Nurses’ Mental Health Improved with Regular Access to Natural Light

A nurse stands in sunlight indoorsNursing is a demanding job, and many nurses are overworked and underpaid. In fact, one study found that the challenging nature of the work led two-thirds of nurses to contemplate quitting in the last year. According to a study published in Health Environments and Research Design, though, regular exposure to natural light can help mitigate the stress-related symptoms nurses experience.

How Natural Light Can Help Nurses

Many nurses work long or irregular hours, and this can interfere with their access to sunlight. Researchers compared nurses who had access to indoor natural light to those who didn’t. Nurses with regular exposure to natural light had lower blood pressure. They also communicated more frequently with coworkers, laughed more frequently, and appeared to be in better moods when working with patients. The study’s authors advise that medical facilities that want to improve nurses’ health and well-being should provide access to windows near nurses’ work stations.

Natural Light and Depression

It makes sense that natural light can improve nurses’ moods, given that insufficient natural light has been implicated in seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression. People with SAD are more depressed during the winter and often feel better when they have access to indoor sunlamps and other forms of artificial sunlight.

Cynthia Lubow, MFT, a GoodTherapy.org depression topic expert, says that the study could provide information that extends well beyond nursing. “A great deal of Americans spend their days inside buildings without natural light, and if this has such a large effect on physical and emotional health, perhaps it’s an important contributing factor to the epidemic of depression in our country,” she says.

Lubow further emphasizes that improving nurses’ lives could have a ripple effect: “Designing hospitals so that nurses get natural light [that] makes [them] happier and healthier is obviously good for everyone, and hopefully the idea will extend to patients who, one can extrapolate, should heal faster with natural light. Nurses often suffer consequences from the demands of constant caretaking, such as addictions, overeating, depression, habitually prioritizing others’ needs over theirs, emotional exhaustion, and anxiety. Any support we as a society can give them toward health and self-care would be good for nurses and their patients.”

References:

  1. Nurses who have access to natural light are happier and healthier. (2014, August 6). Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/280624.php
  2. Two-thirds of nurses consider quitting due to stress. (2013, September 3). Retrieved from http://asq.org/qualitynews/qnt/execute/displaySetup?newsID=16792

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 4 comments
  • Leave a Comment
  • halton

    halton

    August 11th, 2014 at 12:44 PM

    I can imagine that this could be a huge problem for anyone in the healthcare field who has a stressful job and can’t see the outdoors for hours and hours. There is something so positive to be said for just being able to see light and to be apart of it- it is no wonder that light therapy can be so useful for many people.

  • Lauren

    Lauren

    August 11th, 2014 at 5:03 PM

    This would have to be a requirement for me no matter what setting I work in. I have to be able to see out and get out even if just for a short moment.
    This gives me time to breathe and relax a little, take a little inventory of what is going on and then go back with a plan.
    I swear that if I am cooped up inside all day, I will be no good for anyone, least of all on a professional level!

  • Ric

    Ric

    August 12th, 2014 at 4:11 PM

    When I was in elementary school and the days would get warmer and feel noce outside I absolutley LOVED it when the teacher would take the classroom outside and let us do our lessons out there. I don’t know if it was the change of scenery or just the ability to be outside and feel free from those classroom walls, but I always knew that I would do better and concentrate more when we were outside for the day. I know that for many students this would be a distraction but for me it gave me a sense of being a part of the learning process instead of making it feel like I only wanted to escape it. Perhaps this is kind of the same type of thing.

  • liz p.

    liz p.

    August 13th, 2014 at 5:06 PM

    I am curious to know if some sort of light therapy could help those who find themselves always working a night shift but never any real way to adjust to the time changes that this causes in the body. The natural circadian rhythms of the body I don’t think are set up for this kind of work so imagine that doing this sort of shift work year after year can take a real toll on the body. Do you know if there have been any studies to show that some form of light treatment can help these workers who have to do jobs in the middle of the night when the body naturally wants to rest?

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.