Megan Shep­pard

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Health -

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I’ve re­cently changed jobs and am un­der a lot of pres­sure as a re­sult. I have started wak­ing up dur­ing the night and, while I usu­ally go back to sleep, I find there’s a knock-on ef­fect dur­ing the day. By early af­ter­noon I find I’m run­ning out of steam. Is there a nat­u­ral rem­edy I can take? >> When it comes to sleep, qual­ity is cer­tainly more im­por­tant than quan­tity. If you are hav­ing night af­ter night of bro­ken sleep, it is no sur­prise you are feel­ing the ef­fects dur­ing the day. Miss­ing out on qual­ity sleep leaves you feel­ing lethar­gic, un­able to per­form as ef­fec­tively as usual dur­ing the day, and leaves your di­ges­tive and im­mune sys­tems in a more vul­ner­a­ble state.

The two main pro­cesses in our bod­ies are an­abolism and catabolism. Catabolism is ba­si­cally where the body breaks down sub­stances into en­ergy and waste prod­ucts, and oc­curs mainly dur­ing ac­tive pe­ri­ods. An­abolism is the process of re­gen­er­a­tion, growth and re­pair, and this is what mainly goes on dur­ing rest and sleep phase. If one or both of these pro­cesses are out of kil­ter, then it im­pacts on im­mune func­tion, hor­mone lev­els, mental state, age­ing, en­ergy lev­els, and emo­tional well­be­ing.

Of course, when we are short on sat­is­fy­ing sleep and rest, our brain func­tion suf­fers. The brain typ­i­cally seizes the op­por­tu­nity to re­pair neu­rons while we are at rest, in or­der to keep men­tally sharp the fol­low­ing day. In­suf­fi­cient sleep equals de­pleted and mal­func­tion­ing neu­rons, which im­pacts mood, be­hav­iour, and phys­i­cal co-or­di­na­tion.

When night wak­ing is an is­sue, I al­ways in­clude hops, va­le­rian, and skull­cap in a herbal tea blend. You can mix all three herbs to­gether in equal parts and use a tea­spoon per cup of boil­ing wa­ter. Steep for 5 min­utes or so, and drink around half to one cup an hour be­fore bed­time. You can add rooi­bos (South African red bush) tea to im­prove the flavour — it doesn’t con­tain caf­feine and is loaded with an­tiox­i­dants. I of­ten throw in some rose petals for re­lax­ation and flavour too.

This herbal com­bi­na­tion not only helps in terms of mild seda­tive prop­er­ties, it also helps to sup­port the ner­vous sys­tem and can help im­mensely where stress and pres­sure are con­tribut­ing to your sleep is­sues. Other valu­able nerve tonic herbs in­clude black and blue co­hosh root, wood betony, mistle­toe, and cramp­bark.

By work­ing to sup­port healthy nerve func­tion, you are also ad­dress­ing the un­der­ly­ing cause of your bro­ken sleep. Nerve ton­ics nour­ish and feed the ner­vous sys­tem, and can also help re­pair the myelin sheath cov­er­ing the nerve cells. As an added bonus, they can help ad­dress any mild pain is­sues that can con­trib­ute to rest­less sleep.

Get­ting to bed on time is a key fac­tor; the hours be­fore mid­night are most im­por­tant to the rest and re­ju­ve­na­tion process. If you are in bed by 9pm, your im­mune sys­tem has the chance to func­tion op­ti­mally, with most phys­i­cal re­pair tak­ing place within our body be­tween the hours of 10pm-2am.

If you are us­ing caf­feine to bol­ster your mental and phys­i­cal func­tion dur­ing the day, then this will be tak­ing a toll as well. Caf­feine de­pletes the body of cal­cium, and in­creases stress on the ar­ter­ies, nerves, and en­docrine sys­tem. Tea and choco­late are also caf­feine cul­prits, so it is not just your cof­fee in­take that you will need to watch.

I’m an el­derly man who runs his own busi­ness. Re­cently I’ve been struck with an over-ac­tive blad­der which I find very trou­ble­some when driv­ing. What would you rec­om­mend? >> The sim­plest so­lu­tion is to avoid any food and drink that will ir­ri­tate your blad­der. These in­clude al­co­hol, to­ma­toes, spices, choco­late, caf­feinated and citrus bev­er­ages, and ar­ti­fi­cial sweeteners.

Do get checked for a blad­der in­fec­tion, and in the mean­time, you can use pure aloe vera juice and marsh­mal­low root to help soothe and heal the blad­der lining. There are a num­ber of herbs which have an affin­ity with the blad­der and can as­sist specif­i­cally in com­plaints re­lated to the male gen­i­touri­nary sys­tem — uva ursi, buchu, corn­silk, cal­en­dula, and saw pal­metto.

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