Most people know that spending time in direct sunlight can help to boost the immune system and keep them healthier. They may have also heard that letting sunlight into their home or office had the same effect, although medical researchers couldn’t always explain why.
In 2018, a team at the University of Oregon set out to explain the answer to this question. They set up rooms the equivalent size of a dollhouse to study the effects of incoming sunlight in a variety of environments. The one thing all rooms had in common is that they contained an excess amount of dust.
Researchers gathered the dust from homes located throughout Portland while allowing the miniature rooms in the dollhouse to remain outdoors and kept the rooms located inside at a normal room temperature.
The researchers had to wait a full three months to sample the dust. The reason for the wait is that dust typically remains in homes that long, even when homeowners vacuum their carpets regularly. University of Oregon researchers then analyzed bacteria present in the dust to determine which types remained throughout the three-month period.
Surprising Research Findings on Bacteria and Sunlight
Although the findings of this experiment surprised the researchers, it confirmed a theory that had been around for decades. When a room in the dollhouse received continual sun exposure, researchers found less bacteria present. Compared to the rooms that remained dark, the dollhouse rooms that received sunlight developed 50 percent less bacteria.
The researchers also exposed some rooms to ultraviolet light only and determined that those rooms also had less bacteria, although they had slightly more than the rooms receiving direct sunlight. This led them to the conclusion that people could kill the most bacteria by keeping their blinds open.
Benefits of Indoor Sunlight Exposure
People have known that the sun provides important health benefits for a long time, even if they couldn’t quite understand why. Before drugs became available to treat tuberculosis, for example, nurses placed people afflicted with this condition outdoors to ensure they received plenty of sunshine and fresh air. Patients themselves were mostly agreeable to this plan because they knew it would reduce their symptoms and eventually help them recover.
Today, doctors understand that regular exposure to sunlight helps to balance the body’s circadian rhythm in balance. The body’s circadian rhythm helps to set its schedule of when to sleep and when to remain awake.
Yet another benefit of sunlight is that it helps the body produce adequate amounts of Vitamin D, an essential nutrient for the healthy functioning of the human heart, brain, and bones.
Researchers intend to use the findings of the above study to understand the impact of visible light on bodies of bacteria in indoor environments where people spend a lot of time.
Sunlight Could Be Instrumental in Defeating COVID-19
Recently, virologists employed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases conducted a laboratory study on SARS-CoV-2, otherwise known as the coronavirus. What they found out was that the virus can live for an extended time on materials such as plastic, cardboard, and metal. However, they determined this not to be true when testing the virus outdoors.
Another federal agency, the Biodefense and Analysis and Countermeasures Center, conducted a study with the coronavirus contained within artificially created saliva and exposed it to recreated sunlight. In 90 percent of the trials, the viruses became inactive within seven minutes.
After conducting this study, the agency determined that the virus cannot survive long when exposed to the rays of the sun. Because of this, these researchers concluded that people have a significantly reduced risk of acquiring the virus outdoors as opposed to indoors.
People Can Reduce Their Risk of Coronavirus by Opening Windows and Blinds
Weather permitting, one of the easiest things people can do at home or work is open their windows to let the sun and fresh air come in as much as possible. When it’s too cold to do that or a severe weather event is taking place, the next best thing they can do is keep their blinds open while keeping their windows closed.
The reason that open windows are so beneficial is that airflow coming into the home or office can dilute particles from the virus in an indoor environment. One potential drawback from a financial perspective is that high amounts of airflow can cause energy use to peak because it pushes the virus particles back into the indoor air.
Consider Larger and Uncovered Windows to Reap the Benefits of Natural Sunlight
To benefit from a reduced risk of coronavirus and other health benefits, homeowners should consider leaving their blinds open or replacing smaller ones with larger ones without any type of covering.
Of course, getting outside and spending time in direct sunlight is a good idea as well.