Sunlight is of prime importance for perfect health. Even school textbooks stress this basic fact. But the things we learn from textbooks are usually left behind in the schools. How useful and indeed essential, sunlight is in our life, finds no place in our thoughts. In consequence we invite diseases, generally by wilful neglect of this most healthful gift of nature bestowed freely upon us everywhere, and sometimes by failing to utilize it properly.
The sun showers three types of rays upon us:
(1) Rays of visible (white) light: The white light of the sun is made up of light of seven different colors, as seen in the rainbow. Each color has its specific effect on the body.
(2) Infra-red rays: These rays impart heat. The warmth of these rays is most welcome in the winter. Moreover, these rays relax and soothe the muscles, reduce swelling and relieve pain.
(3) Ultra-violet rays: These rays are of special importance. Vitamin D is produced in the body by the action of ultra-violet rays falling on the skin. Sunlight is in fact the best source of Vitamin D. A deficiency of Vitamin D causes a disease of the bones known as ‘rickets’. Dr. Hess of Columbia University has concluded on the basis of his studies that the incidence of rickets increases during the winter in New York city because of the insufficiency of solar irradiation.
Ultra-violet rays are essential for the healthy condition of the skin too. The prevalence of skin diseases is greater among the more sophisticated people who tend to keep their bodies covered from head to foot.
The tendency to disregard the importance of sunlight is on the increase. Ladies avoid going out in the sun for fear of darkening the skin, or if they do, they use sunshades.
Not only the skin, but the entire body derives benefits from sunlight. Exposure to sunlight improves health and augments the resistive powers of the body.
Sunlight helps nourish the muscles. All athletes regularly bask in the sun, as it helps develop the size and strength of the muscles, and increases the proportion of calcium in them, giving them greater endurance. If the skin is deprived of sunlight by keeping it covered, the muscles tend to weaken and degenerate.
Sunlight promotes the proper formation of teeth, speedy growth of hair, and quick and deep breathing. Blood pressure is brought down, and the kidneys become more efficient. By the action of sunlight, skin diseases are cured, blisters are burst and wounds are healed more speedily. Sunlight maintains and even increases the amount of alkali in the blood.
If a pregnant lady takes sun baths regularly, she gets relief from the usual discomforts of pregnancy such as fatigue, backache, nausea, over-stimulation (or overexcitement) etc., and lactation in the post-parturition period is also improved.
Pliny, the famous philosopher and physician of the fifteenth century, notes in his book that ‘the reason why Rome has been able to develop into a powerful state is that the Romans regularly take sun-baths on their terraces.
As the survey of the renowned physician Dr. R. T. Trail revealed, even common disorders assume virulent forms among people who work in mines or who for other reasons are deprived of sunlight and have to spend most of their time in the dark. When sufficient sunlight is not available, the proportions of fibrin and red blood corpuscles in the blood decrease, and those of white blood corpuscles and water Increase.
Recommendations regarding sun bathing:
(1) Sun-baths should be preferably taken without any clothes on. But if that is not practicable, minimum possible clothes should be worn.
(2) It is desirable that the head be covered and the eyes closed while taking a sun-bath. Do not cover the face, and never look directly at the sun.
(3) The mild sunlight of the morning or the evening has no deleterious effect on the body. It is always beneficial. But it is advisable to avoid exposing the body to the intense sunlight of the midday.
(4) You should begin by exposing the body to the sunlight for 5 to 10 minutes, the anterior parts of the body for half this period and the posterior parts for the other half. Later on, the period of exposure can be gradually increased, as convenient, to about an hour.
(5) A feeling of giddiness, fatigue or discomfort experienced during a sun bath, or a burning sensation in the skin, is an indication of excessive exposure to sunlight.
(6) After sun-bath, a cold-water bath should be taken, I or the body wiped with a piece of cloth wrung out in cold water.