I want to eat more now that I can't sleep at night

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 December, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 December, 1995, 12:00am

Q: I HAVE been under stress at work lately. Over the past two months, I have been waking up at 2am and then trying to go back to sleep, usually unsuccessfully, until 4am or 5am. I am exhausted during the day and feel unproductive. But I seem to have developed a good appetite. Do insomniacs eat more food? Dr Rose writes: People who have trouble sleeping, either by choice so that they can stay up to complete work or studies or inadvertently through stress or anxiety, do tend to snack more. People who are up during the night usually do eat, either to keep awake by fuelling their bodies with some needed sugar or out of boredom. Also, one's metabolic rate is higher when awake, even if just lying in bed staring at the ceiling, than when one is asleep, so higher body fuel requirement is needed.

Animal studies support this finding. Sleep-deprived rats develop a larger appetite than rats which have a normal sleep pattern. The encouraging news is that this increase in appetite does not appear to be accompanied by any increase in weight since the metabolism appears to be revved up leading to no net increase in weight.

Q: I HAVE read about a woman who has given birth to twins of different races. How is this possible? I think both she and her husband are white but one of their twins is black or of mixed race.

Dr Rose writes: As strange as it may sound, there are two scenarios where a woman can give birth to twins of different races.

Theoretically, since sperms have a life span of around 36 hours, if a woman releases more than one egg during her ovulation cycle, and she has sexual intercourse with two men of different races within a short period of time, it is possible for one egg to become fertilised by one man's sperm and a second egg to be fertilised with the second man's sperm. This is, however, highly improbable.

A second scenario involves the use of in-vitro fertilisation techniques. Often in this procedure, the physician extracts and fertilises multiple eggs from a woman's ovaries to increase the chance of at least one good ovum developing. If a technician is careless and fails to follow protocol of one pipette per donor, it is possible that a pipette which has been used in a prior donor insemination procedure may contain sperms from two donors. Again, this would be an exceedingly rare situation.

Q: MY mother is a firm believer in Chinese herbal medicine and takes some nearly every week. Sometimes when she has a cold or her arthritis flares up, she goes to the herbalist daily. She has been taking herbal medicine for years and seems to be fine. Do you think a frequent and high intake of Chinese herbs is harmful? Dr Rose writes: There is no doubt that herbal medicine has therapeutic effects but there are also potentially harmful side effects. This can be particularly true when taken in large doses or when taken by the elderly, the very young or people with a history of chronic medical conditions, such as liver or kidney problems, which make it difficult for them to metabolise the herbs.

Often, typical Chinese herbal remedies are blends of many different types of herbs and are sometimes mixed with prescription or controlled drugs. Some herbs are deadly, while others have potent effects on key organs such as the brain and heart. Just because something is labelled natural does not mean that it is safe at any dose.

If your mother goes to a reputable, trained and experienced herbalist, the chances are she is in good hands, provided she takes the preparations as directed. However, if she has any co-existing medical conditions, make sure she has a thorough medical checkup.