Sleep the flu season away

Could sleep be the secret to sporting success?

Finding the right balance of sleep will aid in strengthening the immune system, providing help in avoiding the colds and flu so prevalent in these cooler months. Here, we look at the impacts of lack of sleep and how a pharmacy assistant can assist customers in keeping their sleeping habits on track. 

Sleep is often overlooked as a major health factor, but can determine just how strong our immune systems are, while a wide range of other health concerns can arise from lack of sleep.

The Sleep Foundation recommends the amount of sleep for adults should be between seven and nine hours a night. For other age ranges, it recommends:1

  • Infant: 12 to 16 hours.
  • Toddler: 11 to 14 hours.
  • Preschool: 10 to 13 hours.
  • School age: nine to 12 hours.
  • Teen: eight to 10 hours.

Top health concerns for weak sleep

 Consistent lack of sleep can lead to serious sleep deprivation and with it the risk of many dangerous health concerns, both physical and mental.

Long-term effects of sleep deprivation can include:2

  • Memory issues.
  • Trouble with thinking and concentration.
  • Mood changes.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Weakened immunity.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Weight gain.
  • Risk of heart disease.

Sleep deprivation and weakened immunity 

Throughout sleep, the immune system produces protective, infection-fighting substances, such as antibodies and cytokines, that fight off foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses.

Sleep deprivation can prevent the immune system from building up its shields. Those not sleeping enough may fail to fight off bacteria that threaten the body and creates a cold or flu.²

Signs of sleep deprivation 

Important signs to look out for when it comes to assessing customers or patients for sleep deprivation include:3

  • Constant yawning.
  • The tendency to doze off if not active for a while, or while watching television.
  • The feeling of grogginess when waking in the morning.
  • Sleep inertia, or the feeling of sleepy grogginess throughout the day.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Mood changes, increased irritability.

Tips for better sleep 

For those having sleeping troubles, pharmacy assistant suggestions can include the following tips from Healthline:²

  • Limiting naps during the day.
  • Avoiding caffeine intake past midday.
  • Going to bed at the same time each night.
  • Waking up at the same time each morning.
  • Sticking to a bedtime schedule on holidays and weekends.
  • A relaxing activity for an hour before bedtime.
  • Avoiding heavy meals for hours before bedtime.
  • Reducing alcohol intake. 

Sleep aid products at the pharmacy  

Sleep aids available at pharmacies come in a variety of forms, such as tablets, liquids and sprays. Most products that promise to help improve sleep are aimed at taming stress and anxiety as a way to help battle sleep deprivation.

A key supplement used often when addressing sleep concerns is melatonin, which may improve sleep quality and morning alertness and can be dispensed by a pharmacist. It’s important to speak with a pharmacist about the possible effects of melatonin.4

As a pharmacy assistant, equipping yourself with knowledge of how sleep deprivation is caused and what the symptoms look like will help address customers’ and patients’ health concerns, as you can direct them to certain products. If the symptoms present as potentially risky, advise them to speak with a GP about further help.


  1. Sleep Foundation, 2023. ‘How much sleep do we really need?’
  2. Healthline, 2023. ‘The effects of sleep deprivation on your body’.
  3. Better Health Channel. ‘Sleep deprivation’.
  4. ‘Safe use of sleeping pills’.,used%20to%20help%20relieve%20insomnia.

This feature was originally published in the May issue of Retail Pharmacy Assistants e-magazine.