I recently tried REM Sleep, a relatively new sleep aid from the company Healthycell. It’s sold online in the United States and doesn’t require a prescription.
I’ve noticed a trend in the last couple of years towards including more and more ingredients in non-prescription sleep aids, and Healthycell’s sleep aid is no exception.
There are 18 active ingredients, ranging from valerian to melatonin and GABA. I can’t help but wonder if the idea is to cover as many bases as possible to potentially satisfy more customers. Or do they know through tests of their own that adding so many ingredients is both effective and necessary?
To find out for myself, I took it every night for a week to see what effect it had. I decided to compare my sleep tracker data that week with three earlier weeks, and also with the week in which I took another multi-ingredient sleep aid – Remrise.
In this review, I’ll first talk about my experience of taking it and how I felt. Then I’ll look at my sleep tracker data for that week, and finally list the ingredients and warnings.
As interesting as the results may be, please take them with a pinch of salt and see this as a personal experiment though. After all, it’s just one person’s results with a consumer device – very far from a rigorous scientific study.
Cost, packaging, and microgel
It’s not hard to find a bottle of standard sleep aids for just a few dollars in the US, both online and in stores. Minimal packaging. Minimal cost. Minimal size capsule, tablet or gummy.
So the slow drift I’m seeing with sleep aids online toward higher cost, more packaging, and larger quantity to consume each night is a little concerning.
At $49.95 for a 30 day supply, this concoction was going to have to work wonders for me to choose it over a cheap as chips bottle of valerian, melatonin or classic anti-histamines.
And as you can see in the photo above, my supply of REM Sleep came in a small shoe-sized box, with 30 gel packs inside. Healthycell say that they use a gel to help increase absorption.
As they say on their website:
Our MICROGEL supplements are designed from the outset to provide maximum bioavailability, enabling people to absorb the full quantity of active nutrients into their bloodstream, and then into cells, where they work to improve health.
The microgel taste and first night’s sleep
The instructions say to take one microgel pack before bedtime (they don’t specify how long before). You can take it either on its own or mixed in a drink or smoothie.
I just sucked it right out of the pack before I got into bed, as you do. It has a strong taste of cherry, so if that’s not your thing, it’ll be a smoothie for you.
You can recycle all those nightly packs, which is great. But you need to register with the website TerraCycle to get a special recycling envelope, which I imagine might put off the less dedicated recyclers out there.
I then lay in bed reading to see if I noticed any drowsiness. Kind of pointless unless it’s a serious knock-out effect as you never know if it’s the sleep aid, the placebo effect or sheer exhaustion because you’re not 20 any more. But still, I like to think I’d notice anything unusual.
I didn’t notice any sedation, however, so I switched off my light after 30 mins and actually slept really well that first night. I didn’t wake up with a hangover as is sometimes the case with sleep aids. So the first night was a good start.
The following nights
If anything remarkable had happened on any of the next six nights, I would have written about it separately. But in fact, the next six nights were quite similar to one another.
As you’ll see in my sleep tracker data below, I actually got a reasonable amount of sleep on average over the course of the week. No mix of amazing and terrible nights balancing themselves out; just relatively consistent times.
However, I didn’t feel like I was getting particularly restful sleep on the whole. Even though I seemed to sleep for a decent amount of time, it wasn’t like I was waking up feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every day.
On the plus side, I had no discernible side effects, so I was happy about that considering the wide range of ingredients used.
So at the end of the week, I was keen to see if my tracker data could shed some light on why I wasn’t feeling as refreshed as I’d have liked.
My sleep tracker data
As I mentioned at the start, this is my personal blog and in no way an attempt to provide evidence that Healthycell REM Sleep does or doesn’t work.
So although I’ll present my sleep tracker data (itself not 100% reliable), please see this as my own little experiment and don’t take it to mean anything conclusive. Sleep aids don’t work the same for everyone, so it might be that you have a totally different experience to me.
It’s also impossible for me to say what other factors may have contributed to the sleep scores. The only thing I can say is that, like many people in 2020, I’ve been at home with the same routine for much of the last two months while testing this sleep aid and the previous one.
1. Total sleep time
Let’s start with the tracking data that my Fitbit Versa 2 usually does a reasonably good job of measuring when compared to manual notes: the total sleep time.
|Total week’s |
In table 1, you can see that in the week I took Healthycell REM Sleep, I got an average of seven hours and six minutes of sleep across the week. This was 13 minutes more each night than when I took the Remrise sleep aid. And also even more than each of the three weeks before then.
Each night was quite close to seven hours, with no wild swings either way, so I put the average in the table rather than listing each night individually.
So on that point, it looks pretty good for Healthycell. Sure, an extra 15-20 minutes sleep each night might seem quite modest on paper. But for me personally, seven hours tends to be the point at which I feel like I got a reasonable night’s sleep.
