In this article, we want to shine a light, pun intended, on the benefits of sunlight in the morning. Due to our busy and hectic lifestyles, we often forget to make time to connect with nature and how good it feels to start a new day with some morning sunlight. But it is not only the “nice” factor that should make us prioritize morning sunlight. There are several scientific facts that prove the benefits of morning sunlight for our physical and mental health.
Published in Mental Health · 10 min read · Oct 05, 2023
Published in Mental Health
10 min read · Oct 05, 2023
Waking up to the sunlight and letting it hit your face for a few minutes just hits differently and can set the tone for the rest of your day. Do you remember the last time that you embraced the sun right after waking up? Chances are high that you associate enjoying morning sunlight with either a vacation or your days off during summer.
Sure, this also depends on where you live and how frequently the sun shines there, but generally, we should make it a goal to embrace morning sunlight whenever the sun blesses us with her divine rays.
So, let’s explore the benefits of morning sunlight.
Morning sunlight, and natural light in general, has been proven to be beneficial for our vitamin D & B12 production, circadian rhythm regulation, immunity, productivity, mood, and sleep. 
Even the Ancient Greeks and Romans knew about the life-giving source of sunlight and attributed it to Apollo, the god of sun and light (among many other things). Nowadays, modern science dove deep into the beneficial effects that sunlight has on us.
We from CARE believe that the natural benefits of morning sunlight can provide you with an increased quality of life, and it is worthwhile to prioritize spending time in the morning sun. In our tailored blood analyses, we can often see the positive impact that regular and moderate exposure to sunlight can have on our client’s well-being.
Therefore, we’ll give you a more profound overview of those sunlight benefits and explain them individually in the following paragraphs.
Wake up to direct sunlight and profit from early morning sunlight benefits! Sounds good. But what are those benefits exactly?
If we think of the benefits of sunlight in the morning, the one that comes undoubtedly most often to mind is that of vitamin D. Most people already know that sunlight plays a vital role in our health because the contact of sun rays with our skin leads to the natural production of vitamin D in our bodies. 
Vitamin D is an important nutrient that has various functions in our body, like regulating cell growth, muscle strength, and the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the gut. The minerals, calcium, and phosphorus are vital for keeping our bones strong and healthy. 
If our body cannot produce sufficient vitamin D, our body cannot utilize calcium. This compromises the health of our bones and increases our risk of developing conditions like osteoporosis or suffering from fractures. 
Interestingly enough, the benefits of morning sunlight are not only of a physical nature but also play a role in our mental health.
Have you ever spent several hours in artificial light and felt drained of all your energy or got into a bad mood? Spending time in hospitals, airports, or government buildings where windows are not always present might be a good example of this situation.
Despite the circumstances why we spend time in such buildings, the predominance of artificial blue light and the absence of natural sunlight can have depressing effects on us. 
Exposure to sunlight, on the other hand, is associated with a good and uplifting feeling. Indeed, natural light has been proven to improve our mood and, consecutively, our mental health through different biological mechanisms.
Firstly, being exposed to sunlight stimulates the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in our brain that is associated with feelings of well-being and happiness. Secondly, sunlight triggers the release of endorphins, our body's natural “feel-good” chemicals. When we produce endorphins, this reduces stress and anxiety. 
We already learned that sunlight exposure facilitates the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin. Since vitamin D deficiency has been linked to mood disorders like depression, sunlight and its connection to our natural vitamin D synthesis play an important factor in mood regulation. 
At CARE, you can have your blood analyzed to get a detailed overview of your blood levels. Your vitamin levels, mineral levels, and numerous other biomarkers can give you a more profound understanding of your fitness, wellness, and overall health and the influence certain blood levels might have on your mood.
But the advantages of morning sunlight on our body go even deeper than mood regulation – sunlight influences our very core.
Exposing ourselves to sunlight in the morning or any time of the day helps regulate our circadian rhythms. You probably haven’t heard of this term yet if you did not study biology or medicine. Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle, and the term stems from the Latin phrase “circa diem,” which translates to “around a day.”
Our circadian rhythm is often referred to as our “internal clock,” and this clock regulates our sleep-wake cycle, alertness, hormone release, body temperature, and digestion. 
Sunlight exposure plays a crucial role in regulating our circadian rhythm because it serves as an external cue that helps synchronize our internal body clock with the natural day-night cycle. Morning sunlight helps to ensure that our sleep-wake patterns and other processes in our body are aligned with our external environment. 
What would you say if we told you that you can manipulate your sleep quality by consciously exposing yourself to morning sunlight?
Sunlight is authoritative for better sleep through its influence on our serotonin and melatonin production. Exposure to natural light during the day increases our serotonin levels, which, in turn, helps regulate our mood and alertness. 
Exposure to morning sunlight helps suppress melatonin production during the day, which promotes wakefulness, while decreased exposure in the evening allows our melatonin levels to rise. This aids you in the initiation and maintenance of your sleep. A harmonious regulation of serotonin and melatonin contributes to improved sleep quality and a well-aligned sleep-wake cycle. 
When we're exposed to natural light after we wake up, this helps us regulate the natural rise in our cortisol levels. Cortisol, what was that again? Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by your adrenal glands. Our adrenal glands are small glands located on top of each kidney.
Some of you might know that cortisol is often referred to as the “stress hormone” because it plays a central role in our body's response to stress. What most don't know is that cortisol also has several other important functions, like our metabolism and circadian rhythm. 
