JUN 18, 2017 10:50 AM PDT

How Long Can You Live Without Sunlight?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

We've all been warned about the harmful link between the sun's ultraviolet radiation and skin cancer. But did you know that avoiding the sun completely could bring a different source of health problems?

Lack of sunlight is directly linked with vitamin D deficiency. Sunlight is a critical component in the synthesis of vitamin D, which is vital in helping the body absorb calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc. Prolonged vitamin D deficiency can make children especially prone to rickets, a disorder characterized by weak bones and teeth.

In addition, lack of sunlight could cause other issues related to the body's circadian rhythm. All animals have a built-in circadian rhythm - a biological cycle that responds to environmental stimuli. One of the most important cues that affects the circadian rhythm is daylight. Light stimulates the release of hormones and metabolites that makes us more alert and reactive, increasing our energy and muscle strength. By contrast, darkness stimulates hormones, such as melatonin, that makes us tired and sleepy. Studies have shown that when this cycle is disrupted, people can experience alterations in their mood, cognition, along with a host of metabolic processes.

Watch the video to learn why a healthy dose of sunlight can give a boost to your mood and health.
About the Author
I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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