Sometimes it's necessary to spend a day cuddled up on the couch watching Netflix, but spend too much time inside, and you might find that your health begins to suffer. There are a number of effects of being inside too long, and you might not even realize they're a result of spending most of your time cooped up. Taking time to go outside helps expose us to sunlight and fresh air, which is essential for all areas of our health, both physical and mental.
"Staying inside all the time may lead to one missing out on several health benefits of sunlight," Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, M.D., M.S. tells Bustle. "Exposure to the sun is essential as it can help with the regulation of one's circadian clock, it enables the body to synthesize vitamin D, and additionally helps to improve one's mood. There is so much to be gained from receiving appropriate amounts of sunlight, therefore staying indoors chronically isn't ever a good idea."
It's easy to get caught up in spending your whole day in the comfort of your home or your office, but you want to make sure you're getting outside from time to time. Here are seven signs that you might be spending too much time inside.
We need sunlight to increase our levels of serotonin, the mood-boosting neurotransmitter. Low levels of serotonin are often linked with mood swings, and sometimes depression. "Additionally, when we are inside all day, we are more likely to be sedentary and less social, and this tends to have a negative impact on our mood," IU Health Psychiatrist Dr. Danielle Henderson tells Bustle. "We are less interactive and engaged, which decreases opportunity for activating and reinforcing activities."
2. Anxiety & Restlessness
Staying inside can lead to feelings of being "stir-crazy," but it can also make you feel more irritable or anxious. "We become upset more easily than usual and/or become upset by seemingly minor things," says Henderson.
3. Sleep Troubles
Having problems falling asleep at night or waking up in the morning? You might need to get outside. "Exposure to light is important for our body's internal clock, or circadian rhythm," says Henderson. "Our circadian rhythm responds to stimuli in our environment, largely light and darkness. During the day, signals are sent from our brain to other parts of our body that allow us to stay alert and awake. At night, our brain releases melatonin, which helps us sleep."
4. Poor Immune System
"The body needs sufficient amounts of sunlight to make vitamin D," says Okeke-Igbokwe. If you're indoors too much, you might become vitamin D deficient, and vitamin D is a key nutrient in helping to build a strong immune system. This can increase your chances of catching infections, and make it more difficult to fight off disease.
5. Bone & Muscle Weakness
Another side effect of not getting enough vitamin D is bone pain and muscle weakness, according to Okeke-Igbokwe. Research has also found that low levels of vitamin D are also linked to chronic, general pain, according to WebMD. If you're experiencing muscle weakness, and are unable to go outside to help your vitamin D levels, a light therapy box may be able to help.
6. Changes In Appetite
Your circadian rhythm can also affect your appetite, so if you find that you're hungrier than usual, your propensity to stay inside might be to blame. Not getting enough sun exposure can lead to eating more than usual and craving carbohydrates, says Henderson.
If you find yourself low on energy, it's time to step outside. A study from University of Rochester found that spending time outside in green, natural environments can boost your physical and mental energy by nearly 40 percent. On the flip side, staying indoors can leave you feeling drained and tired.
Although it may be difficult to remember to step outside during a busy day, taking a few minutes to go for a walk, or simply get some fresh air can do some serious good for your health.