​Sleep and why it’s so important to get your eight hours

Mar 08, 2021

Actually, 8 hours’ sleep is probably 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. That said, more than a quarter of us are thought to have trouble sleeping on a regular basis [1]. If we don’t get enough sleep for long enough, a multitude of problems can show up fairly swiftly, including poor concentration, memory lapses, irritability and fatigue, dull skin and lacklustre eyes.

Sleep and immunity

And it doesn’t stop there. Whilst scientists are still trying to figure out the exact relationship between sleep and the immune system, many agree that a lack of sleep can severely impair immunity and make you more vulnerable to infections like colds and flu.

Many studies suggest that sleep helps our bodies create the immune cells we need to fight off pathogens [2]. Others show that sleep helps to shift the balance of anti-inflammatory proteins so that we can respond better to bugs [3].

Nearly all agree that our immune system is stronger following a good night’s sleep.

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 [4]. Another study found that REM sleep improved the ability to solve puzzles [5].

Sleep less, eat more

If you don’t get enough sleep, you will overeat! [6] 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 crave 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.

4 tips for a better night’s sleep

1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day to establish a sleep routine.

2. Avoid using tablets or phones in bed, as the blue light will keep your brain awake.

3. A poor diet can keep you awake at night, your liver especially, which carries out many of its functions in the early hours of the morning. Eat healthily for a restful night’s sleep.

4. A natural sleep remedy can also help. A.Vogel Dormeasan® Sleep with fresh Valerian and Hops can help you get to sleep and also stay in the deeper stages of sleep for longer.

[1] The Sleep Council (2013) Great British Bedtime Report; available at: http://www.sleepcouncil.org.uk/wpcontent/uploads/2013/02/The-Great-British-Bedtime-Report.pdf

[2] Brain, Behaviour and Immunity, 'Sleep enhances serum interleukin-7 concentrations in humans ', Nov 2007

[3] Archives of Internal Medicine, 'Shift of monocyte function toward cellular immunity during sleep '. Sept 2006

[4] https://nin.nl/rem-sleep-silences-siren-brain/

[5] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090608182421.htm

[6] https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/connection-between-sleep-and-overeating