Do you have a question for Megan Sheppard? Email it to feel[email protected]aminer.ie or send a letter to: Feelgood, Irish Examiner, Linn Dubh, Assumption Road, Blackpool, Cork
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.