Is sun gazing safe for the eyes?
What is sun gazing?
Sun gazing is the practice of looking directly into the sun to theoretically support one’s health. Those who partake say solar power helps them find great inner strength.
But despite what you may read about the pros of sun gazing, it poses many dangers to your eye health, including increasing your risk for cancer.
Is sun gazing safe?
Doctors warn that looking directly into the sun at any time of day can put your vision at risk for retinal damage, solar retinopathy and other conditions.
In fact, it only takes 100 seconds of exposure to put your eyes at risk of permanent retinal damage if you stare into the sun without proper eye protection for the entire 100 seconds. Even in smaller increments, looking into the sun every day without appropriate coverage can result in prolonged exposure and damage to your eyes.
But some sun gazing practitioners claim that sun gazing is safe when it is done at the right time of day (either sunrise or sunset), as the ultraviolet (UV) index is lower during these times.
SEE RELATED: 5 eye conditions linked to sun damage
How do people sun gaze?
People who practice sun gazing look directly at the sun during specific hours of the day — often during sunrise and sunset — as a way to harness solar energy and power to benefit their well-being.
It is done by standing outside, preferably barefooted and without wearing eyeglasses, contact lenses or sunglasses, and making direct eye contact with the sun.
New practitioners begin by looking at the sun for only 10 seconds in their first session. They increase this by 10 seconds each day until they have reached an optimal time limit. Some say that 10 to 15 minutes is a suitable duration, while others note that they like to soak in up to 45 minutes of gazing time during each session.
For generations, sun gazing has been thought to enrich the soul and provide nourishment to physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health. However, there are several major risks associated with the concept that should be taken into serious consideration.
How to practice sun gazing safely (according to practitioners)
Before you embark on sun gazing, keep in mind that there is no scientific evidence that it is safe to do, regardless of what you may hear from spiritual health enthusiasts.
To get the full spiritual benefit, sun gazers encourage direct eye contact with the sun. This means standing outside and looking at the sun without wearing eyeglasses, contact lenses or sunglasses. Looking through a window is also advised against by these gazers.
Begin your practice slowly and stop immediately if you are feeling pain of any kind. Sun gazing with eyes closed periodically may be helpful to beginners.
Look into the sun only during sunrise or sunset while the UV index is lower. Sun gazing in the middle of the day can cause major retinal damage.
Relax and blink your eyes as much as you need to.
Do all of this while you are barefoot on the ground outside to connect more deeply with the earth.
Again, if you are going to practice sun gazing, do so at your own risk. Whether it’s early in the day, at dusk, or even cloudy, lower UV indexes do not guarantee your safety from sun exposure.
Unproven benefits of sun gazing
Sun gazing is about connecting to the power of the sun and absorbing the energy it gives off. Some find the practice to be beneficial for their health in the following ways:
May increase levels of serotonin and melatonin
May increase energy levels for emotional, mental, physical or spiritual health
Can help a gazer connect with themselves and feel more inner strength
May reduce stress
These sun gazing benefits may not be the same for everyone. Specifically, sun gazing spiritual benefits can also differ from person to person. Spiritual benefits may include connecting with a higher power and attracting more positive energy.
If you do not achieve your personal goals from sun gazing, you may feel tempted to keep trying. However, this is not medically advised. It can be extremely dangerous for your eyes.
Does sun exposure alone improve vision and health?
Sun exposure, in general, can provide some health benefits — as long as the eyes (and the skin) are protected.
Getting sunlight every day can be a good source of vitamin D, a supplement that helps the body absorb calcium.
The body’s natural sleep-wake cycle is regulated by sunlight. When you see light outside, it notifies your brain that it is time to be awake, and when the sun goes down, your eyes send a similar message that it is time to rest and go to sleep.
Studies have shown that exposure to sunlight and spending time outdoors may also help reduce myopia (nearsightedness) in children.
Unlike the claimed benefits of sun gazing, you don’t need to look directly at the sun to achieve these gains; just being outside allows the body to absorb the sun’s rays. Just remember to wear proper eye protection and sunscreen and to stay hydrated while you’re outside.
Dangers of sun gazing and sun exposure
The dangers outweigh the benefits when it comes to sun gazing. Numerous eye conditions can develop due to sun exposure, whether it is brief or prolonged. This includes conditions such as:
Sunburned cornea (photokeratitis)
Retina burn (solar retinopathy)
Sun exposure can also increase your risk of developing eye cancer. Some of these conditions may be treatable, but if you don’t receive proper care in a timely manner, your eyes may be permanently damaged.
Preserving your vision health
With such significant threats to your vision possible, eye health experts recommend protecting your eyes from the sun as opposed to gazing straight into it. Protecting your vision is simple and can be done in the following ways:
Wear eye protection. Experts suggest sunglasses with 100% UV protection to block the sun’s harmful rays.
In addition to sunglasses, wearing a wide-brimmed hat or sun hat can provide shade to the eyes.
Get your eyes examined regularly to check for any changes to your vision or eye health.
The choice to sun gaze is yours, but it should be done cautiously and at your own peril. If you experience pain or changes to your vision after looking directly into the sun, contact your eye doctor immediately to have your eyes examined.
Sungazing: What is it? And is it safe? College of Complementary Medicine. Accessed September 2021.
The health benefits of sungazing. Global Healing. May 2013.
Pete Evans recommends we "gaze" into the sun for our health. Body + Soul, news.com.au. December 2018.
How long does it take before your eyes get damaged when looking at the sun? University of California, Santa Barbara. August 2001.
Vitamin D myths 'D'-bunked. Yale Medicine. March 2018.
The sun, UV light and your eyes. American Academy of Ophthalmology. July 2020.
The effects of different outdoor environments, sunglasses and hats on light levels: Implications for myopia prevention. Translational Vision Science & Technology. July 2019.
Page published in October 2021
Page updated in January 2022
Medically reviewed in October 2021