Chasing the Sun Book Summary - Chasing the Sun Book explained in key points
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Chasing the Sun summary

Linda Geddes

The New Science of Sunlight and How it Shapes Our Bodies and Minds

4.3 (92 ratings)
17 mins
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    Chasing the Sun
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    Each of us has an inner clock that coordinates body functions and it’s influenced by the sun.

    If you’ve ever found yourself waking up at the same time every day without the aid of an alarm clock, you’re familiar with your body’s internal clock. There’s actually a lot of internal timing going on in your body, which allows its many functions and processes, such as digestion, to run smoothly.

    What you may not know is that in each of us there’s a single master clock called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN. It’s essentially a group of around 20,000 cells that reside in your hypothalamus, a small region in the center of your brain that plays an important role in many functions, like regulating hormones in the body. The SCN coordinates your circadian rhythms, which are the routine, daily processes your body goes through in order to run as efficiently as possible.

    In the morning, certain hormones need to kick in, blood pressure needs to rise, and muscles and energy levels need to get into gear so you can go about your day with strength and vigor. Likewise, in order for you to have a peaceful night’s rest, your blood pressure and core body temperature need to decrease at bedtime. For this to happen at the right time, your circadian rhythms need to be in sync with the time of day.

    Your body performs a very different set of functions once you fall asleep compared to when you're awake. It is your SCN and circadian rhythms that make sure the right processes take place at the right time. 

    So what is primarily responsible for setting this internal clock and making sure it stays on time? The sun. When the sun sets and light fades, it is a trigger for our bodies to start easing into nighttime mode and getting ready for bed. And then, when your eyes catch sunlight in the morning, it is the cue to shut off hormones like melatonin, that help you sleep, and turn on the hormones that make you hungry for breakfast.

    These rhythms are embedded deep in your DNA and can be traced back to the very primitive cyanobacteria that human life evolved from. Plants also have their own circadian rhythms related to the sun and the daily work that needs to be done. Some flowers, like morning glories, open up at sunrise while others, like petunias, open up after sunset since they’re pollinated primarily by moths that are active at night.

    Humans are no different, our bodies depend upon the sun to function efficiently.

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    What is Chasing the Sun about?

    Chasing the Sun (2019) delivers a fascinating account of the sun’s influence on our day-to-day lives. Throughout history, humans have worshipped the sun and touted its restorative, healing properties. As author Linda Geddes explains, science clearly shows that the sun is one of the most important elements of our health and well-being.

    Best quote from Chasing the Sun

    Controversial as it sounds, the finding fits with other studies that have associated low vitamin D levels with shorter life expectancy.

    —Linda Geddes
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    Who should read Chasing the Sun?

    • Science geeks
    • Winter blues sufferers
    • Healthy lifestyle seekers

    About the Author

    Linda Geddes is a journalist who specializes in the sciences of technology, biology, and medicine. She’s worked as both a writer and editor for New Scientist, and has been the recipient of the Best Investigative Journalism award from the Association of British Science Writers.

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