Becoming a mother is a huge change in a woman’s life, one of the biggest probably, but given the circumstances, the fact that there is now a new little life that is totally depending on you, newly moms don’t have enough time to really process it all and adjust to the new scenario. That’s why, among all other things, they are in a state of continuous stress, which sometimes means they cannot sleep at all.
We are talking about postpartum insomnia, and yes, it is a thing we need to address properly because if it’s not handled in time, it can get worse and worse, and it can eventually lead to some other sleep disorder or even depression. Newly mothers need to have all the rest they can and all the support of the people around them in order to get to their normal life and their new routines feeling capable and ready.
What is Postpartum Insomnia?
Postpartum or postnatal insomnia is a condition that many new mothers get to know, and it is quite self-explanatory. They usually cannot get to sleep although they are exhausted, and their baby is resting peacefully because they are just not able to stop their brains from working overtime.
They are constantly worried about their newborns and feeling all anxious and unable to relax or sleep because they might not hear their baby’s crying. Some mothers are in constant fear, and they tend to spend nights repeatedly checking if the little one is breathing.
It is important to know the difference between this – true postpartum insomnia, and regular lack of sleep all mothers face after they bring an infant home. You will know that this disorder exists if your baby is in a realm of dreams and looks calm, but you still cannot manage to fall asleep.
Is It Normal To Have Insomnia After Pregnancy?
Yes, it is normal, and it is quite common, so you really shouldn’t be worried. But that’s the case if we are talking about the period right after the delivery and a few weeks following that event. If, however, you still cannot sleep well and the childbirth is way behind you, you should probably consult with the professional.
The thing is, when the baby comes home from the hospital, all members of the family are mostly occupied by the infant’s needs, which is normal. That little creature is absolutely depending on you, and it can be terrifying and overwhelming. Because of that, symptoms that show the mother is experiencing postpartum insomnia are easy to miss.
And just like any other sleeping problem or classic disorder, the sooner you understand and accept what’s happening, the sooner you will start managing the problem, and that will lower the risk of creating any kind of complications. So, to avoid going into depression or hypertension, make sure to manage this problem right away. And don’t forget that your baby needs you to be well so you can be able to take care of her.
What Causes Insomnia After Childbirth?
There are actually a couple of things that can lead to mothers having trouble sleeping at night. First of all, there are hormonal fluctuations. During the pregnancy and after childbirth, hormones in women’s bodies are running wild, and you cannot rely on them by any means. Given that they affect our internal clock, it’s possible your sleeping schedule, and your stages of sleep will be all messed up. It will take some time for your body to get back to normal, so be patient and wait for it, it is a natural process.
Then, there is postpartum mood disorder. It’s no taboo anymore that a huge number of women go through postpartum depression and that it can be really hard for them. They are having a new, the most responsible role in their life, and all that comes with emotional challenges, not everybody can handle well. As a result, there is a sleep disorder that can be quite serious.
One more cause of postnatal insomnia can also be timely feeding. If you decided to feed your baby every three hours, for example, that means getting out of bed a couple of times during the night. Your sleep will be disrupted because of that, and you may find it difficult to get back to bed afterward. Additional mistake new mommies are making is looking at their smartphone or computer screen while their baby eats or turning on the lights, which sends signals to the brain that it’s daytime and that you should be up.
Postnatal Insomnia Symptoms
We know that it would be good to know how long does postpartum last exactly, but that’s impossible. It’s totally individual, unpredictable, and it’s quite tricky because of that. The usual symptoms for postnatal insomnia are mostly the same as ones for postpartum depression. So let’s see what are the changes you should look for in order to conclude in time that you are having a problem and need some help.
First of all, you need to pay attention to how you feel most of the time, and if there are sudden mood swings, you are not able to control. It’s okay if you are experiencing this. You just had a new baby, you are always stressing if she’s okay, dry, fed, and healthy, and there are your hormones that are out of their regular ruts for sure. All that combined can lead to a leak of sleep, and therefore quick and unexpected shifts in your mood.
It’s quite expected that you will be easily irritated if you are exhausted and sleep-deprived. So you shouldn’t be surprised if all of a sudden you go nuts about something you normally wouldn’t even notice, or if you find almost everything people around you do (especially your partner) annoying and wrong. And that can happen after only one night of not sleeping well. Now imagine what are the proportions of this when you are not getting enough sleep for quite some time.
Whether you are stuck in postpartum depression or you just have after-birth insomnia, it’s very likely you will be extremely sad in some moments. Having negative emotions in this period of life is quite common, so don’t feel bad about it, you are not an exception. You may be super sensitive, extremely unsatisfied with the way you look, feel, with how your partner treats you, and that doesn’t mean any of these things are wrong per se, it’s just that you see them differently now. The lack of sleep will get you to that point easily.
