppress an overactive immune system, according to an April report published in Environmental Health Perspectives. This could explain why exposure to UV rays may help with autoimmune diseases like psoriasis and lupus; one recent study also suggests it might help alleviate asthma.

· Lessening of Alzheimer's symptoms. Elderly Alzheimer's patients exposed to bright lighting during the day—from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.—got better scores on a mental exam, had fewer symptoms of depression, and lost less function than did those exposed to dim daytime lighting, according to a study published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers attributed the improvement to more regular circadian rhythms, which are thrown out of whack when advanced dementia sets in.

So take a walk outside today, and feel yourself getting more out of life.

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