We appreciate the benefit of a good night's sleep - we wake up feeling refreshed, clear headed and prepared to begin our day. Not everyone is so fortunate. For those who regularly experience poor sleep, pandemic anxiety, coupled with constant changes regarding lockdowns and restrictions, can mean sleep is further impaired. At a time when so much is beyond our control, the benefits of a good night's rest are tremendous.
"Anxiety is a natural human response when we're under stress but there's fear on top of fear on top of fear again with the pandemic," says psychotherapist Deirdre Martin who helps clients with sleep concerns.
"There's the fear, 'What if I get Covid? What if somebody else gets Covid? What if I can't cope? What if I can't visit the hospital? What treatment would I have? Fear triggers anxiety which in turn can lead to sleep problems."
Stress, isolation and finance issues are other reasons why we feel too overwhelmed to sleep - but it's not just older adults who aren't nodding off at night says Deirdre.
"You have a student/young people group who don't have the same structures, who can't do the things they could before," she says.
"We talk about young people being a technology generation but actually this has been really surprising for them, in the lack of physical contact.
"They can't get out and see the friends, or go to university or college or school.
"They've had a big disruption in their sleep too because it's really reflected on their social life in a lot of ways, and their method of learning, which is online. I think they're hugely impacted."
We may know someone who boasts about how little sleep they need, almost wearing it as a badge of honour.
"People will say they can exist on four to six hours and actually the research would say that's not realistic and it's not enough," says Deirdre, who is based in Newtownabbey.
"Matthew Walker [Professor of Neuroscience & Psychology at University of California, Berkeley] would say the optimum is seven to nine hours in bed knowing that it's going to take you a bit of time to get over or wake up.
"While we're sleeping so many essential processes happen where we are clearing down our memory storage, taking down the stuff we don't need because we take in so much information during the day.
"It affects mood; when we have proper sleep we're not comfort eating or eating as much.
"Of course we dream which is processing things encountering all our subconscious and unconscious processes. There's so much happens during sleep and I think we totally underestimate the need for it and how important it is.
"People seem to think that it's almost a good thing that they can exist on less but it's not. That's why they keep prisoners of war awake because they know they'll break eventually. After three nights without sleep you can start to hallucinate."
Proper quality sleep will reduce the body's cortisol levels, reducing stress and allowing us to relax. But with 40% of people suffering from sleep issues, and 25% of schoolchildren, it's no wonder that Walker described the 'silent sleep loss epidemic' as 'the greatest public health challenge in the 21st century in developed nations.'
In fact, sleep deprivation has cost the UK economy upwards of £40bn annually.
"We're noticing more with young people and students, they're definitely more impacted by this and obviously those who aren't working and are stuck in those situations," says Deirdre of her clients.
When it comes to doing what we can to boost our sleep, top of Deirdre's list is practicing meditation and mindfulness.
"Because we're focused on worry, anxiety and stress, what we're trying to do is calm this brain that's kind of on high alert, waiting for fear, scanning for danger, the fight or flight mode.
"One of my biggest pieces of advice is going to be undertaking a guided meditation for 20 minutes. You're giving your mind a mental holiday for 20 minutes and who couldn't do with that?
"We tend to look back or worry forward. We're going back with a depressive view or we're going forward with fear and anxiety about what's going to happen.
"Mindfulness is about being in the present moment. Notice your thinking. Notice where it's going. Come back to the present moment. So, you can be in the here and now you've got everything you need to exist."
A gadget-free bedroom as well as a structured bedtime routine may also help.
"I put my phone onto airplane mode because I need it for the alarm but what they suggest is having a proper battery operated alarm clock, so kicking out the technology from the room so we're not getting interference from anything.
"One of the other things I would always suggest for people who have trouble sleeping is to journal. Spend an hour with the journal each evening, working on what's on their mind, bringing up all the worries, anxieties and troubles, to do lists etc. You've got it on paper so it frees the brain up.
"When you go to bed, keep a pen and paper beside you so if something does come into your head, you can write it down and be free of it then, you're not holding onto that, so to speak, as you sleep."
It can require motivation to leave home each day for physical activity but Deirdre rates half an hour outside in the bright sunlight where possible.
"With the pandemic, some of the research suggests that the vitamins that are lacking are C, D3 and zinc.
"You'll get D3 from sun exposure; we can't make that in the body. By getting out, you're changing your environment you're meeting people, you're getting out in nature, you're grounding yourself.
"We'll get endorphins released with 20 minutes of exercise which makes us feel good and that will impact on mood."
For those working from home, trying, where possible, to keep a separate room for working will be beneficial. Working from home should not mean working from your bedroom.
Reframing our thoughts too, may help break the cycles of worry that so many continue to experience, particularly during the pandemic.
"How we think determines how we feel which then determines how we behave," says Deirdre.
"A really important thing is knowing where those thoughts are going and trying to find the alternative balance thought for that. It's not positive thinking; it's not that we're thinking positively all the time because we can't, sometimes bad things just happen and we can't really see the positives, but we can certainly work on our thoughts and challenge our thoughts and change our thoughts.
"If we have a thought, 'This pandemic will never end,' we need to find an alternative balanced thought for that such as, 'scientists and governments are all working hard to manage and contain the situation and it will pass.'
"Couple that with staying present - because if you go too far forward, you're just going to feel worse, you're going to feel stressed and worried."
We should also choose how we access news and for how long, especially if we feel anxious.
"Restrict that to once a day: choose a time that you're going to listen to it or watch," she says.
"If you're going to listen or watch in the morning, you have time to work through it and process it and hopefully challenge your thoughts to come up a better thought.
"Fear loves fear, it compounds it."
Deirdre also describes a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approach that she uses with clients called the worry tree.
"What am I worried about? Is it a hypothetical situation? Is it a current situation? If it's hypothetical, change the focus of attention back to the present. If it's a situation that's upcoming, write out a plan. Plan out the who, what, where, when, write it down and then change your focus and attention," she says.
"The theory behind that is things swirl in our head, they swirl and swirl but when we write things down, it becomes a linear process. We can deal with that much better than the swirliness.
"The research would also say that by the time we write the problem out three times, we've come to a solution - and we like solutions."
But when does the problem get too bad? Most people will know if they're not sleeping right over a prolonged period, says the psychotherapist.
"If you feel like you can fall asleep by 10 or 11 o'clock or if you can't exist without caffeine before noon, then you're not getting enough sleep. Those are two of the easier indicators but most people will know.
"There were probably a lot of issues that people were dealing with before this and maybe suppressing. This kind of pandemic or situation might exacerbate or highlight those further. It's almost like a container: when we get full up and overflow, we have to seek help."
To contact Deirdre, email email@example.com. Useful resources include Nhs.co.uk; Sleepcouncil.org.uk and Sleepfoundation.org