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Feeling groggy? Here’s what a doctor orders…

AB Amelia Bell


Here, a GP shares seven ways to take action on sleep inertia and other effects of lockdown lethargy.

Let’s call it “lockdown groggy”. It’s that daily feeling of mental exhaustion with, no doubt, anxiety and the flat energy that so many of us are experiencing due to a third lockdown in the UK.

Perhaps you’re sleeping well but feeling shattered and stressed the next day? Or you’re awake at night consumed by endless thoughts and unable to switch off? Just a little nap or lie-in in the day may have skewed your habitual sleep cycle. And anxiety can impair both the length and depth of your sleep. So, if that just woken-up grogginess is lasting longer right now, you’re not alone, and the medical term for that ‘groggy’ vibe is sleep inertia.

Dr Anita Sturnham is a GP with a special interest in dermatology and aesthetics and founder of Decree skincare. She explains the cause behind the groggy grip you may be in now.

“During the lockdown period, many of us have had our lives turned upside down. Working from home, changing our routine, feeling isolated, having uncertainty over our jobs and families - all of these things can have an impact on our mental and physical health. Research shows that a sudden change in your routine and environment can result in a state of stress, initially acute and manageable but if prolonged can push us into a chronic stress state, leading to low mood, fatigue and anxiety in many cases.” 

The stress hormone cortisol acts on almost every organ in your body

“Our ‘stress response’ is a built-in protective mechanism. When you become aware of a ‘threat’ your brain’s hypothalamus releases a corticotropin-realeasing hormone (CRH), which sets off a number of signals and leads to the cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone, cortisol being secreted from your adrenal glands. 

Cortisol acts on almost every organ in your body. In the acute, short term it is a useful hormone that helps us to escape danger and boost performance, but its continued production (ie: if the stress trigger continues) can cause health problems, such as suppressing immune function, and impacting appetite and energy levels. It can also lead to low mood and anxiety and is a reason for disrupted sleep.

Sustained stress not only results in high cortisol but also reduced serotonin and dopamine (among our ‘happy’ hormones, which has been linked to depression and mood disorders. When these hormones are off kilter, we can see a disruption to biological processes like sleep, appetite and energy levels.”

Doctor’s orders: 7 ways to deal…

1Build in structure

Working from home can make it difficult to set boundaries and separate work from home life. I recommend having a routine to improve mood and productivity. Set your alarm to get up at the same time each day, and use the time that you work to do some gentle exercise or meditation.


Studies show that those who take regular time out to meditate are more likely to feel less stressed and happier in mood. This is likely to be due to a combination of increased endorphins and taking time out to relax.

3Switch off

Schedule in time to ‘do nothing’: In today’s world we are constantly switched on. We are spending more time connected to our phones, screens and televisions and less time forming real relationships with others and ourselves.

4Get outdoors

Lack of daylight can reduce our Vitamin D levels and a deficiency is thought to impact our mood. Vit D is known as the sunshine vitamin, and is produced by the body in response to skin being exposed to sunlight. It also occurs naturally in a few foods, including some fish, fish-liver oils, egg yolks, and in fortified dairy and grain products.

5No blue light after 7pm

That includes TVs and phones! Read a book instead to help you switch off.

6Take an evening bath or shower

Not only is this a moment to help you unwind, when you jump out your temperature actually drops and this is helpful in the stimulation of your sleep hormones.

7Magnesium before bed

Magnesium helps by regulating the neurotransmitters and ultimately calming your nervous system in readiness for sleep. It also works alongside melatonin (a hormone your body produces naturally) to control your body clock and sleep-wake cycles.

More info

The views expressed on these pages are the views of the cited experts only and do not necessarily represent the views of Wellness Edit. Please always get a second opinion where specific medical advice is required.

All Content © Copyright Wellness Edit 2020. All rights reserved

Feeling groggy? Here’s what a doctor orders…

AB Amelia Bell

The Article Edit

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