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DR ELLIE CANNON: Is there a natural remedy to tackle my dreadful insomnia?

DR ELLIE CANNON: Is there a natural remedy to tackle my dreadful insomnia?

Can you recommend any natural sleep remedies? I keep waking up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep for at least two hours. I am a healthy and fit 52 year old male.

The sad truth about sleep problems is that there is often no easy solution. It can take time and patience to come up with a long-term solution that works.

If a patient wakes up in the middle of the night, doctors will first look at obvious factors that are disrupting sleep. This includes too much caffeine during the day, needing to go to the bathroom at night, and exercising at night. Physical activity can help you sleep, but it can be too stimulating if you do it right before bed.

The sleeping environment is also very important. Doctors call it sleep hygiene – even though it has nothing to do with cleanliness. This involves considering factors such as how dark the room is, whether the temperature is comfortable, and whether it is quiet enough.

Most people don’t realize that we tend to sleep better in a slightly cooler room. An eye mask and earplugs can also help, or take a relaxing bath before bed.

Make sure you don’t stare at screens (phones or TVs) just before you go to sleep, as it can be stimulating.

‘I keep waking up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep for at least two hours’ (pictured posed by model)

Anxiety and stress are also common causes of insomnia. If so, the sleep disturbance is unlikely to resolve itself unless the underlying problem is resolved.

There is a specific type of psychological therapy recommended for sleep problems. It’s called CBT-I and aims to reduce the anxiety of not being able to fall asleep, which makes the problem worse.

A therapist will also help patients identify thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that contribute to insomnia and manage them. This advice should be available through local NHS psychological services, called IAPT.

As for natural remedies, it may be worth trying an over-the-counter medication — like valerian — or an antihistamine. These are not normally recommended for sleep issues, but some people find them helpful. Massages and relaxation treatments can also help.

Can you help with a very embarrassing problem? I am a fit and active 76 year old female with no health issues. But recently, I noticed an unpleasant smell when I empty my bladder. There is no pain. I am afraid to go to the toilet in a public place.

“I am a fit and active 76 year old female with no health issues.  But recently I noticed an unpleasant smell when I empty my bladder' (photo posed by model)

“I am a fit and active 76 year old female with no health issues. But recently I noticed an unpleasant smell when I empty my bladder’ (photo posed by model)

An odor after passing water is usually a telltale sign of a urinary tract infection.

However, these normally cause other symptoms, including pain and the need to empty the bladder very often.

The easiest way to find out if it is an infection is to ask the GP’s office to do a urine test.

More Dr Ellie Cannon for The Mail on Sunday…

This could involve two tests. First, a dipstick test, performed in the surgery, which looks for blood cells and changes in the urine suggesting the presence of bacteria.

Then, a secondary test in which the sample is sent to the laboratory to look specifically for bacteria.

Older women may have asymptomatic bacteriuria: many bacteria begin to grow in the urinary tract but do not cause infection. This would be confirmed with the second test.

Changes in the smell of urine can also be caused by vaginal discharge. This is more likely to happen after menopause, due to changes in the vulvar tissues.

Certain medications, such as vitamin supplements or penicillin, can also alter the smell of urine – ask your pharmacist.

Dehydration can be a factor, as can eating certain foods, including asparagus.

It’s worth drinking more water and seeing if that fixes the problem.

I had Covid recently and since then I have had excruciating pain in my lower and upper thighs. The pain and spasms have subsided, but I still have to take painkillers daily to cope. Is there anything that will speed up my recovery? I am 77 years old.

Viruses are well known for triggering a range of problems, including those affecting the muscles. It looks like reactive myositis – inflammation of the muscles that develops after an infection such as Covid.

Typical symptoms include weak, sore muscles that are tender. The thigh muscles are often affected, as are the shoulders or hips.

Muscle aches are one of the most commonly recognized symptoms of long Covid.

Do you have a question for Dr. Ellie?

Email or write to Health, The Mail on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London, W8 5TT.

Dr. Ellie can only answer in a general context and cannot answer individual cases, nor give personal answers. If you have a medical condition, always consult your own GP.

Experts recommend activities like stretching and yoga to improve flexibility, as well as strength work to build muscle.

Rhythm is an important part of recovery. Start at a low level of activity, then gradually increase.

Myositis occurs as a result of the immune system’s effort to fight off the virus, as the body’s fighting cells trigger inflammation in the muscles.

It can also develop as a chronic autoimmune disease. It could be coincidence that it happened at the same time as Covid, or the virus may have triggered it.

If symptoms have persisted for months, it may be worth asking your GP for blood tests to confirm the diagnosis and check for muscle damage.

Steroid tablets are often used for the chronic type of myositis, to reduce inflammation in the body.

Are you part of the growing army of recall refuseniks?

Have you had your last Covid reminder yet? Anyone over the age of 65 has been entitled since the beginning of September to an additional dose to protect themselves from the inevitable winter wave.

Health care workers, pregnant women and people who are very vulnerable to Covid can also have one. But apparently a lot of people in this group don’t have theirs yet.

I heard some say they didn’t want another jab, having already had four or five, and some weren’t even invited.

Have you had your last Covid reminder yet?

Have you had your last Covid reminder yet?

This doesn’t bode well, given that we have the rest of the 50+ to go, who will be called upon in the weeks to come.

The further boost in protection is crucial, with a double whammy of Covid and flu set to hit the NHS this winter. I’m officially boosted – and all it cost me was a slightly sore arm for a few days.

I want to know if you’ve had your recall yet. and if not, why not? Write and tell me.

Cheap drugs miss their mark

Do you know the medicine Humira? Or adalimumab, to use its generic name.

It is one of the most commonly prescribed medications and is used to treat conditions involving the immune system, such as rheumatoid arthritis and bowel disease.

But Humira is branded, which makes it extremely expensive, so since 2018 the health service has been offering patients generic, cheaper versions of the drug, called biosimilars.

But I’ve heard that some patients find the cheaper versions less effective. A friend, a man in his 50s who suffers from severe arthritis, was told he couldn’t go back to Humira because it was too expensive, which caused him terrible pain.

I want to know how you’re doing with the switch. Please write and tell me.

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