2. Sleep score
I know sleep tracker sleep ‘sleep scores’ can be controversial, with their mysterious algorithms and unpredictability. But let’s go there anyway!
|Average daily |
As you can see, it appears to be another win for Healthycell. An average of 81 is really good for me, based on previous experience of endlessly inspecting my data.
But if both the total sleep time and the overall sleep score were so good, why didn’t I feel so refreshed that week?
3. REM sleep, deep sleep and restless time
Time to take a deeper dive. This is where I found a possible explanation for my lack of refreshed feeling. But ironically, it’s in the data which I know is hardest to trust – the sleep stages.
|Total deep |
As you can see in table 3, my REM looks good, as does the average time being restless in the night.
But the amount of time spent in deep sleep is considerably lower than the previous weeks (my tracker showed much more light sleep too).
So perhaps I was sleeping a little longer, but I wasn’t quite getting enough refreshing deep sleep.
Of course, the alternative explanation is that the sleep tracker data is totally off and I was just overthinking how I was feeling. And that’s why I’m keep to remind you that this is a personal account and not a test to be quoted!
Would I take it again?
The short answer is no.
The long answer is still no, just with a longer explanation. For me personally, the packaging is a deal-breaker, even if it’s needed to contain the microgel. I also didn’t like consuming the gel and feeling like I had to brush my teeth afterward to get rid of the strong taste.
But more importantly, I just didn’t seem to sleep better with it. Sure, I tested it at a time my sleep wasn’t quite as bad as it sometimes is.
But I think it’s fair to say that if you’re not the world’s best sleeper, you’d hope to feel like you slept better when taking a sleep aid that costs that much.
The ingredients of Healthycell REM Sleep
Interestingly, Healthycell specifically split the 18 principle ingredients into four sections, each of which relates to a different aspect of sleep. It’s a concept I hadn’t seen before and looked quite impressive when I first read it.
As with many supplements, they do say that their statements about how REM Sleep helps each stage of sleep haven’t been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration though.
And I personally haven’t seen any research showing that you can combine so many ingredients and reliably target your sleep in this way. So whether it’s a trailblazing concept that works in a unique way, or a clever bit of marketing, I’ll leave to you to decide.
I’m not going to analyze and discuss each of these ingredients in turn, as it would turn this already long article into a monster. Needless to say, there’s plenty of information about how they might affect sleep to be found online.
Fall asleep blend
- Lemon balm 150 mg
- Jujube fruit extract 250 mg
- Magnolia bark 150 mg
- Valerian root extract 100 mg
- Hops extract 100 mg
Lower body temperature blend (NREM-2 sleep stage)
- Glycine 400 mg
- Calcium (as calcium lactate gluconate) 30 mg
- Magnesium (as magnesium citrate) 200 mg
- Omega 3-6-9 Fatty Acids (from Ahiflower® oil) 100 mg
Deep lasting sleep blend (NREM-3 sleep stage)
- Vitamin B6 (as pyridoxine hydrochloride) 1.7 mg
- Potassium (as potassium gluconate) 95 mg
- L-Theanine 200 mg
- L-Arginine 150 mg
- L-Ornithine 150 mg
REM sleep blend (REM sleep stage)
- Melatonin 0.75 mg
- 5HTP (from Griffonia simplicifolia seed extract) 100 mg
- Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) 350 mg
- L-Tryptophan 250 mg
- Purified Water
- Vegetable Glycerin
- Phosphoric Acid
- Citric Acid
- Natural Flavors
- Xanthan Gum
- Natural Cherry Flavor
- Vegetable Juice (color)
- Stevia Leaf Extract (Reb-A)
- Potassium Sorbate (to preserve freshness)
✔ Not in the ingredients
- Tree Nuts
- Artificial Flavors
Who shouldn’t take it?
The warning on the box I received says to consult your physician if you are:
- Have a medical condition
- Are taking any medication
If you have any doubts at all, I’d suggest talking it through with your primary healthcare provider to ensure it’s safe for you.
And if you’re already taking any of the ingredients in another supplement, I would definitely check that you won’t end up taking more than the recommended dosage.
Potential side effects
As is frustratingly often the case with supplements, my box didn’t come with any patient leaflet advising what side effects you might experience.
Considering that just a couple of the ingredients on their own, such as melatonin and valerian, can potentially cause a wide range of side effects, I think it’s wise to pay attention to any changes in how you feel after taking it.
If you have any new symptoms at all, even if it’s just a mild headache or upset stomach, I wouldn’t take any more until you get a medical opinion.
Have you tried Healthycell REM Sleep or are thinking or trying it?
Please leave a comment below describing your experience and thoughts about it.