Natural health: My Leaving Cert daughter is finding it difficult to sleep  

Plus - dealing with dermatitis
Natural health: My Leaving Cert daughter is finding it difficult to sleep  

Pic: iStock

My daughter is studying flat out for the Leaving Cert and finding it difficult to sleep at night. She has high expectations of herself and has been like this since childhood. Is there a natural remedy that could help?

You are right — a good night’s sleep is the most significant factor in helping your daughter manage her stress levels. Sleep is crucial for brain health, memory and mental acuity, regulating emotional wellbeing and controlling stress and anxiety.

Switching off technology while studying for exams can be difficult, but if she can take regular breaks, this will make a significant difference. There are many apps to help with this, or she can use a timer. Blinking and switching focus between near and far objects is important after sitting and maintaining a fixed focal distance for an extended period, as is getting outside, walking, taking some deep breaths, and staying well hydrated.

Exposure to blue light through phones, tablets, computers, and TV is often at the root of sleep issues. Using amber filters or switching to night shift mode goes a long way toward reducing the impact of screens on our sleep.

Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) is a herbal tea often recommended for students preparing for exams. It’s believed to stimulate the brain by aiding understanding, recall, and clear thinking while soothing nerves and balancing the immune system. Not only is it thought to improve concentration, but this traditional South American tea does not interfere with sleep.

I prefer to mix yerba mate with other herbs — peppermint, spearmint, citrus, cinnamon, basil (or tulsi/holy basil), and clove buds — to offset its bitter undertones. These herbs also add health benefits to the brew. Basil (Ocimum basilicum), in particular, is a mood booster and helps improve sleep quality. Basil essential oil can also be used in a diffuser to assist with mental clarity and focus. In Ayurvedic medicine, holy basil (Tulsi) is frequently used to treat nervous disorders and anxiety.

Finally, your daughter might like to try Rescue Remedy. This Bach Flower essence combination can help to alleviate stress, anxiety, and panic attacks. Place four drops under the tongue up to four times daily and before exams or other stressful events.

My three-year-old has developed crusty skin behind his ears, which is itchy and uncomfortable. The GP says he’ll probably grow out of it. Is there an ointment or cream you could recommend?

This sounds very much like seborrheic dermatitis from your description. One of the most common forms of this dermatitis is the development of cradle cap. Considered to be an eczema-related condition, seborrheic dermatitis can also appear in patches around the face, eyes, and neck, as well as on the scalp and behind the ears.

Seborrheic dermatitis is thought to be associated with the overproduction of the yeast Pityrosporum ovale, naturally present on the scalp and also linked with dandruff and flaking scalp conditions.

It is common for infants who develop cradle cap and related conditions to be deficient in biotin and essential fatty acids. Biotin-rich foods include raw milk, whole grains, soybeans, egg yolk, liver, and nutritional yeast.

EFAs are found in nuts, seeds, healthy oils, and fatty fish. You can also apply these oils topically behind your son’s ears. Evening primrose oil, borage, and hempseed are excellent sources of EFAs — apply 10-15 drops of oil on the affected area and gently massage morning and night.

Shampoo, body wash, soaps, and even toothpaste can all affect skin conditions. Choose products as natural as possible, organic if you can, and opt for fragrance-free.

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