Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): How it affects nurses, and tips to deal with it

Winter has settled in, and many of us are experiencing seasonal affective disorder (more commonly known as SAD). It occurs at the end of summer and the beginning of fall when the number of daylight hours decreases and the sun sets earlier in the evenings. Anyone can be affected by SAD, but women are more likely to be afflicted than men. It may also affect you if you live far from the equator, where winter daylight hours are very short.

There is more to SAD than just the “winter blues”; it is a mental disorder that can affect your mood, feelings and ability to function normally.

What is SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder, also known as seasonal depression, is a type of depression caused by seasonal changes. People who suffer from SAD experience recurring depression symptoms that occur around the same time every year, usually around the time of the spring equinox. Some individuals may experience symptoms of SAD during the summer months, although the condition is most prevalent during the winter.

How does SAD affect nurses?

As SAD is primarily a disorder that affects women and is associated with limited exposure to sunlight, nurses and other health professionals who work night shifts may be particularly susceptible to the disorder. Providing treatment recommendations to reduce the negative impact of seasonal mood fluctuations is the role of nurses uniquely qualified to identify the symptoms of SAD.

In their capacity as holistic healthcare practitioners, nurses educate patients regarding healthy lifestyle interventions that can assist in minimizing the disruptive symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Advanced practice nurses can provide pharmacotherapy interventions to address symptoms contributing to a person’s inability to function across domains – individual, family and social.

Finally, nurses of all disciplines will better understand the evidence-based treatment of bright light (also known as light box therapy) and how this treatment may be incorporated into the care of patients with SAD after reading this article.

Nurses and SAD: How to cope?

No one is immune to feeling blue, not even nurses. Your time spent taking care of others indoors can leave you with insufficient time to devote to your health.

It may be more than just the blues, though, if you are snapping at colleagues or scarfing snacks when you are not hungry. Finding time for mindfulness when you are busy as a nurse may seem difficult. Making small weekly efforts can help you fight the funk and get you feeling energetic again.

Even a few moments of focused relaxation or meditation will benefit your mind; if not, take a few moments to breathe deeply during your day or repeat a mantra that motivates you.

People susceptible to seasonal depression can experience the effects of depression when the temperature drops. This is because the days seem to turn into nights in the blink of an eye. If you are suffering from SAD or are looking for a few ways to avoid it, there are some effective methods you can use to cope with this condition.

The good news is that numerous treatments can be easily incorporated into everyday routines to help with SAD. Seasonal depression can be treated through a variety of means, such as exercise, improved nutrition or seeking professional assistance. Several medications may help with SAD if the condition is severe. It is imperative to treat seasonal depression as soon as possible, regardless of its severity.

Mood stability is not only influenced by exercise but also by nutrition. It is essential to note that going extended periods without eating or consuming the right foods can affect your energy levels and mood.

It is also possible to become lethargic and lose motivation due to excessive eating. Therefore, if you are a busy nurse who suffers from SAD, it is recommended that you keep some nutritious snacks on hand during long nursing shifts. SAD can also be treated by consuming enough wholesome meals throughout the day, along with snacks.

If you are interested in learning more about nursing, you can consider an online nursing school in Indiana such as the University of Indianapolis, where you can find a variety of courses.


Everyone can benefit from therapy because it allows you to explore what makes you feel the way you do and begin working toward change if needed. Speaking to a trained professional who can provide support and who does not have a personal stake in your behavior (unlike a sibling, partner or parent) is universally helpful and can enable you to find healthy solutions.