Is Sunbathing Good for You? Benefits, Side Effects, and Precautions
Sun – the star at the centre of solar system is on which our mere existence is dependant upon. Imagine a day without sunrise and sunlight, our lives would topsy-turvy and come to a screeching halt. Perhaps that is the reason why a majority of ancient religions have always believed in worshipping the Sun God and even today, it is a common sight in India to find people offering water to the Sun, daily in the morning.
Sun or Solar Deity is a major God not only in Hinduism, Buddhism, Chinese mythology, Greek but also in Christianity. In India, Sun is known as Surya and the harvest festival Sankranti/Pongal that comes in January coincides with the Uttarayana Punya Kala in Hindu Panchangam, where Sun changes his His position towards North from the South. It actually signals the start of Vernal Equinox that would conclude in Autumnal Equinox, in June every year.
Sun has an equally important place in world religions too. The word Sun is derived by its Latin name Sol or Greek name Helios. In Christianity, December 25 is regarded as Sol Invictus as Sun moves 1 degree north, foreshadowing longer days. Romans believed that the three days following December 21, are the darkest days of the year where Jesus (the sun) dies and remained unseen for three days, and was later declared as the birthday of Jesus Christ by the Pagans, as it aligns with their ancient festival where they celebrate the birth of the Sun.
And if your mother or grand mother asked you to spend some time in your balcony or on the terrace before 9 in the morning, they have a reason for it. Sitting under the morning sun may sound just like another random home remedy but it is a well proven ancient solution for getting your daily dose of vitamin D.
In western countries, the same practice has a rather sophisticated name – Sunbath. It is not uncommon for westerners to lie down by the swimming pools or by beach sides, soaking under the sunlight and they too have umpteen reasons for doing it.
Call it Athpasnaanam in Sanskrit or Sun Bath in English, this ancient-modern practice offers you a wide range of health benefits.
Sunbathing In Ayurveda:
Indian ancient medical practice Ayurveda strongly endorses sunbath for all age groups, but with certain cautions. Referred as Atapa Sevana – it is mentioned as one of the varieties in Laghan Therapy and found an extensive mention in the 22nd chapter of Charaka Samhita.
When and How To Do Sunbath?
- Winter is the best season to bask in sunlight, either early in the morning or evening. During summers during it before 7 am.
- Always cover head with a wet cloth. Walking under early morning sun or warm heat just before evening is equal to sunbath.
- Get dressed in light clothing for better absorption of vitamin D.
- Make sure to avoid excessive exposure as harsh sunrays may lead to hyperpigmentation, skin allergies, sunburn, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, extreme thirst etc.
What Are The Benefits of Sunbath?
Increases Vitamin D:
One of the main super benefits of basking in early morning sunrays is to get your daily dose of vitamin D naturally. Human body produces vitamin D in response to sun exposure and despite being a tropical country, most Indians suffer from deficiency of this crucial component which plays a major role in maintaining the bone health, stronger teeth, shielding the body from a wide range of diseases and infections like flu, etc. Various research suggests that people with good amount of vitamin D are at the low risk of diabetes and hypertension.
Lowers Blood Pressure:
High blood pressure is a chronic condition that is affecting even youngsters these days. It is often caused due to high stress, poor dietary habits and dormant lifestyle practices. If not addressed on time, elevated blood pressure can lead to heart related ailments, affecting various vital organs. Doctors suggest sunbathing at least for 15 minutes daily for maintaining blood pressure. It is explained that sunlight when comes into contact with nitric oxide present on the topmost layer of the skin, widens blood vessels, improving blood circulation thus bringing down blood pressure down.
Improves Cognitive Function:
Serotonin is an important chemical crucial for uplifting the mood. Spending time under the morning sunrays triggers the production of serotonin, improves cognitive function and aids in better functioning of the brain. If you are one of those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), depressed and spending more time indoors seek help from the sun right away. Do stand under the morning or evening sun and bask in all its glory for feeling cheerful again.
Slows Down Alzheimer’s:
Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disorder often affecting people aged above 60. It worsens with the age as the patient develops severe dementia or forgetfulness. As it progresses, the person cannot even recognize the family, friends and would find it extremely difficult converse or perform even daily activities. Doctors believe that a sunbath not only reduces the symptoms of Alzheimer’s but also prevents depression.
