the COVID-19 lockdown has impacted people's sleeping patterns, with more than 33% of 12,000 respondents in 6 countries saying they go to bed later than usual and 20% saying they find it harder to sleep . Here is a review of how nutrition and stress reduction can improve sleep duration, sleep latency (the length of time taken to fall asleep), and sleep quality.
melatonin reduces the time taken to fall asleep.
melatonin is the bodies sleep hormone. It is triggered by photosensitive receptors in the eyes that detect a reduction in UV light and this evolutionary adaptation converts the brains store of serotonin into melatonin 
orally ingested melatonin has been shown to benefit people with sleep disorders and 5mg of melatonin 30 minutes before bed can benefit patients suffering from insomnia . A 2014 review of melatonin studies also concluded participants who took melatonin on average fell to sleep 7 minutes earlier, slept 8 minutes longer, and had an improved quality of sleep . However, whilst synthetic melatonin or natural forms extracted from the pineal gland of pigs are wildly available as a dietary supplement in the US & EU, in the UK it has been classed as a medicine since 1995.
how else can you increase melatonin?
serotonin is the building block to melatonin  and it's produced in the brain from tryptophan which is readily available in protein rich-foods . Tryptophan has a challenge in increasing serotonin in the brain as it is unable to freely cross the blood-brain-barrier without binding to a transporter molecule and needs to be converted to 5-HTP before serotonin (5-HT)
5-HTP is an amino acid that can be taken as a food supplement, it freely crosses the blood-brain-barrier and it is the immediate building block of serotonin so it is a more effective serotonin precursor. Research suggests that 100mg 5-HTP may be helpful before bedtime .
can products aimed at relaxation help you sleep?
there are a number of non-sedative, non-drowsy products which are frequently reviewed as a solution for sleep. It is important to note that none of the following play a role in melatonin production, release but they focus on an alternative mechanism of action – the bodies stress response.
what is the impact of stress on sleep?
a study published in the Frontiers in Neuroscience demonstrated that stress in healthy adults led to longer sleep latencies and sleep disturbances  whilst high cortisol levels have been shown to reduce sleep duration by 1.5 – 2 hours  and as much as 5 hours in stressed workers .
theanine aids relaxation without sedation
theanine increases the relative concentration of GABA and decreases the impact of the excitatory pathway, glutamate, in the brain. GABA's primary role in the nervous system is to promote relaxation without sedation. Some studies suggest that L-theanine can limit the stress response by reducing blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle contraction .
when GABA is broken down in the muscles it also aids relaxation and therefore the prevailing theory suggests that it may help you to sleep better. At the National Institute of Mental Health & the National Centre of Neurology and Psychiatry in Japan, 200mg of theanine 1 hour before bed showed improved sleep quality  whilst the same dose of theanine for 4 weeks appears to reduce sleep latency but has no impact on sleep duration .
what about magnesium?
the evidence is inconclusive for magnesium preparations, such as bath salts or supplements for relaxation . A single short-term study did demonstrate that patients with insomnia who consumed 500mg magnesium slept longer and took less time to fall asleep . However, 500mg is 42% higher than the EU's safe upper limit for magnesium for men (350mg/day) and over 57% for women (300mg/day) .
a limited body of evidence showed that people with and without sleep problems that consumed valerian root had improved sleep quality and fell asleep 16 minutes faster . As promising as this seems, some research suggests it has no benefits on sleep, such as sleep duration and there is a fundamental research challenge when comparing herbal remedy studies. Valerian contains 150 different compounds which can alter depending on the growing region, soil and climate .
does camomile help you to fall asleep?
camomile contains a compound called apigenin, a mild sedative with a similar lock and key effect to drugs used to treat insomnia . Camomile preparations, such as teas and essential oils, have a historical use to calm nerves to treat insomnia  and is considered to be a natural sleep aid. However, the evidence for effective camomile extracts on sleep is limited. Adults with insomnia that consumed 270mg camomile twice daily for 28 days experienced no benefits on sleep duration  but elderly people that consumed 200mg camomile experience better sleep . Further clinical research is needed to confirm the mechanism of apigenin in camomile and the recommended dose of camomile to reap sleep benefits.
what else can be done to improve sleep?
cut off caffeine a minimum of 6 hours before bedtime [28 ]. Caffeine has been shown to increase the time taken to fall asleep and disrupt sleep quality . Avoid eating sugar 2 hours before bed  and reduce screen time before you go to bed. The blue light emitted from electronic devices can reduce or delay the production of melatonin .