Let's start with Vitamin D! Vitamin D is actually a hormone, critical to muscle and bone health, reducing inflammation, immune function and so much more. The majority of the American population suffers from Vitamin D deficiency, but New England is hit especially hard because of our long winter months with minimal daylight and low UV. Although supplementation in the winter months is beneficial, the best way to get vitamin D is actually through direct exposure to the sun.
Our bodies directly interact with the the sun's UV spectrum, absorbing the light through receptors in our skin to create a chemical reaction resulting in the production of vitamin D. When we cover our skin with outer layers and/or sun screen, we are blocking the vitamin D producing sun rays. This essentially means we are preventing ourselves from ever producing our own vitamin D. No wonder why we are all so deficient!
The Real Danger: Your Circadian Rhythm
Our natural circadian rhythm is guided by the solar cycle through sunlight's signals. Our sleep, wakefulness, and hormones are all influenced and controlled by circadian rhythm. If we lived solely in nature, our circadian rhythm would naturally sync with the light cycle. We would rise and set with the sun! This is important because signals from light trigger hormonal and energetic responses in our body.
The sun's spectrum is made up of different wavelengths of light. Longer waves that carry more heat are part of the red light spectrum whereas shorter, more energetic waves are part of the blue light spectrum. We get natural doses of blue light from the sun throughout the morning hours, which signals our body to wake up. The levels of blue light decrease as the day goes on until sunset, which is made up of mostly red light. This red light triggers our body to increase melatonin levels and prepare for sleep. Similarly, levels of UV irradiation change throughout the day, with late morning and afternoon having the greatest amount. The UV portion of the spectrum stimulates production of hormones critical to our circadian processes, particularly melatonin and dopamine. By wearing sunglasses, we block the sun's critical messages and our body can't effectively tell time. The result is mismatched circadian signaling, which manifests as mitochondrial inefficiency, hormonal imbalance, metabolic disorders and cognitive dysfunction.
In order to further optimize our light environment and circadian alignment, we should also focus on blocking the blue light found in our electronics and indoor lighting. Because humans were not meant to live in an environment of blue light 24/7, when we do, it causes a mismatch in our circadian signaling. This mismatch from constant blue light stimulation is a major contributor to many modern medical diseases such as psoriasis, cancer, hormonal imbalances, insomnia and more.
Now when you hear people talk about the dangers of the sun and protecting yourself from overexposure, remember what types of the light spectrum are truly dangerous: blue light at the wrong circadian signaling.
What's the Solution? Build Your Solar Callus!
Our ancestors did not have access to these sun "protections" several hundred years ago, yet they were able to adjust and truly benefit from the sun thanks to building a solar callus. To build your own solar callus, make sure to get outside before 10am daily. The best results come from waking up and getting outside with no technology or glasses to watch the sun rise. This "primes" your body to be able to take in and utilize the sunlight through out the rest of the day. You'll notice yourself becoming tanner because when the solar frequency spectrum found in morning reaches your eyes, it produces the hormone melanin, that protect our skin against sunburn.
When we wear sunglasses (or any glasses for that matter!) we are blocking the full spectrum of the sun from reaching our eyes (and actually increasing our chances of burning!). The best way to protect yourself from harmful light is by wearing blue blocking glasses while indoors and while using technology. For daytime use, wear glasses that block around 60% of blue light and for night time glasses with 100% blue block.
In recent history, humans have come to fear the sun but the sun has been part of our survival and evolution for thousands of years. Natural light from the sun not only helps improve our eye sight, it also improves our brain health with hormonal circadian signaling.
Protect your eyes the right way: wear glasses indoors! The sun's light is not our enemy, but over exposure to artificial blue light is. Add blue light blocking glasses to your night time routine to help reduce the effects blue light has on your hormones and reconnect with nature's rhythms. Many companies advertise blue light blocking glasses but the majority of them do not block enough of the spectrum to be effective. Some of the top blue light blocking brands are: Ra Optics, Lucia Eyes, and Blue Blox.