If you’ve ever had surgery, you’re familiar with the groggy scene when you wake up after your operation. You’re disoriented. You struggle to remain alert.
You find yourself in a recovery room that is lit the same way many hospital rooms are lit – in a diffuse light where you can’t tell whether it’s day or night.
Well, according to University of Colorado researchers, the first thing you should see when you wake up from surgery is daylight – or at least simulated daylight. Here’s the important reason why…
University of Colorado researchers say that exposure to sunlight when you’re coming out of anesthesia might help keep your circadian rhythm on track and lend a boost to the healing process.
This isn’t news to natural healers who’ve relied on sunlight as a healing therapy for centuries.
In looking over the research into the healing powers of sunlight, I found an article in a medical journal from the 1800s that observes how “the sunlight cure” could be used to treat a variety of diseases and conditions.1
And you know what? I also found ongoing studies underway now that show this ancient “cure” should be used more often.
“The Sunlight Cure” Treats Heart Attacks
For example, according to the researchers at the University of Colorado who have investigated how light affects the body, sunlight – or some other form of intense light – could even be used to treat heart attacks.
“(Our studies) suggest that strong light, or even just daylight, might ease the risk of having a heart attack or suffering damage from one,” says researcher Tobias Eckle, who teaches at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “For patients, this could mean that daylight exposure inside of the hospital could reduce the damage that is caused by a heart attack.”
According to Dr. Eckle, exposure to sunlight helps the heart by keeping the body’s circadian rhythm – its 24-hour cycle of physiological processes – in the right phase to promote healing. The body’s circadian clock is generally controlled by proteins in the brain. But proteins in other organs, including the heart, also play a role in this process.
The Colorado researchers note that a circadian protein in the heart called Period 2 is a vital component in the way the body can fend off damage caused by a heart attack.
When you suffer a heart attack, the heart gets cut off from all or most of its oxygen supply. Without access to oxygen, the heart muscle has to change how it fuels its pumping action. It switches from its usual energy source – fat – to glucose. Unless it can make this shift quickly and effectively, cells in the heart die and the heart muscle can suffer extensive damage.
The Colorado analysis shows that strong daylight activates Period 2 in ways that boost the metabolism of glucose in the heart so that the destruction from a heart attack is minimized.2
Other research also shows that daylight has epigenetic effects in the brain that help protect the heart. In this case, a gene called PER2 in a part of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus is activated by bright light and, through a complicated series of events in the body, it helps protect the heart from damage.3
In addition, the tests that the Colorado scientists conducted on people show that the intense light lowers the level of triglycerides (fats) in the blood. If you’ve been to a doctor in the last 30 years you probably know a high triglyceride level is unhealthy. A reduced level indicates improved insulin sensitivity – which can improve heart health.4
Sunlight’s other potential healing benefits include:
- Improvement in the movement of immune cells called T-cells. A study at Georgetown indicates sunlight energizes T-cells and enables them to fight infection more efficiently.5
- Potentially helping to keep your weight down or slow your weight gain. Tests in Australia demonstrate that sunlight may help keep weight under control and reduce the risk of diabetes.6
And all this leads me to agree with traditional naturopaths who have long argued that sunbaths make for great medicine. As a medical article from 1892 concludes, “Everybody should make the fullest possible use of our somewhat limited supply of sunshine, both by living in the open air, and by exposing every room in his house to the direct rays of the sun as much as possible.7