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NEWSTART: S= Sunlight. It's day 4 of NEWSTART blogs and Sunlight is the word!

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

NEWSTART stands for Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunlight, Temperance, Air, Rest, Trust). It is a scientifically researched lifestyle change program based on eight fundamental principles proven to help you achieve optimum health.
Today's topic is Sunlight. There’s health in Sunlight!

7 ways in which you can harness the benefit of sunlight in Perimenopause and Menopause

Tip #1 Open your blinds and curtains wide

As soon as you wake up, let sunlight into your home. Help light bounce around all the rooms in your house and increase brightness with the use of wall mirrors.

Morning sunlight exposure causes melatonin rhythm phase advancement. This means that your natural bedtime and wake-up time are reset to give you enough restful sleep. Melatonin is a chemical produced by the pineal gland at night. One of its jobs is to signal the onset of darkness to the brain and body. It's like a bullhorn that makes the announcement saying, sleep time! Sleep time! By signalling the start of sleep, it recruits all the bodily systems that take part in sleep.

With exposure to early morning light, melatonin production in your brain will begin earlier, therefore all your sleep systems will be recruited to power off earlier. The reverse is true, when you don’t have early exposure to light, melatonin production still carries on when it should have stopped, there's therefore delayed rise in melatonin at dusk. This will lead to late nights and inadequate sleep.
Poor quality sleep is one of the causes of anxiety, depression and other mood disorders, suicidality, weight gain, brain fog, joint and muscle aches, back pain, and tiredness.

So ladies! throw your windows and doors open, hung up your mirrors and enjoy the restorative effect of melatonin.

Tip #2 Use soft blue lighting during the day and power off gadgets at least 2 hours before bed

Blue light is beneficial during daylight hours. It boosts attention, reaction times, and mood. However, blue light at night is disruptive and will delay the production of melatonin and so the onset of sleep. You will end up sleeping late and getting up tired and unrefreshed. If you have yellow light in your office, you may want to get soft blue light. It will help your concentration during the day. If you have energy-saving blue light in your home, you may want to have the lights dimmer or get softer yellow light bulbs. Alternatively, you can acquire a pair of blue light filter reading glasses for evening use.

Don’t forget to have moments in the day when you have natural light coming in contact with your eyes with sunglasses and contact lenses off because they filter the light hitting the back of your eyes. Of course, you don’t want to be staring at the sun, you can be indoors or shaded.

Tip #3. Ditch your drapes

Vertical or horizontal Venetian blinds or no blinds are a better option to allow more sun in your space. I prefer to have my blinds up permanently and yes, I sleep soundly. For those that can sleep with blinds up, the sun is your alarm. If you need your bedroom completely dark or you have your blinds down for privacy reasons, then be sure to open those blinds and let the morning sunlight in.

Your internal body clock (circadian rhythm) is tuned to sunlight because daylight is the most reliable repeating signal that we have in our environment. Sunlight acts like a manipulating finger and thumb on the side dial of an imprecise internal body clock. Don’t forget melatonin is produced as dusk falls and getting early morning light resets melatonin production to an earlier time in the evening which gives you quality sleep.

Tip # 4 Optimise your sleep signalling melatonin by getting up early

No, not by buying expensive melatonin supplements. But by ensuring you are going to bed early. Get 7-8 hours of sleep. In fact, Prof Matthew Walker in his No. 1 Seller “Why we sleep”, presents a scientifically sound case for not wasting your money on melatonin. He says that Melatonin doesn’t work for sleep unless you’re jet-lagged. He attributes any perceived melatonin supplementation sleep benefit (apart from jet lag) as a placebo effect! Check out the book, it’s revolutionary! Check out his youtube interviews on sleep.
Did you know that melatonin is the most potent antioxidant known to the human body? It is as least Twice as potent as vitamin E. And here’s what’s incredible about melatonin, your body makes.

Tip #5 Sun on your skin

Production of a second type of melatonin in all body cells can be triggered by exposure to the infrared spectrum of light. This is the light we don’t even see but feel as heat. Sunshine is the most common cause of infrared light. But it can also come from exposure to fire. Don’t burn anything you’re not supposed to, now!

