The Psychological Impact of Lockdown

Many at first might rejoice about living a different lifestyle such as attending school and working from the comfort of our own homes. However, the confinement may just be the start of more problems. Evidence has shown that lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic might have a deteriorating effect on our mental health, sleep schedule, relationships, and much more. Whilst lockdown is indefinitely for the greater good, people should be made aware of the psychological impact this time will take for some.

Those who have accepted that we are now in an indeterminate lockdown due to COVID-19 may be undergoing significant changes to their routine. Thus, many find that their sleep schedule is now non-existent. This is due to apprehension about these uncertain times. Apprehension and anxiety can build up and lead to insomnia. A recent report from Express Scripts highlights that prescriptions for anti-insomnia, antianxiety and antidepressant medication have increased by 21% from January to March 2020. Additionally, these numbers peaked throughout the week of March 15 when the World Health Organisation made the declaration that COVID-19 is a pandemic. Stress levels impact neurotransmitters hence impacting the brain. It is believed that increased levels of cortisol production change the wake balance in your brain leading to insomnia. Insomnia can run in genetics but this can be exacerbated by stress such as we are facing nationwide now. Low moods brought by depression also have links to insomnia due to daytime napping disrupting sleep schedules. Furthermore, many people are currently experiencing fragmented sleep, which is when you might awaken in the night. The population’s normal outlets such as exercising, socializing, and doing hobbies have abruptly vanished. And, as the brain is having to process the additional stress during our sleep, people might have more awakenings throughout the night.

Another consequence of quarantine is having more vivid dreams. Dreams are a resource for our brains to make sense of our lives. With more to make sense of during this pandemic, lots of people can remember their dreams in a more lucid form. Many dreams have become nightmares because they are a, somewhat hyperbolic, reflection of our emotional state. In our ‘normal’ lifestyle, previous dreams begin vanishing momentarily after waking as they are irrelevant compared to the importance of our days. Conversely, in lockdown, our mornings might be slowed down with lie-ins which allows our dreams to become more prominent in our memory and hence more vivid.

The restrictive personality of lockdown can result in boredom. Furthermore, antagonistic relationships between families in close restrictive premises do not have promising effects. Personal spaces are often violated. Other restrictions are such as rule enforcement. Human nature naturally does not like to conform to rules. This can lead to more tension within families.

Kids have also been seen as more anxious in recent times. This can be a result of parents constantly talking about the coronavirus and having the news on in the background. Kids look to parents for reassurance and for how to react. If parents are stressed, for example, panic buying, kids will pick up on this and themselves become more anxious. This is not good for their mental health in the long run.

To help manage yourself in these ambiguous times, keep to a set structure that you previously lived with, or create one. Try to return to a sensible sleep structure with at least 7-8 hours but this may vary between people and factors such as the quality of sleep. Try not to worry and just see where this challenge takes us. However, we can try to relax by doing mindful acts such as mediation, exercising, going for a walk (abiding by government restrictions and laws), reading, drawing, baking, and socialising virtually. Trying to maintain some structure and good habits to keep some resemblance of a normal lifestyle is extremely important for our wellbeing, even if life is currently far from normal.

– Amy Clarke, year 10