How to Make the Most of Your Limited Daylight Hours in Mid-Winter

January 05, 2016

January is the month where winter’s darkness can really get to us. No matter which nursing shift you’re working, you may not get much sunlight -- and that’s especially true in the shorter days of winter. In order to lift your mood and avoid an unhealthy vitamin D deficiency, you need some daily time in the sun.

Read on for some fun-in-the-sun motivation and ideas for things to do to bring more sun into your life until we spring ahead again in March.

The Dangers of Too Little Sun

Even if you don’t suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder), you may still be afflicted with some of its symptoms, such as:

  • Increasing appetite with possible weight gain
  • Increased sleep and disrupted sleep patterns
  • Lower energy level or sluggishness
  • Diminished concentration
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety

Vitamin D deficiency is another possibility with insufficient sun exposure. Low vitamin D is rampant among much of the population, including nurses, and it’s been linked to a wide range of negative health consequences.

Everything from increased risk of diabetescancer and autoimmune disorders to hypertension and depression, has been linked to low levels of vitamin D. It may be impossible to get enough vitamin D during winter, so you may need to add supplements or change your diet at this time of year, as well as spending more time outside.

Enjoying Some Daily Time in the Sun

  • Eat lunch outdoors when you can
  • Go on work-related errands that take you out into the sun
  • Walk or bike to work, or take public transport that gets you outdoors 
  • Travel to a sunny climate in winter for work or vacation (or choose a travel nurse assignment in a sun-filled locale to combine both)
  • Work near a sunny window, if you have the opportunity, for part of each day. Keep in mind, it’s no real substitute for being outside and getting some direct sun and fresh air.
  • Choose outdoor exercise over the gym
  • Walk your dog, or someone else’s (you’ll get some sun, plus an extra boost from doing a favor for a friend)
  • Go sightseeing on your day off
  • Join a walking (or hiking) group on MeetUp or through your work assignment and meet/bond with new people while getting out

When daylight is limited, other health supports, such as eating right, eating regularly, adequate exercise, healthy sleep patterns and stress reducing activities like meditation or yoga, become all the more important. Don't let those healthy habits fall by the wayside in the darker days of winter.

After all, it’s nearly time to countdown to March 13th, when Daylight Saving Time begins this year!