Sunlight – a powerful tool improving our health

Photo: Kai Tomasberg

Here comes the sun… the Beatles were singing once. I like to listen to the song, especially in spring. And I agree, here comes the sun again, there is no doubt about that.

Sunlight changes everything…

Too much of it is dangerous and too little can be dangerous too. We all depend on the sun. For me personally, the sun symbolises life – I feel more alive and motivated when I can have my morning coffee in the sunlight. I like to think of Socrates who went up the hill every single morning to greet the sun. It was the most important part of his daily routine. I wouldn’t mind to follow his example but the problem is that the sun is not always there…

We may even say that the sun possesses some magical power over us. In mythologies it was seen as a symbol of life, light and power. Helios was the personification of the Sun in Greek mythology, a handsome titan driving a golden chariot across the sky. The sun was worshiped in Korinthos and especially on the island of Rhodes which is also called the island of Sun. Annual gymnastic tournaments were held to honour Helios and around 280 B. C., the famous Colossus was dedicated to him – a ginormous statue standing at the entrance of the island’s main harbour. The statue was listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and sank into the waters after a strong earthquake.


We can track back to Hippocrates who already acknowledged the benefits of sunlight. Sunlight activates the natural production of vitamin D in our bodies which is necessary for a strong bone system, good skin and a better immune system. 10 minutes of daily exposure to mid- day sunlight is already enough to produce the vitamin naturally. Too little sun can negatively affect the mood, and create a feeling of sadness and depression – SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

The modern spas offer a special treatment to fight the effects of SAD, called light therapy. People in Northern countries experience SAD every year, also we here, in Estonia. There is a lack of light from the end of October until February, March. The continuous darkness has a negative impact on one’s emotions, thoughts and the overall energy level. It affects not only people but all living creatures.

People diagnosed with SAD can be treated by taking an artificial light bath to extend their exposure to light on short days. The artificial light needs to shine directly into the eyes so that it can hit the bottom of the retina (the light- sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eyeball). This reduces the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone). The first response to this therapy occurs in 2 to 4 days, but it takes several weeks before symptoms are relieved.


Heliotherapy (also known as phototherapy) started in the 19th century while fighting the lupus vulgaris, a skin disease caused by the tubercle bacillus. The exposure to the sun helped to kill the bad bacteria and raise the level of vitamin D. Special retreats and homes were built to offer the special sunbaths for healing purposes. As the sun is not always there, artificial lamps with ultraviolet light were developed, simulating natural sun light. The Finsen lamp was the best- known, developed by Niels Ryberg Finsen, who won the Nobel Prize for his invention in 1903.

Read further: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1903/finsen-bio.html

The spring, a new cycle of life is starting, so let us celebrate it fully! It is time to go out now, to enjoy the sun and nature as much as possible; to bathe and dive into the colourful world around us letting the senses become fresh and active again!

Kai Tomasberg, lecturer of Spa Management