Design for Life: Why We Need the Sun

Taking in the right amount of rays can help your sleep cycle, vitamin D exposure and Seasonal Affective Disorder problems.

| July/August 2002

“If only the sun would come out, I would have the score finished in no time.” —Richard Wagner

In my last column I extolled the virtues of indoor/outdoor living, suggesting that harmony with natural elements is a good way to heal our relationship with life on earth. But is sunlight really good for us?

The sun is the center of our lives. It gives us day and night, seasons, light, heat, colors, wind, plant life, moonlight and a sense of direction and time of day—not to mention awesome sunrises and sunsets. Solar heating, daylighting, and solar electricity reduce our dependence on nonrenewable energy sources. And the absence of sunshine can be debilitating, as any sufferer of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can attest. Yet sunlight can degrade fabrics, overheat our homes, encourage cataracts, and cause our skin to age and develop cancer. We are urged to go outside only under cover of hats, sunglasses, sunscreens, and tightly woven fabrics. What we rarely hear is that sunshine is also an important element of good health.

Why we need sunlight

According to Zane Kime, M.D., M.S., in Sunlight (World Health Publications, 1980), the ultraviolet (UV) portion of sunlight helps our heart, blood chemistry, immune system, energy level, and sex life, while its absence weakens our body’s systems and contributes to disease. Furthermore, we rely on the sun’s daily and annual cycles to regulate such bodily functions as heart rate, blood pressure, hormone levels, metabolism, and immunity. When modern living throws our biological rhythms out of synch with solar rhythms, the results can be fatigue, depression, insomnia, digestive problems, poor coordination, loss of mental ability, and loss of sex drive and fertility.

Sunlight also improves our attitudes and behavior. Studies have shown that students in daylit schoolrooms performed markedly better than their non-daylit peers. Daylit retail stores experienced increased sales, less absenteeism among employees, and fewer employee mistakes. One survey of indoor workers, from warehouse employees to upper management, found a strong correlation between job satisfaction and the amount of sunlight entering the workspace. There’s even a link between sunny mornings and positive stock market returns.

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