Taking care of a newborn inevitably leads to less sleep which can significantly affect our mental health, but it’s easy for a lack of rest to evolve into postpartum insomnia.
Insomnia is a heightened complication in our sleep functioning that may require the help of a medical professional.
Juggling the extreme changes your body and mind experience after having a baby can present tremendous challenges, like significant changes in routine and powerful hormonal shifts.
Naturally, you’ll be busy caring for your baby’s every need, and remaining aware of potential post-birth issues can help you to remember to take care of yourself as well.
In this article, we’ll discuss what postpartum insomnia is, ways to combat it if you’re struggling with sleep, and when to seek help from your doctor.
Identifying postpartum insomnia
It’s common to battle with sleep after bringing home a new baby. If you’re struggling to fall asleep despite exhaustion, or return to sleep when it previously wasn’t an issue, it may require specific attention. If you’ve recently given birth, and have trouble falling asleep for weeks on end, you may have postpartum insomnia.
Women’s reproductive hormone levels drop off significantly after giving birth. As a result, because these chemicals regulate the functions in the brain responsible for sleep, this significant shift can cause critical disruptions in sleep.
Around 70% to 80% of new parents will likely experience some form of “the baby blues.” Many will go on to experience postpartum depression or insomnia. This is not uncommon and you’re not alone. Fortunately, there are many resources to help you feel like yourself again.
Postpartum insomnia can be brought on by a variety of circumstances. Many parents develop anxiety regarding daily activities or grow overwhelmingly concerned about the future. This is entirely normal when you’ve suddenly become responsible for another human life.
Fixing the problem
Identifying the issue is half the battle, here are some ways you overcome your insomnia and get some much-needed sleep.
Careful with caffeine
It can be tempting to reach for the fifth cup of coffee when you feel like you’re falling asleep while feeding your newborn. However, caffeine is a major culprit regarding negative sleep behavior. Try to limit caffeine intake to before noon. If you can help it, switch to tea or skip it altogether.
Reduce overwhelming feelings and anxiety
Limiting feelings of anxiety is much easier said than done. However, when you can help it, outsource a few of your responsibilities, like feeding or laundry. Additionally, where possible, limit the number of commitments you’re taking on as well.
If having a parent over to help with the baby presents more anxiety than it does relief, your needs have to come first. Let them know they’ll be the first to know when you feel more in control and can accept their help.
If you have a partner, it may help to communicate that you’re struggling with postpartum insomnia so they can support you.
Stop trying to sleep
“Stop trying” may sound counter-intuitive to fixing anything. But lying in bed unable to sleep, worrying about how you’ll function the next day will likely only generate more anxiety. New parents often don’t get much sunlight in the early days of having a newborn. It’s not only more difficult to leave the house, but you’re frequently awake in the middle of the night looking after a baby with the lights on. This, in turn, can affect your internal clock as a result.
Your Circadian Rhythm regulates your internal clock and it responds to a series of daily changes. However, this function responds primarily to light, allowing you to sleep when it’s dark and wake when it’s light. When you’re constantly up at night with your newborn, your Circadian Rhythm can easily be thrown off, triggering insomnia.
If you’re unable to sleep or don’t feel tired, turn off any computer screens, TV, and phones and do something mellow. Reading, knitting, or drawing in a dim room can help relax you until you feel sleepy enough to go to bed.
You’re not alone
Feelings of isolation can easily creep up when you’re home all day or up all night looking after your newborn. Keep in mind you’re in good company, countless other parents struggle with the very same issues. Finding a new parent support group or a mommy-and-me play club can help tremendously in providing a sense of community, support, and relief in knowing you’re not alone.
When to see a professional
If sleepless nights persist and you are struggling to get relief after making these changes, it’s wise to seek medical advice. Allowing restless nights to snowball could lead to postpartum depression or begin to affect your life in other negative ways.
As the primary caregiver for your child and yourself, nothing is more important than taking care of yourself. Postpartum insomnia is something many people struggle with, and it only shows bravery and self-awareness to ask for help.