An increase in cortisol helps you to wake up, increases your alertness, and provides you with the energy you need to start your day – and to keep going during the day. The cortisol production follows a diurnal (daily) pattern, with your cortisol levels typically peaking in the morning and gradually decreasing throughout the day. 
This helps you maintain a state of alertness and energy during daylight hours and gradually winds down your body towards the evening, preparing it for rest and sleep. 
You see, the benefits of morning sunlight are numerous. Morning sunlight exposure can also be beneficial for our immune system by regulating the production of vitamin D, which helps modulate immune responses and reduce the risk of autoimmune diseases. 
A recent study has found that exposure to both UVA and UVB radiation can also have direct immunosuppressive effects through the upregulation of cytokines and increased activity of T regulatory cells that remove self-reactive T cells. These mechanisms help prevent us from autoimmune diseases. 
Sunscreen and exposing yourself moderately to the sun are key to letting your skin benefit from sunlight.
But, after many years when scientific research focused on the detrimental effects of sunlight on us, science has proven that moderate sun exposure is beneficial for our skin.
Sunlight enables your body to synthesize vitamin D, and vitamin D plays a crucial role in your skin health. The sunshine vitamin regulates skin cell growth, the repair of damaged skin, and the maintenance of the skin's barrier function. Sunlight exposure can also have a beneficial impact on skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and acne due to its anti-inflammatory effects. 
However, always remember to strike a balance, as excessive sun exposure can indeed lead to skin damage, premature aging, and an increased risk of skin cancer. 
Sunlight exposure benefits blood pressure through a process involving the skin's production of nitric oxide in response to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Nitric oxide (NO) is a molecule produced naturally in our body, primarily by cells that line the inner surface of our blood vessels. 
But how does Nitric oxide relate to your blood pressure?
Nitric oxide relaxes and widens our blood vessels, which leads to an increased flow of blood. This dilation of blood vessels helps regulate blood pressure and ensures adequate blood supply to your tissues and organs, thereby reducing your risk of hypertension and cardiovascular issues. 
By now, you probably have a pretty good idea of how broad and extensive the benefits of morning sunlight are. But how can you make the most of them, and how can you balance the sunlight benefits against potential sunlight damage?
CARE is happy to let you know how you can make the most of your time in the morning sun without risking your skin health. First and foremost, always consider your skin type, your geographical location, which time of the year you expose yourself to the sun (summer or winter makes a great difference), and what time of the day it is.
Our Insider Tip: You can check your weather app to see what UV-Index you are currently dealing with, and as a rule of thumb, you should always stay out of the midday sun.
Your ideal duration of sun exposure will vary depending on your skin type, geographical location, and the daytime, but generally speaking, spending about 10 to 30 minutes in the morning sun will help you seize the benefits of sunlight.
But should you go into the sun without wearing sunscreen?
Recent studies have indeed indicated that sunscreen can reduce the sunlight benefits you receive in terms of vitamin D production. Sunscreen is designed to block or absorb the ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun that can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer. However, in doing so, it can also inhibit our skin's ability to produce vitamin D, in theory, as UV rays are essential for vitamin D synthesis.
Still, the evidence of our current knowledge indicates that the risk of sunscreen inhibiting vitamin D synthesis is too low not to put on sunscreen. 
Therefore, always put on sunscreen with clean and safe ingredients, and you are ready to immerse yourself in the golden morning sun.
If you consider your skin's sensitivity, your geographical location, and the time of day for your time in the sun, you can take all the measures to be safe.
For example, if you have fair skin and live somewhere with intense sunlight (like Florida, California, Texas, Australia, Spain, or Italy), you will need less time in the sun than those with darker skin to benefit from morning sunlight. Generally, you should avoid midday sun under any circumstances.
If you live in the colder regions of Northern America, Canada, or Northern Europe and expose yourself to the sun in Spring, Winter, or Autumn, you can bask for 10–30 minutes in morning sunlight without having a bad conscience. 
Always remember to reap the benefits of morning sunlight while minimizing the risk of sunburn and skin damage.
Sunlight in the morning and its benefits are undoubtedly a useful natural resource.
But what is the best time to seize the benefits of sunlight in the morning?
The best time to spend time in the sun to benefit from sunlight is typically within the first two hours after sunrise, which is often referred to as the “morning golden hour.”
During this time, the sunlight is less intense, and the UVB radiation necessary for vitamin D synthesis is more prevalent. Rise with the sun, and you’ll benefit from the early morning sun rays.
Please remember to adapt your sun exposure to your individual (skin type) and local conditions to make the most of the early morning sunlight benefits without risking sun damage. At CARE, we are delighted to guide you through the future of preventative healthcare and help you in detecting vitamin D deficiencies and illnesses early on. With us, you get easy access to understand your health status and take charge of it.
All of our analyses, treatments, and consultations are performed by medical professionals certified in the US.
Elena is an enthusiastic Health Coach and blog writer at CARE, with a passion for holistic medicine and health. Previously, Elena worked for almost five years as a coach leading retreats, workshops, and seminars. These included mind-body therapy: breath work, meditation, and massage; as well as energy force therapy: reiki, and qi gong; and third expressive therapy: movement, writing and support groups. Elena shares exciting articles on the blog, on the topic of where the alternative and traditional medicine intersect with Western Medicine. Elena is also the driving force behind the CARE community. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, traveling to remote locations and dancing. You might also see her on the lake of Zurich as a coast guard. Join her on her journey to learn more about health and discover the world of preventive medicine! Visit all articles written by Elena!