What Happens To Your Brain With A Lack Of Sunshine?

Too much exposure to the sun is harmful to one's health, but a lack of sunshine is not good either. It's common knowledge that there are benefits to sunlight exposure. Sunlight increases the brain's ability to release serotonin — a naturally-occurring hormone that affects digestion and mood, among other things (via Very Well Mind). A lack of sunshine exposure can lead to dropped levels of serotonin, which may result in major depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is a common occurrence for people who live in locations that don't experience much sunlight, especially during the winter months.

Some of the symptoms of SAD include low energy, concentration difficulties, and mood swings. This is the reason why medical experts suggest using a light therapy box at home to fight the symptoms. According to Healthline, a light therapy box is able to emulate the effects of natural sunlight, which can stimulate the brain to produce serotonin. The effect of sunshine on the brain was researched in Australia conducted by Gavin Lambert, per Web MD. In total, 101 healthy males participated in the study. The results showed that regardless of different seasons, the brain's production of serotonin correlated to the amount of sunlight. The brains of the subjects produced more serotonin on sunny days compared to days with overcast weather.

Further studies show the effects of a lack of sunshine

A separate study was also conducted to determine whether sunlight exposure affects the cognitive function of individuals. This study had 16,800 participants aged 45 and older, and they consisted of both depressed and non-depressed people, as reported by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The results of the study showed that those who received less sunlight exposure had impaired cognitive function, and the conclusion was that a lack of exposure to sunlight increased the chances of having cognitive impairment.

Aside from affecting the brain, lack of sun exposure can also lead to other health issues, such as weakened bones, skin problems, and even weight gain. As Dr. Clare Morrison explained to Metro, "A lack of Vitamin D not only affects you physically but also mentally, without enough sun exposure, your serotonin levels can dip and low levels of serotonin are associated with a higher risk of major depression and SAD."