4 Ways Basking in Morning Sunlight Improves Your Health

4 Ways Basking in Morning Sunlight Improves Your Health

Daily routine, known as dinacharya in Sanskrit, is a vital part of an Ayurvedic lifestyle. Making intentional choices about what we do and when we do it allows us to leverage the energies of the doshas during the distinct times of the day. 

This is known as attuning to our circadian rhythm, and it's key to overall wellness.

A morning routine is particularly important because it sets the tone for your entire day. You may already know that it's best to rise early, scrape your tongue, drink water, do abhyanga, get your exercise, and bathe. But did you know that it's also important to get outside early in the morning?

Early in the morning is ideal, whether you're catching the sunrise or taking in the glow shortly afterwards. 

The Power of Early Morning Sunlight

The moment the sun rises is a sacred transition according to Vedic philosophy—a moment in which we experience the space between night and day. And that space gives rise to physical, neurological, and psychological healing.1

Sunrise is a vital time of day because a special kind of light is available to us at this time. 

That light is infrared—the wavelength that is just outside the lowest frequency light on the visible spectrum (red light). We're able to soak up lots of red and infrared light when the sun is low on the horizon. 

That's because at that time, the sun's rays enter the atmosphere at an angle, scattering the shorter wavelength blue and ultraviolet (UVA & UVB) light and leaving those longer red light wavelengths intact. 

It's a special time to be outside because the blue and UV light that is filtered out in the early morning (and at dusk) is more damaging to our skin, while the long wavelength infrared light we get at this time has a myriad of benefits to our health.2

Let's discuss a few of those benefits now! 

4 Benefits of Soaking In the Morning Light

1. Reduces the Effects of Aging 

One of the most surprising benefits of red light is that it can reduce the effects of aging, including reducing the appearance of wrinkles and scars. That's because it stimulates the production of collagen, the protein in the body that's responsible for elasticity and cellular renewal. 

Being exposed to the shorter wavelength light in the early morning also prepares and protects the skin from the more damaging UVA and UVB rays that peak around midday.3

2. Rejuvenates the Eyes

Basking in the morning sunlight for just three minutes can actually improve your vision by boosting retinal mitochondrial energy production—and its effects can last up to a week.4 The key is to do this with no sunglasses on. 

In addition to supporting your ocular health, allowing red light in through your eyes can actually support your mood. That's because there are photoreceptors in your eyes that communicate with the brain's pituitary and pineal glands, working to support hormonal and emotional regulation.5

3. Supports Healing and Regeneration

Infrared light encourages the regeneration of tissues and can speed wound healing. One way it does this is by stimulating the production of a vital molecule called nitric oxide. This key molecule is important for cardiovascular health because it works to prevent blood from clotting, regulates blood pressure, and improves circulation, all of which ensure more oxygen is delivered to the tissues in need.6

In addition, infrared light improves the action of the mitochondria within cells, which triggers the growth and repair of new muscle cells and tissues.7 The result is often an increased rate of healing, as well as reduced muscle discomfort and joint stiffness.

4. Increases Melatonin

Getting adequate exposure to morning sunlight supports the secretion of another vital natural compound called melatonin. The importance of this tiny molecule can hardly be overstated. It is well known that melatonin is key for getting a sound night's sleep, as it helps our brain power down. 

But melatonin's role in the body goes well beyond helping us get to bed.

Research suggests that its importance includes regulating cortisol secretion in response to stress, forming and protecting the bones, supporting the gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems, producing antioxidant properties linked to anti-aging, and even showing oncostatic, or cancer preventing, effects.8

Tips and Inspiration for Waking Up Early 

If you're not already a morning sun worshiper, let all of these benefits be an inspiration for you to wake up early and get out into the light. Hop out of bed and make your way out doors for your movement practice. 

Fill your lungs with the crisp morning air as you enjoy the serenity of this special time of day. 

This is truly the best time to access red light, as while it is technically available at sunset as well, there may be more dust particles in the air by evening which can interfere with soaking up all the benefits. 

As with most things, the best sources are natural—so while there are plenty of infrared saunas out there, getting yourself into nature first thing in the morning is ideal, if that's accessible to you.

Of course, hopping out of bed in the morning means heading to bed earlier at night, so be sure to turn off your screens—with their activating artificial blue light—by 9 p.m. and close your eyes by 10 p.m. each night.

It's also important to note that some shorter wavelength (blue and ultraviolet) light is essential to the body, as it stimulates the production of Vitamin D. Vitamin D has an important function in increasing calcium and phosphorus absorption from food and plays a crucial role in skeletal development, immune health, and blood cell formation.9

So in addition to getting outside early, try to take a midday walk when the sun is high in the sky, knowing that your exposure to infrared light in the morning will actually protect you from the damaging UVA/UVB rays.10

Humans are brilliantly designed to respond to light. 

The more we pay attention to the cycles of light around us, the better we are able to live in alignment with the cosmic cycles and the more we're able to optimize our health—which impacts how we're able to show up in the world. 

This practice is at the heart of the science of life and keeps us shining from the inside out.  

About the Author

Sierra Brashear, MA, CAP

Sierra is the co-founder of Cultivate Balance, an Ayurvedic practice and educational platform that specializes in resilience and intentional lifestyle design for purpose-oriented...

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1Chaganti, V. ., & Cheruvu, M. . (2023). Vedic Methodology That Highlights the Benefits of Sunlight between Twilight and Sunrise/Sunset. Research and Analysis Journal, 6(5), 01–08.

2Douillard, Dr. John. “The Biological Benefits of Being Outside at Sunrise.” John Douillard's LifeSpa, June 21, 2023. https://lifespa.com/ayurvedic-lifestyle/circadian-rhythm/red-light-therapy/.

3Jie Shen, John Tower. (2019) Effects of light on aging and longevity. Ageing Research Reviews, Volume 53, 100913, ISSN 1568-1637.

4Shinhmar, H., Hogg, C., Neveu, M. et al. (2021) Weeklong improved colour contrasts sensitivity after single 670 nm exposures associated with enhanced mitochondrial function. Sci Rep 11, 22872.

5Giménez, Marina Cecilia, Michelle Luxwolda, et al. (2023) "Effects of Near-Infrared Light on Well-Being and Health in Human Subjects with Mild Sleep-Related Complaints: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study" Biology 12, no. 1: 60.

6Panagiota Iordanou, Efstathios G. Lykoudis, et al. (2009) Effect of Visible and Infrared Polarized Light on the Healing Process of Full-Thickness Skin Wounds: An Experimental Study. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery, 27:2, 261-267.

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8Tordjman, Sylvie; Chokron, Sylvie, et al. (2017) Melatonin: Pharmacology, Functions and Therapeutic Benefits, Current Neuropharmacology, Volume 15, Number 3, pp. 434-443(10)

9Juzeniene A, Grigalavicius M, Juraleviciute M, et al. (2016) Phototherapy and vitamin D. Clinics in Dermatology 34: 548-555 (doi: 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2016.05.004).

10Daniel Barolet, François Christiaens, Michael R. Hamblin. (2016) Infrared and skin: Friend or foe, Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology, Volume 155, Pages 78-85, ISSN 1011-1344.