Alcohol, Netflix and Bad Sleep: the effects of lockdown coping mechanisms

Screen time and alcohol are not helpful for getting a good night's sleep.

Unfortunately, they're two of the main things Victorians have been turning to during the most recent period of restrictions.

In a discussion with the ABC, psychiatrist Shalini Arunogiri has explained some of the key differences she's noticed between this lockdown and the last.

She says that the way we dealt with the first lockdown was a "response to acute stress." We were in a new environment, with a new lifestyle and trying to learn how to deal with it.

Lockdown two, however, is "just fatigue full stop. A lot of people are feeling burnt out and exhausted."

Binge-watching and excessive dirnking have become daily habits for a lot of Victorians

It's because of this fatigue and exhaustion that lots of Victorians are turning to habitual drinking and long periods of binge-watching as a way to deal with the anxiety and melancholy that comes with the restrictions.

This habit soon becomes an awful cycle.

The stress and anxiety cause you to turn to TV and drink, which means you don't sleep well, which heightens your stress and anxiety, etc. and etc.

The question, is how do you break the cycle?

First of all, we want to say that if you're dealing with serious mental health issues as a result of the lockdown, reach out. Get help. Touch base with Lifeline or Beyond Blue, or book an appointment with your GP so you can deal with the issue. Don't just let it go unchecked.

But if that's not you, then one of the best ways you can deal with the stress and grief of lockdown is focusing on your sleep. TV and drinking might seem to work as a distraction but they're just going to make the problem worse, not better.

Here are five tips that will help you to make sure you're getting the best sleep you can:

1. Have a bedtime routine.

Get up at the same time every morning, and go to bed at the same time every night. Having a set structure like this will not only give you an anchoring routine during the uncertainty of the pandemic, but will also help your body get into “sleep mode” in the evenings, and help you wake up feeling refreshed.

2. Don’t use screens at night

The blue light from TVs, laptops and especially phones, makes it really difficult to get to sleep. It suppresses the chemical called melatonin, which is a hormone your body generates when it gets dark to tell you it’s time to sleep. Spend the hour before bed winding down by reading, drawing, or whatever else you can do without a screen. It’ll really help.

3. Get some natural light in the morning

If you can, step outside for a few minutes in the morning, drink a coffee on the porch, or better yet, go for a walk. In the same way using a phone at night decreases melatonin in a bad way, getting natural light in the morning decreases melatonin in a good way; stopping you from feeling tired and helping refresh you for the day ahead.

4. Get regular exercise

Getting active and moving every day, even just for a walk, is key to our wellbeing. Making sure you’re as healthy as you can be will mean that your anxiety and stress are lowered and you’ll be able to sleep better. If you’re not in the habit of exercising, start.

5. Eat healthily, and at set meal times

Lockdown is not an excuse to eat junk food, nor to just graze whenever you’re hungry. Having a healthy diet, like exercise, improves your general wellbeing and mental health, meaning you get better sleep. Also, the structure of set meal times gives your body a rhythm for the day, clueing you in for when it’s time to sleep.

If you're able to sort out your sleep, you'll be in a much better position to deal with the other parts of your life, including those most affected by the lockdown.

But if sleeping well is a real challenge for you, and you know you're not getting the rest you need, we're here to help. Get in touch with us, or book an appointment with your GP.

Sleeping better is the first step to living well.

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