Alaska Sleep Education Center

Lockdown Exhaustion

Posted by Stefanie Leiter

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on Nov 6, 2020 7:05:00 AM

Sad man sitting head in hands on his bed in a bedroom at home

With Daylight Savings Time (DST) in effect, the lockdown just got a whole lot more interesting. For colder climates, DST is a signal for shorter days and less sunlight. When a community is in lockdown or an individual is in quarantine or isolation, this could be a long fall and winter ahead.

If your alarm goes off for either a day away from the house or working from home, you might find the past few months waking more exhausted than others. Stress from a pandemic since March probably has introduced new routines and behaviors unlike your normal.

A meme circling Halloween this past week said, “Haven’t we been celebrating Halloween for 6 months by wearing masks and eating candy all day?” #truth

At the beginning of the pandemic, most of us tried to compensate for loss with activities. Puzzles flew off the shelf like toilet paper. Board games were more popular with families looking for ways to stay connected and entertained. Streaming services skyrocketed with internet services strained.

And then we stopped counting the days or weeks of quarantine to settle into a new normal. Kids went to e-learning creating a trifecta at home: work, school, and relaxation. But somewhere relaxation was lost and bedtimes were pushed back. Without the need to dress up for work and put on makeup for a day in the office, we stayed up later pushing our bodies to a new limit.

Sleep inertia is the medical term for grogginess which describes a heaviness we feel after waking up causing drowsiness. When sleep inertia is prolonged outside the normal grogginess you feel when waking from a nap, it could lead to parasomnia.

By reducing our caffeine intake and implementing a strategy toward a healthy sleep routine, we can curtail the effects of exhaustion. If you find yourself twitching while falling asleep, your caffeine usage needs to be reduced.

Another option is to get outdoors even with darker days. With less opportunities to exercise depending on restrictions for quarantine measures and less outdoor activities, we have decreased our movement and access to sunlight. This is creating concern as we binge-watch or stream while we are bored in the colder months. It also can cause increased anxiety.

Clinical psychologist Dr Emma Hepburn states that "stress and high demand multitasking, or even loneliness and boredom (which can be stressful) uses even more. And before you know it, much more quickly than normally, you have a depleted tank. You are exhausted.”

Finding a schedule at home that separates working, cleaning, elearning, and relaxing is critical to shift back to a healthy routine. A crutch many of us found during the pandemic has been adding more devices into our daily lives inside and outside the bedroom. Some have their home offices set up next to their bed. By adding a schedule for the family when you login and logoff, you are setting yourself up for success.

Old routines may have included yoga, stretching, massages, or walking. Find ways to slowly add what you can back into your routine. If gyms are still closed in your area, invest in some mittens and a warm hat to get your heart pumping on outdoor walks. You can even find online workout routines through streaming services, YouTube, or a local personal trainer.

If you are struggling to find your routine and feel groggy during the coronavirus pandemic, circle back to our work and school blog from March. We offer ideas to maintain routines. It also is helpful to start with a few go-to sleep routine measures on your own:

  • Journaling can be a step towards an anxiety-free night. The lows also can help journal and think about all the negatives and positives that could occur. The positive news is that you can control your sleep problems without the need to add medications.
  • Unplugging from your phone an hour before bed. The blue light emits negative energy into your sleep space. Restrain your eyes from the allure of the phone and the fear of missing out and read a book or meditate before bed.
  • Turning off the news after dinner. Stop searching for what is happening in the world relating to coronavirus. It will be there when you wake up.
  • Adjusting the temperature when you sleep preferably to the 60s. When entering the rapid eye movement cycle, your body loses its ability to sweat causing the body to align with the room temperature. When too warm or hot, your body wakes you up and it is hard to fall back asleep. Look at a cooling mattress, sheets or pillow to bring cooler temperatures to your room if you do not have air conditioning or live in humid environments.

If you are in a pattern of sleepless nights that are negatively affecting your health, your family, or your career, connect with the Alaska Sleep Clinic for a free consultation. Our sleep medicine specialists offer the help needed to get back on track with a quality, healthy night’s sleep.


Topics: stress, flu, quarantine, work from home, pandemic

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