Do you ever feel like leaving life?

Between happiness and winter depression: How the sun affects you

Jogging through the park in the morning, after work at the lake and at the barbecue on the weekend - in summer we could uproot trees. Sun rays apparently give us a lot of extra energy. But when the days get shorter, the lack of light can lead to winter depression. Why does the sun have such a big impact on us?

Sun makes you happy. When summer comes, the body runs at full speed: We need less sleep, but are still fitter and in a better mood. We can really use the energy boost, as a summer day is twice as long as a winter day. Now there is so much to experience! In fact, human body functions are perfectly adapted to the seasons. Because in the past it was vital to sow and reap when the climate allowed, full of zest for action. This still has an effect today, because our bio-rhythm has hardly changed despite light pollution in the cities that never get completely dark.

How light affects the body and health

We couldn't live without light. It is the most important indicator of our internal clock and helps to keep the body's rhythms in sync. Light signals to the cells: "Let's go, do something!" While the darkness heralds the recovery phase. The hormonal system in particular is sensitive to light. The body releases less melatonin in summer. This hormone ensures that you get tired and prefer to retire home. The less of it gets into your cells, the fitter you are.

"Sunlight is a real mood booster."

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Sunlight is often underestimated. Because it not only tells your body when it's bedtime, but it's also a booster for your mood. So it gets the brain to release endorphins and serotonin. The result: You feel right at home.

By the way, it's not just the length of daylight that affects your mood. It is also important how intense the light is and what color it is. According to a small study from 2010, blue lighting makes the brain more responsive to emotions. The study participants were also more alert and alert. Yellow and red colored light are said to have similar effects. Violet, blue or green tones, on the other hand, have a calming effect.

But not only your psyche reacts to light. Your body also needs it to make vitamin D. The sun vitamin is made in the skin when you are outdoors. It ensures that your bones and muscles are strong. The extent to which diabetes, respiratory diseases and rheumatism are related to an undersupply is still unclear, according to the board of directors of the German Society for Endocrinology.

When a lack of light makes you sick

If you work in a hospital and do night shifts regularly, you know the importance of sunlight. If you sleep during the day, your body will recover much worse. Depressive moods, fears and a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases are also often related to shift work, according to the German Federation of Trade Unions. For thousands of years, the body has been polarized to the day-night rhythm dictated by the sunlight. It's not that easy to move.

If the body cannot produce enough vitamin D when there is a lack of light, another disease may develop: symptoms of what is known as osteomalacia are bone pain and muscle weakness. But it is very rare these days. A vitamin D deficiency also increases the risk of osteoporosis, dementia and infections. However, a real vitamin D deficiency is rare today. Because if you fill up your storage in summer, you can also use it in winter, according to the board of the German Society for Endocrinology. Another consequence of the lack of light is far more common: winter depression.

What to do with winter depression

Do you know that? In autumn, one rainy day follows the next and you don't feel like anything. You would love to pull the covers over your head and stay at home all day. But it doesn't help - you have to get up. There can be many reasons for the bad mood and fatigue. One is the change of seasons. When the light goes down, it doesn't just put you in the mood. 25% of Germans have seasonal mood swings, around 5% really suffer from the winter blues, according to psychiatrist Dieter Kunz. Although the winter blues can be explained biologically, it is by no means a fate.

Bright light is used as standard therapy in the fight against winter depression. You can also bring it home: every morning, sit in front of a daylight lamp with 10,000 lux for half an hour. This will bring your day-night rhythm back into balance and lift your mood. And not just in autumn and winter: According to a study from 2015, light therapy also helps with depression that has nothing to do with the cold season. According to a Cochrane review, however, there has not yet been enough research into whether light therapy is also useful to prevent winter fatigue. The only thing that helps is: try it out yourself.

You can support the effect of the daylight lamp by going outside more often in winter and ensuring that there is good lighting in the office. Turn on more lights, including indirect lights and skylights. By the way: if you don't suffer from winter depression, you can still use the light specifically to stay fit.

How you can use light in a targeted manner

Have you ever paid attention to the color temperature in your apartment? That is actually not entirely irrelevant. According to the Fraunhofer Institute, warm light at 3,000 K has a cozy and relaxing effect. Cold light colors with 5,000 K have a stimulating effect and create a good working atmosphere. It is less suitable in the evening because it can make you sleep poorly. Practical: If you use lamps whose color you can regulate, you have perfect lighting at any time of the day.

In summer, it is also sufficient to be outside for 6 to 10 minutes to soak up enough sunshine for vitamin D formation. It will take a little longer if your arms and legs are covered, or if you are using sunscreen. Even at cooler temperatures, 25 minutes are enough. In any case, make sure that you only go outside without sunscreen at low temperatures. Because every sunburn increases the risk of skin cancer. So find out in advance which sun protection factor you should use and how often to turn brown instead of red.


Jeanette Stowasser

Jeannette is an online health editor and has been writing articles, e-books and white papers on a wide variety of medical topics since 2011.

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