Too many sleepless nights? What you need to know about REM and immunity

Somewhere along the way you will have probably been told that between 7 to 8 hours’ sleep is optimal, but this is the absolute minimum an adult should be getting. For optimum energy, 9 hours may be a better number for many people – and teenagers need between 8 and 10 hours.

More than a quarter of us are thought to have trouble sleeping on a regular basis. If we miss out on sufficient sleep a multitude of problems can show up fairly swiftly, including: 

  • Poor concentration
  • Memory lapses
  • Irritability and fatigue
  • Painful muscles and joints, and
  • Dull skin and lacklustre eyes

Sleep and immunity

It doesn’t stop there. “Longer term the problems can expand to include weight imbalance, worsening cholesterol and blood sugar levels, higher blood pressure and poor immune function,” says A.Vogel nutritional practitioner Alison Cullen (aka ‘Ask Ali’).

“Your immune system needs adequate sleeping hours in order to function well. Those who are worried about any viral infections, flu, colds and pneumonia should pay attention to their hours of slumber as well as hand washing.

“Studies have shown that those who get less rest have a depressed immune system compared to those getting enough shuteye. One of the reasons is because when you sleep, your body produces and releases proteins called cytokines. These are chemical messengers that immune cells use to signal each other.

“If you don’t get enough sleep, your immune system will not function as well as it could; and when you meet a virus or bug, your immune system may be too slow to act.”

REM, your mental reboot

REM or Rapid Eye Movement is the part of your sleep when dreaming happens, and it is the first part of your sleep sequence that will suffer if you are not sleeping well or going to bed too late.

REM can be compared to a mental systems-reboot for your mind, as this is the stage of sleep when all your mental tasks, deeds, thoughts and emotions are processed. It’s when your brain has a good think about everything and when your thoughts are allowed an airing in the privacy of your slumber.

Chronic sleep problems and ongoing suppressed REM have been linked to anxiety, depression and poor concentration. One study in the Netherlands found that participants who got adequate REM sleep were better able to deal with fear and distress than those who did not get enough REM. Another study found that REM sleep improved the ability to solve puzzles.

Sleep less, eat more

You will overeat! Two hormones, ghrelin and leptin, are affected by sleep and this can affect hunger and appetite. Less than 8 hours sleep can increase your levels of ghrelin, which causes hunger. Not only that, but your levels of a lipid called endocannabinoid increase too, which makes you want cakes, fatty foods and sugar. A lack of sleep has been linked to eating an excess of 300 calories a day; so, if you want to make healthier food choices or lose weight, go to bed on time!

3 sleep solutions to help you nod off

Sleeplessness has become one of society’s biggest problems. Most of us have busy, hectic lives and it can be hard to tell if stress is keeping you awake or if exhaustion is making stress unmanageable.

Relationships with others, worries about work, money, the environment and now lockdown, are all contributing factors that can result in sleepless nights.

Here are 3 sleep solutions to help you drift off into stress-free slumber:

Dormeasan® Sleep 

If you have trouble dropping off to sleep, try taking 30 drops of Dormeasan® 30 minutes before bedtime, and for interrupted sleep, 10 to 20 drops once or twice during the day.

Dormeasan® is a traditional herbal medicinal product containing fresh herb extract of valerian and hops used for the temporary relief of sleep disturbances resulting from mild anxiety exclusively based upon long-standing use as a traditional remedy.

It’s a herbal sleeping aid in the form of a liquid herbal tincture (not a ‘sleeping pill’) and can help if you worry you can’t sleep, encouraging a more natural sleep, helping you sleep better and wake feeling refreshed.


AvenaCalm is a licensed herbal remedy that can be useful when you are facing mild stress or experiencing mild anxiety. It can also be used to help you sleep. Made from the green leafy parts of the oat plant (Avena sativa), try taking 25 to 30 drops twice daily for mild stress and anxiety, and to aid sleep, 30 drops in a little water half an hour before bedtime.

Stress Relief Daytime 

Use Stress Relief Daytime to help you cope with the pressures that can sometimes build up around you when you are busy. A traditional herbal medicinal product containing fresh herb extract of valerian and hops, it can be used for the temporary relief of symptoms associated with stress and mild anxiety.

Unlike most other stress relief remedies containing natural herbs, Stress Relief Daytime comes in the form of a herbal liquid tincture. Take 10 to 20 drops once or twice a day, diluted in fruit juice or water according to taste, to help you cope better with the stresses around you. It is not known to be habit forming.

All available from independent health stores nationwide and

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