Are You Addicted to Sunlight?

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez RN

Do you ever feel like you need to get sun? There may actually be a physiological reason behind that.

To dig deeper, scientists recently conducted an experiment to determine if UV light caused addiction in a group of mice.

The results, published in the journal Cell, may shed some light on why many people continue to sunbathe despite all the health warnings.

UV Light Increased Endorphin Production by 30–50%

For six weeks, scientists exposed a group of shaved mice to UV light, equivalent to 20–30 minutes of mid-day Florida sun on a fair-skinned human. After a week, the mice demonstrated significant elevations in β-endorphin, a feel good chemical.1

Scientists also measured the pain threshold of the UV treated rodents and found they were able to tolerate more pain compared to a control group. This could have been due to the natural pain-relieving effect of endorphins.

When the UV treated mice were given naloxone, a drug that blocks the effects of endorphins, they experienced typical withdrawal symptoms and were not able to tolerate as much pain.

These mice were given the option to stay in dark or bright areas, and they were more likely to seek bright locations, possibly in an effort to boost their own production of endorphins.

Light Exposure May Give You a Natural “High”

This study could demonstrate why certain people are frequent visitors to tanning salons or sunbathe endlessly for hours. With UV exposure, they may actually be getting a natural high.

Studies show frequent tanners can actually tell the difference between tanning beds that provide UV rays and those that don’t.2

In addition, UV therapy has been shown to decrease pain in humans, which may add to the theory that sunlight is addictive.3

Practice Safe Sun Habits

Occasional sun exposure is healthy but frequent visits to the tanning salons aren’t. Indoor tanning is associated with an increased risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.4

With skin cancer on the rise, it makes sense to limit your exposure to sunlight and to practice safe sun habits.

Take Vitamin D!

Want to reap the benefits of sunlight without putting your health at risk? Take vitamin D. This natural byproduct of sunlight can increase your natural production of feel-good neurotransmitters.5


  1. Cell. 2014 Jun 19;157(7):1527-34. 
  2. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2004;51:45-51. 
  3. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Jan;15(1):15-23. 
  4. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Jun;19(6):1557-68. 
  5. Brain Res Mol Brain Res. 1996 Feb;36(1):193-6.


Anonymous said...

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