If you think about it, there is no worse enemy for new mothers than anxiety. It won’t let you breathe peacefully, and let alone sleep through the night. You will probably find yourself worrying about all sorts of things baby-related, from stupid little details to those huge, potentially life-threatening problems, and there goes one restless night. Then, you start wondering if it’s a serious problem that you didn’t sleep at all the previous night, so you cannot find it possible to shut your eyes again the next night. And so on.
Postpartum Insomnia Treatment and Tips
Sleep when your baby sleeps
Some mothers tend to use the time when their infant is sleeping to do the housework or some other tasks, while others obey the sacred rule that says – sleep when your baby is sleeping. We have to say that although you should stick to your regular sleeping schedule and avoid daytime naps in general, you need to understand that these are different circumstances and that you should use that time to rest, especially if you are sleep deprived overall.
Go to bed early
Whether your baby eats every couple of hours, or you decided to let her “ask” for food when she’s hungry, it’s certain you won’t have a continuous sleep during the night and that you will have to get up to feed her. But that doesn’t mean you should stay up late and wait for it to happen. Our suggestion is that you go to bed as early as you can and get as much sleep as you can until it’s time for another bottle.
Share the work
Not every woman has this privilege, so if you do have a partner who is willing to step in and help with everything baby-related, you are a lucky girl. In that case, make a deal or a schedule when it’s yours and when his time to get up and feed or change the little one, and enjoy those extra few hours of sleep without feeling guilty. Your baby is in safe hands.
Make your bedroom sleep kingdom
Sleep experts explained how the bedroom should be used for only two things – sex and sleeping. You shouldn’t do anything else here, like working or watching television, because your brain should relate to entering this room with only one of those two things. Also, make sure to have the right temperature in there, optimal for good night’s rest, as well as an ideal mattress for your body type and personal preferences.
Keep stress away
Whatever thing will make you stress-free, we encourage you to do it. Yes, we know that this, in general, is a very emotional time and that you will probably be worried non-stop, but at least try not to. It won’t get you anywhere, and it will take a lot of energy from you. Babies are more resilient than we think, and it’s okay if you make some mistakes along the way. After all, you are human.
We know that you are constantly tired and that you feel the need to drink one more coffee in order to stay awake as long as you should, but you need to know where the limits are. It’s okay to drink two cups per day, but not more, and you should stop drinking any beverage that contains caffeine after two o’clock in the afternoon.
Eliminate screen time
If you want to have a good rest during the night, you need to limit your screen time. So no phone, TV or computer at least two hours before you go to bed. And do not use these electronics during the feeding process at three o’clock in the morning because your brain will get signals that it’s time to wake up fully. That means you won’t be able to get back to sleep for sure.
Try relaxation techniques
If you find it hard to fall asleep, you can try some of these tricks based on deep breathing and muscle relaxation techniques. Just lie on the back and put one hand on your belly. Place the other one on your chest. Now take the air deeply through your nose and feel how it fills your stomach. Hold your breath until you count to three, and then slowly exhale it using your mouth. Repeat this for a couple of times, until you are relaxed enough to fall asleep. Don’t forget to take the best sleeping position afterward, the one that makes you the coziest and most comfortable.
Can breastfeeding cause postnatal insomnia?
No, breastfeeding can actually help you with this problem. Experts say that nursing mothers have a biological advantage when it comes to peaceful and regular sleep, thanks to the prolactin that will be released during breastfeeding. This hormone has the ability to promote relaxation, which leads to a good night’s rest.
How do you fall back to sleep after waking up for breastfeeding?
There are a couple of things you should try to achieve this. Although it may sound weird, you need to get out of the bed, go to another room, and listen to some calming music or read for 20 minutes. Then go back to bed. Also, make sure not to calculate how much time you still have for sleep, try meditating for a while, practice deep breathing, or keep a sleep diary.
Postpartum depression, as well as new-mom insomnia, are hard, and only those women who went through it know how much effort is needed to surpass that. If you are currently experiencing it, just know that you are not alone, that we got your back, just like all those people around you, and that you can and should ask for help if you need it. And you do mommy, that’s for sure. There are ways of dealing with this kind of sleep disorder, it just needs some time, patience, and adequate conditions that will allow you to apply all those tips and rules. And no, this cannot wait. We understand that your top priority is your baby, but, again, you need to be well enough to be able to take care of her properly and to enjoy all those things that newborns bring in your life.