Combating Postpartum Insomnia
Like so many other mothers that I know, sleep during pregnancy was difficult. Between the uncomfortable big belly, hot flashes, and urge to “nest” in the middle of the night, sleeping was not an easy task. I genuinely looked forward to the sleep I’d enjoy once our son was born.
I wasn’t naive though: I knew that newborns had wacky sleep schedules. I expected to get little sleep when Daniel was first born. I am not going to sit here and complain about newborn sleep patterns, either. I actually learned to enjoy (or at least joyfully tolerate) the nightly feedings. An older woman at my church gave me some great advice about nightly feedings: find a good show to watch, and only allow yourself to watch it during feedings. That advice really worked! I mean, after five kids I figured this lady knew what she was talking about. I wound up binge watching Frasier, which is now one of my favorite shows.
By six weeks our son was sleeping for six hour stretches at a time. By eight weeks he was sleeping for ten/eleven hours a night without waking. Now was my time.
Oh, I was so excited! I even bought myself new pajamas to celebrate the occasion. I was going to sleep an entire eight hours and wake up feeling refreshed, ready for the day, and happy.
Well, that didn’t happen. Instead, I tossed and turned all night. I stared at the baby monitor for hours. I scrolled through Instagram and Facebook repeatedly. I rewatched Frasier: all eleven seasons! I just couldn’t sleep at all.
There are many reasons mothers experience the phenomenon of postpartum insomnia. Sometimes it’s hard to unwind after a long day of changing diapers, feeding, and playing with a teething baby. Sometimes we cannot help but to obsess and worry about the baby in the next room. Maybe it’s our postpartum hormone levels trying to get back to normal. Whatever the reason may be, the reality is that postpartum insomnia does exist and does affect many mothers.
I actually did not know how prevalent postpartum insomnia was until I made a brief comment about it on my Instagram story. Afterwards, about five or six of my friends who are also mothers reached out with comments such as “PREACH!” and “OMG SAME.” I wound up Googling the condition and found one report estimating that anywhere from 25%-50% of new mother’s experience insomnia (The Sleep Advisor). That’s a lot of women! I’m not going to sit here and claim that I am some sort of sleep psychologist or therapist, etc. But I am a woman and a mother desperately seeking sleep.
I recently did a bit of research and experimentation and found a routine that works for me to get a better night’s sleep. I decided to write a post about my routine in case any of this information sounds helpful to any fellow mamas out there. I want to stress once more: I am not a doctor, medical professional in any sense, therapist, psychologist, etc. This is a routine that works for me. It might not work for you, or maybe bits and pieces of it will, and other bits and pieces will not. Whatever it may be, I’m glad you’re here. Here it goes:
- Stop drinking caffeine past 3:00 PM
Okay, this one was hard for me. I am completely addicted to caffeine. However, I noticed that if I cut my caffeine intake off at about 3:00 PM (4:00 PM the latest on particularly tiresome days), I have an easier time going to sleep at night. My bedtime is usually anywhere from 10:00-11:00 PM, and that seven/eight hour time without caffeine helps get it all out of my system.
- Stop doing cardio workouts past 5:00 PM
I love running. I have enjoyed running since I was younger. I even ran while I was pregnant, and after I had our son could not wait to start running again. However, I noticed that if I run (or practice any cardio, for that matter) after 5:00 PM, my body has a difficult time winding down at the end of the day. I try to workout in the mornings or early afternoons.
- Set up a bedtime routine
Remember when you were a kid and your parents set up a routine for you before bedtime? It usually involved a bath, bedtime story, kiss goodnight, etc. Why did this habit ever stop? I don’t know about anyone else, but I work best with a schedule handy. Having a set routine before bedtime helps my body get ready for bedtime. My routine usually doesn’t begin until our baby is down for the night, but he is usually down by 8:00 PM. After he is down, my husband and I usually watch a television show together, maybe have a glass of wine, talk about our days, etc. By about 9:00 PM, I start preparing myself for sleep. My personal routine is as follows:
Bubble bath with Dr Teal’s Melatonin & Essential Oils Sleep Foaming Bath Soak
- Okay, I don’t have time for a bubble bath every night. But, when I do have the time I like to begin my routine with this calming bath soak. It is infused with melatonin and essential oils to promote a better night’s sleep. I also really enjoy the way it smells
Small cup of Celestial’s “Sleepytime” hot herbal tea
- If I have the time to take a bath, my husband usually begins heating the teapot for me. This way, when I get out of the bathtub I can hop over to the kitchen and make a small cup of Sleepytime tea. I have been drinking this tea since I was in high school. It is delicious, caffeine-free, and genuinely calming. (Side note: the picture of the bear wearing a nightgown sitting my a cozy fire on the front of the tea box is the cutest thing in the entire world!) After I make a cup of tea, I go into my bedroom and get into some pajamas.
Nature’s Truth Good Nite essential oil in a diffuser
- Once I’m in my pajamas, I set up my diffuser with a few drops of this relaxing essential oil. I also will rub a little of the oil under my nose. I actually wrote about this essential oil before, as it has become a part of my everyday routine even before I created a bedtime routine. I started using this oil before our son was born as a way to help with my insomnia during pregnancy. I really enjoy this blend because it is not overbearing. Some essential oils can become obnoxious, but Nature’s Truth Good Nite essential oil is very mild. It’s a blend of lavender, tangerine, geranium, cypress, frankincense, and chamomile oils. I only leave the diffuser on for a little while.
- This step in my routine is very flexible. Sometimes I like to pray. Or journal. Or simply reflect on my day. Sometimes I even use the time to simply recollect myself and not think about anything. I like to meditate while I drink my tea and have the diffuser going. This is probably my favorite step because it allows me to settle for the night.
ZzzQuil melatonin gummies
- This final step to my bedtime routine is actually not an every-day step. I only take a melatonin gummy if I am having a particularly difficult time winding down or falling asleep. Admittedly, I am not a fan of taking any unnecessary medicines. However, I don’t mind this gummy because it is completely drug free and guarantees no next-day grogginess. The gummies also have no artificial colors and are gluten, lactose, and gelatin free. Honestly, when I cannot wind down at all and my mind is completely fighting me on sleep, these do the trick. And it’s true: I do not feel groggy at all the next day, which I love.
So, that’s my routine and I’m sticking to it! As I said previously, this routine will probably not work for every mama. It might not even work for anyone except me.
However, unfortunately society doesn’t talk much about postpartum life. It’s still somehow a taboo subject, yet many women face trials during the postpartum period that should be talked about. One of my postpartum issues was insomnia, and in an effort to be transparent, open, and honest about this time, I decided to write this post. And who knows, maybe I’ll even help a mama along the way who is also up watching reruns of a 90’s sitcom at 4:00 AM.