How To Avoid Small-Hours Blues

4 O'Clock3

Q: I have a stressful job and sleep badly, waking between 2am and 4am feeling incredibly depressed. I feel better when I finally get up.

A: This type of insomnia is a common result of daytime anxiety, according to the late Dr David Servan-Schreiber, psychiatrist and author of Healing Without Freud or Prozac (Rodale, £8.99*).

There’s a vulnerable moment at the end of the first long period of deep sleep (about four hours into the sleep cycle) when we cross over into the lighter REM sleep (dreaming time). ‘Underlying anxiety of any kind manifests itself during that fragile transition,’ he said.

Sleep disturbance and anxiety leading to depression are interconnected, according to pharmacist Shabir Daya: ‘A relentless train of negative thoughts can begin with the tiniest kernel of reality then escalate out of proportion.’ Stress of any kind upsets the delicate balance of our hormones; it starts with the adrenal glands overproducing cortisol, which prevents mood-lifting serotonin getting to the brain. At night, serotonin is normally converted to melatonin, the sleep hormone. With insufficient melatonin and a fractured mind, it’s very hard to sleep.

A natural supplement may help. Shabir Daya recommends Magnolia Rhodiola Complex (£26 for 60 capsules) which helps relax muscles and nerves, reduce cortisol levels and increase the uptake of serotonin.

Relax in the evening with a warm milky drink. Avoid caffeine, sugary or fatty foods and excess alcohol after lunch.

Practise calming your mind. When you wake at night, lie on your back and breathe slowly and deeply. Visualise being somewhere peaceful. Repeat calming words in your mind, such as ‘peaceful’, ‘tranquil’, even ‘joyful’.

Give your brain daily downtime with meditation; there’s a wonderful, funny new book called Quiet the Mind: An Illustrated Guide on How to Meditate by Matthew Johnstone (Constable & Robinson, £7.99*). NB If none of this helps, please consult your doctor.

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3 Of The Best
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1 Bessant & Drury’s Fine Ice Cream Co This dairy-, gluten- and soy-free range of frozen desserts is creamy and delicious, according to our tester. About £4.99 for a 400ml tub,

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Fashion Made Easier

Architect Ann Olivier, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1990, has just launched a clothing label specialising in ‘wonderful clothes for fashionable, disabled women. Just because women are physically impaired doesn’t mean they forget about fashion,’ she says. Her collection, Xeni, has magnetic fastenings rather than buttons and zips, clothes designed for sitting with wheelchair users in mind, and with no tightness around the waist. Prices start from £130. This dress, called Marianna, is £280.

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