Restores Skin Health:
Acne, eczema, psoriasis, fungal infections are quite common in all age groups. Traditionally, it has been a practice in Indian households to apply oil on the hands, face and legs and sunbathe for at least 15 minutes to improve natural moisturization, strengthen bones and also for curing various skin diseases. Even today, doctors suggest exposing babies born with jaundice to morning sunrays to bring it down bilirubin – the yellow pigment produced in the body after the breakdown of red blood cells.
One of the main reasons behind breast and cervical cancer is deficiency of vitamin D. Human skin can produce vitamin D in copious amounts when exposed to the direct sunlight. So, it is extremely important to spend time under natural sunlight daily without applying any oil or lotion on the body for preventing different types of cancer.
However, if exposed to harsh and stronger sun rays, it may lead to skin cancer on the parts like hands, feet and face.
Averts Type 2 Diabetes:
Diabetes is perhaps the most prevalent chronic condition in the world, today. Again, vitamin D is responsible for producing insulin and the deficiency of this component leads to insulin resistance ultimately leading to type 2 diabetes. If diabetes runs in your family and worried about getting it, ensure basking in sunbath daily for improving your levels of vitamin D and preventing type 2 diabetes.
Sunrays aid in fighting various autoimmune disorders including psoriasis and fighting infections. Make sure to spend 10 to 15 minutes in early morning sun for fighting various viral infections, up your vitamin D and boost immunity.
Triggers Weight Loss:
Do you know sunlight can curb hunger pangs and make you feel fuller? And that is the reason why it is always suggested to take a walk or play a rigorous game during morning hours not only for burning calories but also for preventing unnecessary cravings.
Aids In Good Night’s Sleep:
If you are suffering from insomnia and struggling to catch a nap, it’s time to get that glorious sunbath. Ensure spending some time in the evening sun as it improves mood, makes you feel energetic, positive and healthy making you get good night’s sleep.
What Is The Best Time To Go For Sunbath?
Well, before you go for sunbath understand a little more about the sunrays. The ultraviolet rays are UVA, UVB and UVC of which only UVB rays are capable of triggering vitamin D produce in your body. This vitamin is produced only when sunrays fall directly on the skin.
Overexposure all three types of UV rays can lead to skin cancer.
Doctors suggest going for sunbath before 9 am daily for about 15 minutes and you can change timings based on the location and season.
Stand in the sun only as much as you can take the rays. Do not over do it.
Traditional doctors recommend basking under the sun on an empty stomach, even without drinking water for better results.
Can A Pregnant Woman Go For Sunbath?
Vitamin D is extremely important during pregnancy and doctors suggest spending time under morning sunlight for 10 minutes daily for the pregnant women. However, make sure you do not get exposed to harsher sunrays as it may cause instant dehydration and loss of electrolyte balance. However, talk to your doctor on what is best for you.
Is Sunbathing Bad?
Any practice if done in moderate amounts will always show positive results. Sunbathing too comes with certain amounts of risk including heat rash which may leave the skin red and itchy. Sunburns if not treated can lead to blisters and may cause melanoma or skin cancer. In rare cases, an individual may get Polymorphic Light Eruption (PMLE), causing severe itchy red bumps on the skin, especially on legs and arms.
Precautions To Consider:
If you are planning for a sunbath in the early morning sun, enjoy it! But as the day progresses you may have to take certain precautions for safeguarding your skin.
- Always apply a SPF30 sunscreen 15 minutes before stepping out.
- Lather it fully on face, feet, and hands.
- Carry a water bottle if you are planning to do yoga or workout under the natural sunlight.
- Do not overdo it. Take breaks and spend time under shadow or stop it after 15 minutes.
Sunbathing is an ancient practice that has been recommended by traditional medical practitioners for its umpteen number of health benefits. One of chief benefits of basking in morning sunrays daily is to get ample amounts of Vitamin D, a crucial nutrient that supports a plethora of bodily functions. Doctors believe that spending 15 minutes daily under sunlight improves mood, cognitive abilities, beats insomnia besides aiding in weight loss, preventing cancer and type 2 diabetes.
However, long exposure to harsh sunrays can cause skin cancer. UV rays can tan and damage the skin cells causing various skin issues. If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor before soaking up in sun light as it may cause instant dehydration.
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