What is 'lockdown fatigue' and how can you beat it?

When it was confirmed the UK would enter a third national lockdown in January, people had prior experience so it might not have felt like as big a shock.

However, a shared sentiment by users of social media and the general public is that there’s been an overwhelming sense of struggle this time, with many finding it harder to cope.

This lockdown fatigue manifests in different ways. What are the signs of lockdown fatigue and how can you try to beat it?

What is lockdown fatigue?

Lockdown fatigue is a name given to the feeling of being constantly tired or lethargic during this third lockdown.

It’s a feeling shared by many, with people from all walks of life flocking to social media to complain about feeling tired, restless and worn out – regardless of what they’ve been up to that day.

This feeling is akin to grogginess, which has a medical name – sleep inertia.  

In the same survey, two in five (39%) people said they slept fewer hours a night on average compared with before the lockdown.

Those numbers rose substantially for people who said they were ‘certain or very likely to face financial difficulties’ because of the pandemic.

Disturbed and reduced sleeping patterns could mean we’re not getting enough deep sleep – also known as REM sleep of which we should be getting between 1.5 and 1.8 hours per night– which is why we feel tired even after what we perceive as a normal night’s rest.

How to combat lockdown fatigue

Medical experts have some tips that can help reduce lockdown fatigue, ranging from getting active to establishing a routine.

Exercise

Citing various medical studies, Mental Health Foundation states physical activity can reduce levels of anxiety in people with mild symptoms and may also be helpful for treating clinical anxiety.

Researchers found that the participants felt more content, more awake and calmer after being physically active compared to after periods of inactivity. They also found that the effect of physical activity on mood was greatest when mood was initially low.

It’s easier to factor exercise in when you’re at home as you can go at your own pace. You can even start with something easy to follow, like one of Joe Wicks’ popular online workouts.

You don’t even need to do anything too high intensity – getting outside for some movement, whether it’s taking a walk in the park or doing a mini workout in your garden can make a huge difference because of your exposure to Vitamin D.

Research from Newcastle University found that Vitamin D is proven to boost energy levels. By taking as little as a gentle stroll in some natural daylight can help combat the fatigue.  

Create a routine – and stick to it

From keeping to a bedtime to sticking to a meal plan, a sense of routine can help lower stress and anxiety.

Keeping to a routine could also help replace the normality many have been missing since lockdown started.

Steps you could take include creating a designated workspace. Keep this clear from your bedroom or places where you relax, so that you can still clock-off at the end of the workday and get some relaxation.

Limit your caffeine intake

It might seem like caffeine is the solution to your fatigue, but this could be causing a vicious cycle.

The National Library of Medicine explains that caffeine works by blocking the effects of adenosine, a brain chemical that makes you feel tired. At the same time, it triggers the release of adrenaline, the fight-or-flight hormone associated with increased energy.

However, in high doses, these effects may become more pronounced, leading to anxiety and nervousness.

Studies released to the National Library of Medicine proved moderate to high doses have been shown to cause rapid breathing and increase stress levels when consumed in one sitting.

Avoid late night snacking

Eating and drinking too close to bedtime can play havoc with your sleep, so it’s best to avoid any late-night meals, Dr Luke Powles, associate clinical director for Bupa Health Clinics, told Net Doctor.

Drink more water

Water is great – it keeps our skin healthy, helps the everyday functions of our bodies and can aid in better sleep.

‘Going to bed even mildly dehydrated can disrupt your sleep,’ Dr Powles said.

‘Dehydration causes your mouth and nasal passages to become dry, setting you up for sleep-disruptive snoring and a parched throat in the morning. Focus on drinking plenty of non-caffeinated fluids regularly throughout the day.’

You should aim to drink around two litres of water a day – something a third of us are failing to do.

Cry

There’s no reward in staying stoic and there’s actually ample rewards in letting your vulnerabilities out with a good cry.

Whether it’s to yourself or you open up to a friend or family member, letting out some of your emotions has scientifically proven benefits.

A 2014 study in the US found that crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which helps people relax.

Additionally, tears release stress hormones and chemicals including oxytocin and endorphins, which help improve the mood.

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