While you may be doing less and clocking more hours in bed than ever since the coronavirus pandemic hit, thousands across the globe have been complaining about how exhausted they are on a daily basis.
But why is this? Lockdown lives are, for many, less fraught, busy and packed with diary events and schedules.
According to Sydney-based sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo, the feelings of fatigue that you are experiencing are more likely to be related to the mental workload associated with COVID-19 rather than the physical burden.
Sydney-based sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo (pictured) said the feelings of fatigue that you are experiencing are more likely to be related to the mental workload associated with COVID-19 rather than the physical burden
‘Stress exhausts the body – it’s as simple as that,’ Olivia told FEMAIL. ‘It’s particularly exhausting if it’s long-lasting.’
The sleep expert explained how stress works via the ‘general adaptation syndrome’.
What are the three stages of overcoming stress?
1. ALARM PHASE: During this stage, you might feel more energised, alert and awake – driven by adrenaline and cortisol.
2. RESISTANCE PHASE: The second stage occurs when the stress is chronic, and you might feel as though you aren’t as energised and wired, but you’ll still be more alert than normal.
3. EXHAUSTION PHASE: This stage essentially describes the depletion of our bodily systems, a natural consequence of ongoing elevated cortisol. Cortisol stops us from getting deep sleep and compromises the body’s ability to create the happiness hormone, serotonin.
‘This describes the following three phases,’ she said.
‘Initially, when we are faced with stress, we have the “alarm phase”: a period where we are more energised, alert and awake – driven by adrenaline and cortisol – the stress hormone. This allows us to cope with the challenge.’
The second phase, Olivia said, is the ‘resistance phase’.
‘This occurs when the stress is chronic, like the coronavirus and its subsequent effects,’ she said.
‘You may feel during this that you aren’t as energised and “wired” as you were in the alarm phase, but you’ll still be more alert than normal’.
The third phase – which many of us will have entered by now – is the ‘exhaustion phase’.
‘If the stress hasn’t subsided, you hit the exhaustion phase, which essentially describes the depletion of our bodily systems, a natural consequence of ongoing elevated cortisol,’ Olivia said.
‘High cortisol limits our ability to get deep sleep – which is critical to our energy levels – and it also compromises the body’s ability to create happiness hormones like serotonin – meaning we feel emotionally drained too.’
‘Stress exhausts the body – it’s as simple as that,’ Olivia told FEMAIL. ‘It’s particularly exhausting if it’s long-lasting,’ she said (stock image)
So how can we try to ease the transition and make sure we feel a bit better rested during this stressful time?
Olivia explained that the first thing you need to do is get back into some sort of a routine, and make sleep a priority between 10pm and 2am.
‘Many of use are used to prioritising Netflix or social media in these hours instead of sleep – especially right now,’ she said.
‘But if there is any time we need to be asleep, it’s within this time frame.’
The expert highlighted clinical studies, which all show we are more likely to have deep sleep during this time-frame, which is ‘critical’ to you feeling energised the next morning.
Olivia (pictured) recommends you look after yourself by taking a magnesium supplement in the morning and at night, and also prioritising a bedtime routine
What is Olivia Arezzolo’s 10-step bedtime routine?
1. Create a sleep sanctuary: Remove any blue light from iPhones and devices and keep your bedroom for sleep and relaxation.
2. Block blue light: Do not allow blue light into the bedroom and restrict this two hours from bedtime.
3. Set a goodnight alarm for your phone: At this point switch it off so you wake fully refreshed.
4. Diffuse lavender: Diffuse lavender either onto your pillows or throughout the room to promote relaxation.
5. Have an evening shower or bath: This helps to promote relaxation 45-60 minutes before bed.
6. Drink chamomile tea: Do this an hour before bed to make you calm.
7. Take a magnesium supplement: This helps the muscles to relax.
8. Practise gratitude: Think about what you are grateful for.
9. Try meditation: This can be useful to help you sleep.
10. Practise deep breathing: This makes it easier to sleep.
Source: Olivia Arezzolo
The second thing you should do is start a bedtime routine before you turn the lights out.
Olivia has a ten-step routine that includes things like diffusing lavender, blocking any blue light from your phone or laptop and drinking chamomile tea which can’t help but get you into the right place for sleep.
Olivia also said it’s worth taking a magnesium supplement, both in the morning and at night.
‘Magnesium has been shown in clinical trials to reduce anxiety by 31 per cent,’ she said.
‘Most of us are used to taking it in the evening, however to take it in the morning is also recommended in these circumstances.
‘The body uses additional magnesium under stress, so you’re likely to need the extra boost.’
The fourth and final thing she said you should do is prioritise stress management first thing in the morning to get your day off on the right foot.
‘I strongly advise that you make meditation the first thing you do upon waking,’ Olivia said.
‘It changes the structure within the brain (called the HPA axis), lessening cortisol release.’
Olivia said that as a result of doing some meditation, you will feel less anxious and wired, and if you do become stressed, it won’t affect you as much.
‘Doing it first thing in the morning is best as you won’t necessarily find the time later in the day and it’ll help you to deal with anything in your day,’ Olivia said.
For more information about Olivia Arezzolo, you can visit her website here.