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Postpartum insomnia is real and is more common than many women know. If you have recently embraced motherhood, sleepless nights are a given as you attend to your baby’s needs day and night. But if you find yourself wide awake at night, even when your baby is fast asleep in his crib, chances are you could be experiencing postpartum insomnia.
What is Postpartum Insomnia?
Postpartum insomnia is a condition in which an exhausted new mother badly needs sleep but struggles to get any even though the environment is totally conducive to rest and sleep. Postpartum insomnia is known to occur in approximately 60% women, eight weeks after delivery.
Is Postnatal Insomnia Normal?
Postnatal sleep problems are quite natural because of the overwhelming changes in your body, hormonal changes, and changes in lifestyle and habits. The life-changing experience of having a new family member who needs 24×7 care stresses out all new parents. It’s a natural phase of life and it gradually settles down. However, if sleep problems persist long after postpartum, you should consult a doctor.
What Causes Insomnia After Childbirth?
There are 4 major causes of postpartum insomnia:
1. Hormonal imbalance
Postnatal hormones fluctuations are one of the main causes of sleep problems. Low estrogen levels can cause sleep disorders and often lead to depression.
2. Night sweats
Some hormones in your body try to eliminate fluids that have had a role to play during pregnancy. Profuse sweating at night is a part of this process. It can make you sticky, hot, and you may find it difficult to fall asleep.
3. Mood swings
Unpredictable emotions may be caused by postpartum anxiety, depression, and stress. These can impact your sleep habits and cause insomnia.
As a new mother, you need to feed your baby at odd hours. This can cause sleep disturbances. Sometimes you may take a long time to fall asleep after feeding the baby and at times sleep may not come at all!
Symptoms of Post Pregnancy Insomnia
Some of the common symptoms associated with postpartum insomnia are mentioned below:
- Tossing, turning in bed
- Feeling too hot, too cold
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Anxiousness about the sleeping child
- Strange dreams
- Sometimes hearing imaginary sounds like the baby crying, the baby’s bottle falling on the floor, etc.
- Light sleeping
- Waking up at slightest disturbances
- Mood swings
- A sense of great misery and/or hostility
- Extreme apprehension
Treatment for Insomnia After Giving Birth
You should seek treatment for this sleep problem early so that it doesn’t become chronic and to also prevent associated complications like depression, hypertension, weight problems, etc. You can also try out some home remedies given below. However, consult your doctor before trying them.
1. Chamomile Tea
Drinking chamomile tea can improve the quality of sleep and help with associated depression. But this is a short-term remedy. You should not drink this tea for long.
2. Lavender Tea
The fragrance of lavender can apparently induce positive emotions in a mother for her baby. In a research conducted on postnatal women, they were given a cup of lavender tea every day for two weeks. After two weeks they seemed to display a stronger bond with their babies and lesser swings of depression and tiredness. The therapeutic effects of lavender were also only for four weeks.
3. Massage Therapy and Yoga
Back massage can improve the quality of sleep too. You can get the massages using aromatherapy oils and lotions but do check that they do not interfere with feeding before you start using them. You can also try some yoga for relaxing effects. It can also help with postpartum back pain. However, before you consider getting massages or trying yoga, do check with your doctor regarding the ideal time to start it.
4. Mineral Supplements
Magnesium and iron have a prominent role in averting neurological problems. So, taking supplements that contain these minerals can help induce sleep and alleviate depression. Check with your doctor regarding the mineral supplements you should take.
5. Sleeping Aids
You could take some safe, gentle and non-addictive OTC sleep medicines. Take them for a short time. However, be aware that the main element in this medication is diphenhydramine, which can impact the flow of breast milk in some nursing mothers. However, please consult your doctor before you take any of these.
Tips to Deal with Insomnia After Having a Baby
Here are some tips you can try to fight insomnia and sleep better.
1. Get Sleep With Your Baby
Try to sleep whenever your baby sleeps. Leave the household chores to a nanny or someone else in the family. What you need to do is just relax during the time your baby sleeps. So, if sleep does not come easy for you at odd hours just do something that will relax you instead. Try to take naps and don’t feel bad about sleeping when your baby sleeps, you need your rest!
2. Sleep Early
Sleep as early as possible and avoid using gadgets before bedtime. Screen time before bedtime is a strict no. Try and induce sleep early with a hot sauna, reading a book, listening to calming music or drinking something soothing. You can also wear eye masks to sleep.
3. Seek Support
Share your workload with your partner and/or other family members. Ask them if they could change the diapers of the baby, bathe and dress him, prepare a bottle feed etc. If your sleep problems are acute you could insist that your partner/a family member sleeps in the nursery with the baby instead of you.
4. Track the Baby’s Sleep Habits
If you understand your baby’s sleep cycle you can plan your day better, be less anxious and get your own sleep. You can also consult a lactating specialist if your nursing schedule is interfering with your sleep cycle.
Try to destress with some meditation, walks or listening to soothing music. Short, light exercises and deep breathing are also a great stress buster and sleep inducer.
If you tend to worry about the chores you need to complete the following day, just take a pen and paper, jot them down and forget about them for the night. You can also try to sleep by simply counting yourself to sleep, backwards from 100 to 1. This is a very simple method to empty your mind of other thoughts and bring on sleep.
6. Control Caffeine Consumption
Coffee becomes the favourite beverage of new moms. But if you drink too much caffeine, you will stay awake at night. So try and limit your caffeine consumption. Try to restrict to just one cup of coffee daily and avoid drinking caffeine after 2 pm.
7. Keep Your Gadgets Away
Switch off electronic gadgets an hour before sleeping. Do not surf the net while nursing the baby. Laptops, cell phones, and TV can excite the brain and disrupt sleep. The light from these gadgets is said to reduce melatonin level that affects your sleep habits. So keep them away before you go to bed.
8. Create a Peaceful Environment for Sleep
Make your bedroom décor and setting soothing. Overall you can keep a soothing wall colour or dim lighting in your bedroom. You can make it totally dark by installing thick drapes on the windows if the slightest light is hampering your sleep.
Here are some common questions women have about postpartum insomnia.
1. Can Postpartum Depression Cause Insomnia?
Sleep and depression are closely associated problems. However, it can be said whether postpartum depression is triggered by insomnia or insomnia is caused by postpartum depression. If you are unable to sleep at night and feel very tired all the time you may be suffering from postpartum depression. If the frequency of this is high and continues for a long time please consult your doctor. Also, note that postpartum insomnia can occur without any signs of depression as well.
2. What is the Difference Between Sleep Deprivation and Insomnia?
Sleep deprivation and insomnia are not the same. Sleep deprivation is when you cannot sleep because of an external disturbance like an ill pet or a baby, strenuous work hours, and noisy party next door etc.
Insomnia, on the other hand, is the inability to fall asleep even when everything is calm and conducive to sleep. This is usually caused by an underlying, internal problem associated with insomnia like physical or mental health problems, job or marital stress, or any other life stress.
Postpartum insomnia is quite common and many women experience it after the birth of their babies. But it’s not something that cannot be tackled with. By taking the right measures at the right time you can fight insomnia and sleep peacefully every night.