Postpartum Insomnia: Everyday Battle With Sleep

Postpartum Insomnia 1is a more common issue than you think it is. Motherhood is not just an experience of bliss and happiness but also its share of challenges and hurdles. Sleep is precious, and paramount for good physical and mental health.

A new mother must get good rest but it becomes the biggest challenge post-delivery. Few new parents find it easy to sleep once their little one is sleeping and can time their sleep time as per the newborn schedule. 

Postpartum insomnia means you have difficulty falling asleep or are unable to fall back to sleep after waking up in the night.

Here’s what you need to know everything about postpartum insomnia, its causes, and ways to cope with it.

Why am I Suffering from Postpartum Insomnia?

The onset of insomnia is likely in the third trimester. There are many reasons for this, like physical changes that make it difficult to sleep comfortably, the need to visit the washroom frequently during the night, and backache. This may then continue post-delivery as well. Postpartum insomnia can soon lead to postpartum depression2.

You have a circadian rhythm. Until your baby’s birth, you are used to sleeping a certain number of hours in a specific routine at the same time and waking up at the same time regularly. However, babies don’t have a circadian rhythm yet and they need frequent feeding. So you end up having inconsistent sleep and sync with your infant’s sleep time as this is the only undisturbed sleep time most new moms get.

3 Causes of Postpartum Insomnia

Poor sleep is often linked to any changes in your routine and motherhood creates a massive change. Some of the causes of postpartum insomnia are detailed below:

1. Hormonal Changes 

Women undergo a lot of hormonal changes post-delivery. There are two main sex hormones that women have. Progesterone and Estrogen. Post-delivery of the baby and the placenta leads to a rapid, significant drop in the levels of these hormones.

Oxytocin increases to compensate for the drops in these levels, and prolactin increases to help with breast milk production. Melatonin,  often referred to as the sleep hormone, is also affected because of more exposure to light during nighttime owing to infant care and less exposure to light during the day due to increased nap times to compensate for sleep deprivation. 

With such drastic changes in hormones and other medical disorders that may occur or become pronounced, it is only natural for new moms to experience postpartum insomnia.3

2. Circadian Rhythm

The two systems inside our body, the homeostatic system and the circadian rhythm help us sleep and stay active; when falling out of sync, we experience insomnia.

The more you stay active and awake, the more you get tired, which promotes sleep drive. But the cycle of sleep and wake is affected due to the need to stay awake during the night to care for your baby when you are tired and sleepy. So you compensate for the sleep hours whenever the baby falls asleep.

As a result, you end up sleeping only 2 hours or maybe an hour at a gap instead of sleeping at a stretch. The frequent naps instead disrupt the whole sleep-wake cycle leaving you frustrated.

3. New Born Schedule

Coping with the newborn schedule can be overwhelming. Natural maternal instincts keep you alert all the time. Trying to multitask between having peaceful meals, sleep, house chores, and talking to friends/family can be challenging. All of this can make you feel anxious, and certainly, anxiety and sleep don’t go hand in hand.

5 Effective Ways to Manage Postpartum Insomnia

1. Mindful Meals

Staying hydrated and having nutritious meals is extremely important for a new mom. Caffeine consumption can be enticing as it seems to be the only thing that can get you through the day with sleep deprivation; however, be mindful of how much you consume in the late evening hours. If you can substitute caffeine with some healthy warm drinks, it can do wonders. Check out some great caffeine substitutes here. 

2. Fresh Air

Try to take some time in a day to be in the fresh air. Fresh air is much needed for your baby and you. Going out for a walk, and getting exposed to sunlight is great for both of you.

Introduce your baby to the sounds of nature and the environment. This is a great way to teach your baby the difference between night and day, and that day is meant for play while night is meant for sleeping. In this process, you also allow yourself to refresh yourself, calm your mind, and reset your body clock.

3. Sleep Haven

Make your bedroom a sleep haven.  Experts say the bedroom should be used only for two things; sleeping and sex. Try to keep all sorts of activities like playing with the baby, eating food, reading the newspaper, or doing your work as much as you can away from the bedroom. This way, your mind is trained to get the sleep signal as soon as you enter your bedroom. Keep it as clutter-free and device-free as much as possible. 

4. Nighttime activities

It is inevitable to wake up in the night to care for your baby, but whether it is feeding the baby, or changing diapers, keep the midnight activities calm and short so that they don’t overstimulate your infant. Don’t turn on the lights completely to avoid waking your infant completely and instead have a soft light in your bedroom.

Resist checking your phone while feeding your baby. Once done, put your infant back to sleep immediately. Keep a night kit ready with things like diapers, wipes, and extra outfits you need during the night. 

5. Relax

It is not as easy as it may sound; however, try to grab a few minutes to yourself for some meditation and deep breathing. Often, the thought that you won’t sleep or you will have to spend another night wanting to sleep will plague you and make you anxious. This will worsen the situation you are already in.

So try deep breathing to a piece of soft music and meditation piece,  which may help calm your mind and clear your worries. Even a warm water bath may soothe your mind. Try these activities to unwind and relax. You may not see the difference overnight, but gradually it will help you.

How Long Does One Suffer from Postpartum Insomnia?

Well, there is no defined timeline for postpartum insomnia. It also largely depends on how soon your baby settles into a routine. But when you feel your insomnia is not letting you get rest, you need to seek help. Don’t ignore chronic insomnia.4 You may need to consult a sleep behavioural psychologist.

Key Takeaways

Postpartum Insomnia is a real trouble, thus try these tips discussed in this article to manage your insomnia5, and I hope you can enjoy the journey of motherhood.

Read more from us here.

  1. Felder, Jennifer N., et al. “Randomized controlled trial of digital cognitive behavior therapy for prenatal insomnia symptoms: effects on postpartum insomnia and mental health.” Sleep 45.2 (2022): zsab280. ↩︎
  2. Miller, Laura J. “Postpartum depression.” Jama 287.6 (2002): 762-765. ↩︎
  3. Drozdowicz-Jastrzębska, Ewa, et al. “Insomnia, postpartum depression and estradiol in women after delivery.” Metabolic brain disease 32 (2017): 1913-1918. ↩︎
  4. Morin, Charles M., and Ruth Benca. “Chronic insomnia.” The Lancet 379.9821 (2012): 1129-1141. ↩︎
  5. Turkoski, Beatrice B. “Managing insomnia.” Orthopaedic Nursing 25.5 (2006): 339-345. ↩︎

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