Sunlight And Mental Health

About sunlight and mental health

Good health doesn't just happen on its own - it takes effort, a healthy lifestyle, and the occasional test and checkup. We hear a lot about the dangers that might come from receiving too much sun. While it is true that sunburns and skin cancer are very real concerns, and so using an SPF is vital, it is also true that there are some benefits associated with getting sunlight. The sun has many benefits for your health and exposure to sunshine may help your physical and mental health.1 

What is the connection between sunlight and mental health?

Your mental health is significantly influenced by the external environment, including things like sunshine.  Sunlight has a direct impact on mental health by influencing Vitamin D synthesis, serotonin production, and the circadian rhythm. Adequate exposure to natural sunlight is essential for maintaining good mental health, while lack of sunlight can contribute to mood disorders, depression, and other mental health issues.

Mental benefits of sunlight

Mood boosting 

It's common knowledge that prolonged exposure to the sun's rays can be harmful to your skin. But you probably weren't aware that striking the perfect balance might have a significant impact on how you feel overall. Both sunlight and darkness can cause your brain to secrete hormones at specific times. Serotonin is thought to be released more by the brain when it gets more sunlight. Serotonin is known as the happy chemical and helps people feel calm and in control. If you don't get enough sun, your serotonin levels can go down. Seasonal pattern depression/ seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is more likely to happen if you have low levels of serotonin.  This is a type of depression that comes on when the seasons change.2 

Better sleep quality

The brain is stimulated to produce another hormone known as melatonin, when exposed to darker lighting at night, and is what helps you fall asleep. Getting some sunlight in the morning can help you sleep better at night. This is because sunlight plays a role in the process of setting your circadian rhythm and the serotonin produced, while in the sun, can help you fall asleep faster. This can help you feel better, think more clearly, and keep your immune system strong.

Reduced likelihood of eating disorders

Researchers also found that the number of people with eating disorders goes up when there are less daylight hours.

Vitamin D

Getting Vitamin D from the sun is another way to reduce inflammation in the body. Researchers have found that inflammation is linked to tiredness, anxiety, depression and withdrawal. Vitamin D also controls how fast cells grow and is difficult to obtain enough from food alone. The best natural source of vitamin D is the sun, and you only need 5 to 15 minutes of sun exposure a few times each week to see a change in your mood.3 

How much is enough?

In general, scientists believe that sun exposure ranging from five to fifteen minutes, or up to thirty minutes (if you have dark skin), is enough to get the most out of the sunlight without creating any health problems. If you apply sunscreen, you can stay in the sun for a lot longer. To find out what is best for you, speak with your doctor.1

Things to Remember

Too much of a good thing can turn into something harmful. This is especially true when talking about sunlight. Unfortunately, prolonged exposure to the sun may be harmful to one's health.

These dangers can be avoided with the help of the following tips:

  • Avoid using tanning beds as they do not provide the same health advantages as sunbathing outdoors 
  • Use broad spectrum sunscreens with an SPF of at least 30
  • Wear clothes and sunglasses that block UV rays 
  • Keep in mind that getting a tan is not necessary in order to receive the sun's beneficial effects on your health
  • Don't spend more than 20 minutes in the sun without protection


Sunlight is good for your mental health in many ways as it has a direct impact on mental health by influencing Vitamin D synthesis, serotonin production, and the circadian rhythm. Adequate exposure to natural sunlight is essential for maintaining good mental/ physical health, while lack of sunlight can contribute to mood disorders, depression, and a lack of sleep.  However, sunlight can't fix everything, and it's very important to stay safe by getting enough water, staying out of the sun during the hottest times of the day, and putting on enough SPF. If you need more help with sun safety, talk to your doctor.


  1. Taniguchi K, Takano M, Tobari Y, Hayano M, Nakajima S, Mimura M, et al. Influence of External Natural Environment Including Sunshine Exposure on Public Mental Health: A Systematic Review. Psychiatry International [Internet]. 2022 Mar 1 [cited 2022 Nov 18];3(1):91–113. Available from:
  2. Sansone RA, Sansone LA. Sunshine, Serotonin, and Skin: A Partial Explanation for Seasonal Patterns in Psychopathology? Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience [Internet]. 2013 [cited 2022 Nov 18];10(7-8):20–4. Available from:
  3. Allister R. Five ways to reinforce your mental wellbeing. Veterinary Record [Internet]. 2019 Jul [cited 2023 Aug 30];185(2):63–63. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Hana Hailu

Master's degree, Brain Science, University of Glasgow

Hana Hailu is an accomplished academic with a strong foundation in the field of brain science and pharmacology. She is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Brain Science from the prestigious University of Glasgow (2021-2022). Prior to this, Hana earned her Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) in Applied Pharmacology from Queen Margaret University, where she studied from September 2017 to September 2021. With her deep knowledge and dedication, Hana is poised to make significant contributions to the world of neuroscience and pharmacology. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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