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. Read More…