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Experiencing postpartum insomnia, AKA momsomnia? You are not alone.
There is help. I promise if you follow these tips I’m about to share, we will get you sleeping again in no time. So read on, mama!
So you know: I am not a medical professional.
I’m a mama who has been taking medication for anxiety since high school. I also experienced adult onset chronic insomnia. (Insomnia and anxiety are often intertwined.)
I also had horrible, terrible, no good, very bad postpartum insomnia after having a baby.
Honestly, I can’t remember how soon after having my son it started. Because you know: baby brain.
But I do vividly recall getting up in the middle of the night to breastfeed, my son eating and going back to bed, my husband being asleep, and me laying wide awake for what seemed like hours.
WHY?! It seemed so unfair.
There’s nothing worse that being sleep deprived and exhausted. Yet for some reason you’re the only one in the household who can’t sleep.
Fun fact from my doc: Mom’s (or primary caretaker’s) and baby’s brain waves are actually linked. So you go in and out of sleep cycles together. That’s why it’s easier to wake up for nighttime feeds when you sleep in close proximity to baby.
So what causes insomnia after having a baby?
According to Michigan Health, many factors contribute to insomnia including simply stress or life changes.
And for new moms, “The major drop in reproductive hormones (which influence the body clock), and a shift for the brain to be more alert to listen for the baby, can also fuel chronic sleeplessness.”
All those causes check out for me. But if I had to pinpoint one reason? My guess would be that it was the whacked out sleep schedule I had after my son arrived.
Is insomnia common after having a baby?
Definitely. You are absolutely NOT alone.
Here are some quick stats you may find interesting from this study about insomnia.
- An estimated 15% of the adult population has insomnia
- Women report it more frequently than men
- Pregnancy and postpartum are an especially vulnerable time for developing insomnia
- 60% of women experienced insomnia after having a baby or during their pregnancy
- 60% of women facing postpartum insomnia, reported it had resolved within 2 years
And it’s important to know it can present in a variety of ways.
You may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or falling back asleep after a nighttime disturbance or wake up.
I’ve experienced all forms, and it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. What matters is that you and I both deserve good night’s rest!
How do you fix postpartum insomnia?
Hang with me, we are almost to some tips that will get you sleeping better starting tonight!
In the meantime, if you are looking for medical advice or have a medical condition, please consult a doctor.
As a reminder: the year you give birth you likely have reached your out-of-pocket maximum through delivery.
That means it’s time to go do all the things you usually can’t or don’t want to pay for.
(You know, like visiting a dermatologist or getting that weird vein in your leg checked?)
For anyone who has experienced insomnia after having a baby, frequent sleepless nights, or just wants to be set up for a lifetime of better sleep habits, I cannot recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) enough.
It’s a very common treatment conducted by psychologists around the world. But be sure to double check that your doctor specializes in this before making an appointment.
It has literally changed my life. So I’m sharing what to expect from CBT treatment for postpartum insomnia along with some quick tips for sleeping better.
Start sleeping better tonight with these 10 sanity saving tips:
1. The absolute best thing you can do to improve the long-term quality of your sleep is have as much consistency as possible in your sleep routine and schedule.
Start by establishing a bedtime routine you can stick to every night for at least 30 min before bed. This routine should be free from screens of all kinds.
Mine starts with doing my bedtime hygiene in a dimly-lit bathroom. That includes a bathroom break, my skincare routine, brushing and flossing my teeth.
Then I go to a comfy chair in a designated spot in the house, again in low light. I write in my Line A Day Journal, take my anxiety medication, light a candle, and read a book until that 30 minute time is up.
Then I crawl into bed, always turning to the same side, always wearing the same thing, always with the same fan on the same setting. Every. Single. Night.
As things improve, (which usually takes a few months from my experience and from what my doctor said), you can loosen up on the routine a bit. But until then, try to be as consistent as humanly possible.
2. This next tip is HUGE. It is one of the biggest fundamentals of insomnia treatment.
Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day–yes even on weekends–within a 30 min window.
I was really confused by this for a few months and did it wrong because I was so sleep deprived in the beginning with my newborn I could barely understand the English language anymore.
So I will say this as simply as I can in case that is you right now, too.
Pick a reasonable bedtime to get 8 hours of sleep, once your baby is sleeping through the night.