This version of melatonin is produced by mitochondria of all body cells in a non-circadian manner and has a powerful antioxidative effect. The infrared light penetrates into the cell’s mitochondria to produce this 2nd type of antioxidant melatonin. Think of this version of melatonin as a cooling mechanism for an overheated combustion engine called mitochondria. Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell and it is very close to your DNA. So if you don’t have antioxidants like melatonin, the mitochondria (which is sometimes compared to a messy eater) throw out free radicals which are likely to cause DNA damage and cancer.
Isn't it amazing, heat from the sun is protective, curative and restorative?

If you're old enough, you may remember, the old incandescent non-energy-efficient lighting. They produced infrared light so if you were home in the 70s with the lights on, you were getting infrared light. The energy-efficient lights don’t do that. You can go to the web and buy some stuff to give you infrared light, but don’t forget the beauty of just going outside. In countries where people are largely outdoors and don't rely on cars for transport, they are generally happier and surprisingly healthy in spite of poverty. My Kenyan Grandma is 102 yrs old and still insists on walking to places, we spoil her though!

Infrared light actually penetrates your skull and clothing. So even with long sleeves on, you will get the benefit of infrared light. When you go out in the sunlight and feel the warmth of the sun, that is the infrared light hitting heat receptors deep in the skin. That warm feeling is a curative healing feeling especially in winter when the sun is low.

Sunlight also naturally leads to the production of a chemical called nitric oxide which relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow to the brain which can lead to lower blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke and dementia.

Caution! The ultraviolet (UV) radiation emitted by the sun is a known carcinogen. But moderate sun exposure may have benefits for your health, including stronger bones, better sleep, improved mood, and a healthier immune system. Remember, You can get sun damage on windy, cloudy and cool days. Sun damage is caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation, not temperature. The length of exposure will depend on your location. For more information on safe sun exposure, follow your trusted sources specific to your region, eg.

Tip #6 Forest Bathing

When you go out into the sun around trees it enhances the ultraviolet effect of the sun. You don’t have to stand in direct sun to get the benefits of the sun. The green light bounces off the flora onto you and it has one of the most naturally healing and restorative effects. Check forest bathing out!

Tip #7 Vitamin D- AKA "the sunshine vitamin"

Postmenopausal skin is not considered a very effective Vitamin D synthesizer so vitamin D supplementation is often helpful in this age group. The jury is still out on the optimum dosage to prevent disease, however, the usual dose is 1000IU a day, but the upper tolerable dosage unlikely to cause harm is 4000IU a day. Speak to your GP regarding a suitable specific dosage for you.

Vitamin D helps absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus, which are critical for building bone, hence the prevention of osteoporosis.
Laboratory studies show that vitamin D can reduce cancer cell growth, help control infections and reduce inflammation. Many of the body’s organs and tissues have receptors for vitamin D, which suggest important roles beyond bone health, and scientists are actively investigating other possible functions.

The best source of Vitamin D is sunlight and supplements. There’s a little in fish and eggs but you would need to eat massive amounts to get useful Vitamin D. Some processed breakfast cereals are fortified with small amounts of vitamin D. For most people though, vitamin D supplementation is the best way to get vitamin D. Vitamin D production varies based on lifestyle, location and skin colour because melanin acts like a shade reducing the production of vitamin D but also reducing damaging effects of sunlight on the skin including skin cancer.
You DO NOT NEED CALCIUM if you have a normal and varied diet. To calculate your calcium intake to see if you need calcium supplementation use this link
A 2021 review of studies found that dietary calcium intake of between 700 to 1,000 milligrams a day or a supplementary intake of 1,000 milligrams a day significantly increased a person's risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease, which can lead to heart attack.

Finally, do not forget the well-known effect of antibacterial, antifungal antiviral benefits of sunshine. Let sunlight into your homes, air your laundry in the sun and don't forget forest bathing!

Here's to a new year of becoming the best version of yourself and a better butter burner! And don't forget to Just do it! Please leave me comments on how you're "Just doing it"

Dr Purity Carr is a GP and Menopause Doctor in Harvey, Western Australia
The next blog on the NEWSTART series is on Temperance (self-control).

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