PEOPLE are dealing with the coronavirus crisis in a myriad of ways but for some it has seriously disturbed their sleep.
Before the pandemic most Brits would get around six hours sleep per night with most having issues falling to sleep.
One expert says these issues can be quite complex but can be fixed with some simple steps.
Speaking to The Sun nutrition expert Kim Plaza from Bio Kult said current changes to our living habits and environment could be having an impact on how many times we hit snooze.
"Sleep has been hypothesised to be essential for optimal immune regulation, as well as memory consolidation, regulation of mood and toxin eradication, so is even more important at times like these."
Kim says that sleep is regulated by two specific processes.
One regulates the intensity of your sleep, and the other timing of sleep and alertness levels.
She added that the Covid-19 pandemic is bound to cause potential anxiety and worry.
"This may impact our biochemistry and imbalance some of the hormones required for a restful sleep."
But how can you get a better night's sleep? Here Kim reveals her top tips to ensure you get the best sleep possible.
1. Get into a routine
While it's important to have a bed time routine. Kim says it's also important that you have some sort of structure during the day.
"Keeping to a regular routine during the day where possible may help us regulate our sleep hormones more effectively.
"This includes waking up within the same 90 minute window each day. Our sleep hormones rely on a finely balanced circadian rhythm, which is an internal process that regulates our sleep-wake cycle and is dictated largely by our exposure to daylight."
Kim said the more our wake-up times fluctuate the more our hormones will need to catch up and adjust.
"For example, the stress hormone cortisol naturally increases in the morning to help wake us up but if we have too much circulating in our blood later in the day, it may be harder for the sleep hormone melatonin to have an effect.
"Having a routine keeps us calm, and may prevent spikes in stress hormones and promote well-being."
Kim also said that a bedtime routine is important and said turning off the screens in the house is imperative for a good night's sleep.
She added: "Potentially, we could be disrupting our body’s natural circadian rhythm on a regular basis with the use of artificial lighting and looking at computer or television screens late into the night.
"Make sure your room is dark, at a comfortable temperature and without distractions; this will lay the foundation for a restful sleep.
"When our bodies are regulated; sleeping patterns, digestive function (including hunger, satiety and bowel movements) and energy levels should become more synchronised with the 24 hour light/dark cycle."
2. Meal plans
Kim says that eating meals at the same time each day ensures we are keeping our appetite hormones stable.
Ghrelin is the hunger hormone and leptin is the satiety hormone and both of these can have an impact on our sleep.
If out of sync, Kim says that this could lead to over eating and we may be more likely to experience food cravings.
"So try sticking to a regular eating pattern of three main meals, rather than grazing throughout the day.
"It will allow our bodies a chance to control blood sugar and keep energy levels balanced."
3. Let's get physical
When we exercise we release endorphins these are chemicals which release positive feelings in the body and the brain.
Stress hormones hinder the effect of these positive feelings and could see hormones such as melatonin, which is required for relaxation and sleep, being wiped out.
Kim says the activities that we do during the day will therefore impact on our ability to switch off.
"Getting a good dose of those exercise derived endorphins could tip the balance in favour of promoting good sleep.
"There are many forms of exercise, for example gardening or cleaning, alongside more traditional activities such as weight training, yoga and aerobics, which may help to maintain a healthy lifestyle and regulate stress hormones."
4. Chill out
Stress and sleep affect each other, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is concerned with our reaction to stressful situations.
When we get stressed this revs up and gives us hormones that deal with stressful situations.
"The HPA axis modulates our sleep by following the 24 hour light/dark cycle, and provides us with cortisol in the morning and melatonin at night.
"Loss of sleep puts the HPA axis in a state of over stimulation and tries to compensate our tiredness with stress hormones – to wake us up!"
Kim says it's important to reduce stress where possible, whether it’s practising mindful meditation, listening to music or breathing exercises.
"These activities may put our bodies in a state of rest, known more specifically as the parasympathetic nervous system.
"It brings our heart rate and blood pressure down and it might allow us to feel more in control and able to more easily cope in stressful situations."
5. Cut the coffee
It might keep you going throughout the day but Kim says if you want to sleep better then you should avoid caffeinated food and drinks such as chocolate, alcohol, coffee, tea and energy drinks.
"Avoiding food that is high in simple carbohydrates and refined sugars may also aid our sleeping habits.
"When we consume food that contains little fibre or high amounts of sugar, this can spike blood glucose levels, which has a short-term stimulating effect and we need to release hormones in order for us to deal with this additional load."
6. Check your vitamins and minerals
During the coronavirus pandemic we've heard about the benefits of vitamin D, but Kim says it's also important to look at prebiotics and micronutrients.
"Foods high in fibre may be particularly good at supporting our sleep, especially those known as prebiotics."
Foods that fall into this group include leeks, asparagus, and slightly green bananas (so forget saving them to make banana bread).
"These may aid restful sleep as they selectively promote the good bacteria within our gut, which supply us with many helpful compounds that form and support our sleep hormones."
Studies have previously shown that people with better sleep quality have higher levels of vitamin B and magnesium.
"Magnesium is a great mineral which aids relaxation and the normal function of the nervous system.
"Reduced selenium and calcium intake has also been associated with insomnia, so don’t underestimate the role of these compounds!
"Foods containing these nutrients include nuts, wholegrain versions of bread, pasta and rice and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and cabbage."
7. Be picky with proteins
In recent years the market has been flooded with various options of protein. Whether it's your traditional chicken or fish or shakes or bars.
Kim says it's important to get the right balance.
"Low protein intake is associated with poor quality sleep, whilst too much protein is associated with difficulty maintaining sleep.
"Try to incorporate good quality protein sources such as fish, turkey, eggs, pumpkin and sesame seeds and chicken.
"These foods also contain tryptophan which is needed to make melatonin (our sleep hormone).
"Other than increasing tryptophan, sufficient protein may support folate and vitamin B12. These compounds have a role in melatonin metabolism and balanced circadian rhythm (the light/dark cycle)."
8. Get serious about your gut
Kim says that if we look after our gut health then it could help our bodies produce more sleep promoting hormones such as serotonin - which is then turned into melatonin.
"Poor sleep and feelings of fatigue are often reported alongside digestive issues, however, even in those who do not suffer with noticeable digestive complaints, sleep disorders may provide a clue that the community of bacteria that reside in the gut may be out of balance."
In 2015 a human trial suggested that multi-strain live bacteria supplements may help regulate the production of melatonin.
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The production of this naturally increases in the evening and encourages sleep.
"Studies have also suggested that live bacteria supplements could help to reduce stress levels and anxiety, which may therefore help to restore disrupted sleep patterns."
Kim recommends using supplements that offer both magnesium and vitamin B6.
"These could potentially help to restore the body’s natural circadian rhythm, and improve gut-brain communication leading to improved sleeping patterns", she added.