Yes, this is super tricky when you have a baby who has no real sleep routine yet, and you are on maternity leave and don’t have to get up for work yet (if you leave for work).
For example, I have to be at work at 9 AM and my son had been naturally waking up around 6:30-7 AM. So I chose a 10:30 PM bedtime for myself.
That means, every single night I would go to bed between 10:15-10:45. And every single morning I would wake up between 6:30-7:00.
If your baby wakes up once a night or 10 times a night, it doesn’t matter. You still go to bed and wake up on your set schedule.
Will this be hard at first? Undoubtedly. But does it work and is it worth it? YES, YES, YES!
Again, try not to overthink this. Because I definitely fell into some analysis paralysis trying to pick the time and calculate my sleep and the wake ups.
So just pick something that you will want to work on maintaining for the next few months and know you can always adjust it.
3. Aim to get around 8 hours of sleep. Both sleeping too much and sleeping too little is not good for you. According to my doctor, you should NEVER sleep more than 9 hours a night.
With sleep, quality is more important than quantity (to a degree). So if you are sleeping 9+ hours, it’s because you aren’t getting a good enough quality of sleep.
4. Reserve bed for sex and sleep only.
This one should be pretty easy to implement. If you’re used to reading or watching TV in bed, stooooooop.
You want your brain to associate your bed with sleep and only sleep.
5. No naps at all for the first few months until your body’s rhythm can be reset.
My doc couldn’t give me an exact timeline for how long it would be exactly until I could try to nap again, only an estimate that it would be 4-5 months.
I usually can’t nap anyway so this doesn’t really matter much to me. But if you can, it’s nice to know if you are absolutely exhausted from a bad night’s sleep the night before, there is a safety net for you.
Pro nap tip: Wake up at your scheduled time and go about your day. If you are crashing later, try a cat nap (ideally on the couch) between 1:00-4:00 PM.
Nothing later or you will throw off your circadian rhythm you have worked so hard to set.
And be sure only to nap for 20-30 minutes max or you will feel more tired afterward.
6. Use a sound machine. If baby is in your bedroom, you may already have one.
And if you don’t…. RUN… do not walk. And snag this sound machine/nightlight combo with 17,000 5 star reviews.
Not only will you sleep better, so will baby.
There are also plenty of free white noise apps that you can use on the go for baby or for the whole family while traveling. I like White Noise.
7. Sleep in the pitch dark. During my bout of of postpartum insomnia, we invested in blackout shades.
Shades, blinds, curtains. Whatever you get, just make sure the room is as dark as possible.
Or, if redoing your entire window treatment is not in the budget right now. Check out this muuuuch cheaper alternative. And my secret to great sleep travel hack.
8. No caffeine past noon. Yes, I know. I know. That succcks.
This also might take some getting used to. But again, consistency is key here. And this is a small price to pay for the end result.
9. When you wake up in the morning, get outside in the sunlight for a few minutes.
It’s as easy as stepping outside and grab the paper, the mail, or have a sip of coffee.
This way, you body knows for sure it is daytime and time to be awake. It’s all about setting that circadian rhythm.
10. Remember that candle I mentioned I use for my bedtime routine?
According to Psychologists, scents can be extremely powerful for triggering your brain and they are strongly “tied to mood, memory, behavior, and emotion.”
So get yourself your own super calming scented candle, and get snoozing!
What can you do if you still can’t sleep?
If you do wake up in the night and can’t get back to bed, get up and walk around. Then get back into bed.
Sometimes getting back into bed can just trigger your brain that it’s time to go to sleep. It has worked for me before but not every time.
If you’re still awake 20 minutes later, get up again and read or do something boring. For me, that’s rereading something in a book I’ve already read.
Do whatever that boring thing is until you’re sleepy again. Then get back into bed.
This has also worked for me.
You can do it, and it’s so worth it.
There’s a lot more to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and sleep hygiene. And once again, I urge you to speak with a healthcare professional if you have similar issues or believe you have insomnia after having a baby.
I want to reassure you that it really works and it will be a HUGE weight lifted off your chest to begin to get sleep regularly again.
It’s hard to stick with in the beginning but so, so worth it.
If you also have anxiety, medication can also assist with helping you get back your Zzzzs. So be sure to reach out to a psychiatrist as well as needed.
Let me know what you think about these tips in the comments below.
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