Best of Nebraska

Flocks of waterfowl fill the sky as the sun rises over Ponca State Park in Ponca, Nebraska, on March 3, 2018. The park led "Marsh Madness" tours at sunrise and sunset to view migrating waterfowl. REBECCA S. GRATZ/THE WORLD-HERALD

You are decidedly not a vampire.

There’s no way you could be: You like sunshine much too much for that. You crave that warmth, that sun-kiss on your cheek, the brightness it brings to your day. And as you’ll see in the new book “Chasing the Sun” by Linda Geddes, you need the health benefits sunlight offers, too.

If you’ve ever been to Las Vegas — or to any casino, for that matter — you know how easy it is to forget what time of day it is. That’s deliberate, says Geddes; having the sun “banished” from your eyes makes you discombobulated, and you lose track of time spent inside.

It’s been that way for millions of years: Our earliest ancestors were physically governed by light-dark cycles and climatological seasons. As awareness grew along with knowledge, it became clear that the sun was vital to humanity; even ancient physicians noted the restorative and health benefits of sunlight, and they recommended it to others.

What they knew then is just a drop in the seas compared to what modern scientists are learning now. We know, for example, that our bodies work differently in daytime than they do at night. We know that even human fetuses have circadian rhythms. And we know that higher amounts of sunlight help cut our risk of having poor eyesight, diabetes and depression.

What isn’t helping us is “the ubiquity of artificial light at night...”

Although scientists are busy studying the Amish to learn more, most people can’t get along without artificial light. As for increasing sun exposure, well, there’s a fine line we straddle: “just four hours of sunbathing results in approximately ten mutations in the DNA of every skin cell,” says Geddes, possibly leading to skin cancer, at the least.

So what to do?

We can get outside more, especially when it’s cold. We can catch more sleep, heed our personal chronobiologies and work to help others do the same in businessplaces, schools and in everyday life because denying them, says Geddes, “could have far-reaching consequences that we’re only just beginning to grasp.”

“Chasing the Sun” makes you want to go sit on a bench outside somewhere.

And yet, that’s not an entirely great idea, so how does a person get enough sun without getting too much? Geddes offers info on the subject of melanoma that surprised even researchers, but negative effects of too much sun are not the focus on this book. Instead, the lack of sunlight, lack of sleep and the physical effects we may endure on shiftwork, Standard Time and from generally being “owls” rather than “larks” are the more prominent subjects here, and that includes a good chapter on how to fix this modern deficiency.

Will it radically change your mind or schedule? Probably not, but if you’re a night worker, early riser, sun worshiper or a napper and you’re looking for a reason to change, this book offers more impetus. On a gloomy winter day, “Chasing the Sun” is a book to sink your teeth into.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.