Your whole life has been turned upside down in the most deliciously delightful way, thanks to your new baby. You’re deeply in love with this tiny new being, a feeling so strong it might have surprised you at first. Everything is wonderful, life is magical, you’re living every second of it… but oh, if only you could sleep! The joys of post partum insomina.
Growing and learning uses up a great deal of energy, which is why new-born babies can easily sleep for eight hours through the night plus another eight hours through the day. Once your baby is three months old they’ll need 4-5 hours sleep during the day and 10-11 hours a night. At 12 months most babies sleep for just two or three hours during the day and 11 hours at night. Soon after that babies sleep for around thirteen and a half hours in every twenty four. But it doesn’t mean you get the sleep you need!
Post part insomnia can make the experience of a new baby a lot more difficult than it needs to be, and it can soon leave you feeling utterly and totally worn out. Here are some hot sleep tips to help you reduce post partum insomnia.
What is post partum insomnia?
You might be having unusually vivid and disturbing dreams. You may be completely unable to drop off in the easy way you did before becoming a mum. Experts estimate as many as 75% of mums-to-be suffer from insomnia during their third trimester, and some of the time it carries on after the baby has been born. It’s spectacularly unhelpful when at this time, more than any other, you need all the sleep you can get. And if it carries on it can leave you absolutely exhausted.
When post partum insomnia means you can’t even nod off when your new baby is snoozing, it’s time to act. Here’s what you can do to reduce it. Don’t forget to discuss things with your other half, so they can support you in your goal to sleep better.
How long does post partum insomnia last?
The onset of post partum sleep deprivation is instant, and it can last for many months if you don’t address it. A lack of sleep is a normal part of having a newborn child, so it isn’t always easy to pin the condition down. It can be a challenge, at first, to distinguish it from the normal, everyday fatigue that every parent experiences with a new born child. If you’ve reached your six-week post-partum GP visit and sleep is still eluding you, it’s probably a case of post part insomnia and can even be a sign you’re suffering from post partum depression.
What helps with post partum insomnia
Luckily there are all sorts of relatively simple things you can do to reduce post partum sleep deprivation. Interestingly they’re much the same as you’d try to solve any kind of sleeplessness, so some of these are probably going to be familiar to you, as well as feeling entirely logical and sensible.
It makes sense to cut back on caffeine. Don’t forget coffee isn’t the only source – tea is often just as rich in caffeine as coffee. To be safe, don’t drink caffeinated tea or coffee after 2pm. Keep your bedroom for sleeping. Watching TV or a screen of any other kind is never a good idea, since they stimulate you and help keep you awake. Your brain needs dim light to produce melatonin, the hormone that drives your natural sleep cycle. Replace electronic gadgets with calming images hung on the walls, thick curtains that keep the light out, and a very comfy chair where you can sit, rock your baby and feed him or her in a calm, chilled atmosphere. Keep your bedroom cool, a must for great quality sleep, and avoid exercising just before you go to bed.
That’s your basics, but there’s plenty more you can do to improve the likelihood of dropping off and staying that way.
Best sleep habits to reduce post partum insomnia
Here are some creative sleep habits to get into. They should help you turn the corner and get your life back after an exhausting bout of post partum sleep deprivation:
- Steer clear of alcohol, which is notorious for reducing sleep quality
- Don’t eat late – it’s harder for your body to digest food at night and your body might retaliate by keeping you awake. Eat your evening meal at least four hours before bedtime
- Chamomile tea or lavender tea are soothing pre-bedtime drinks that won’t keep you awake
- Avoid ‘natural’ sleep medicines and prescription drugs
- Get daily exercise – a simple daily walk will work wonders
- Stretch, meditate or do some gentle yoga to help you relax into sleepiness
- Learn meditation. Not only does it improve sleep and lower stress by focusing your attention on the all-important mind-body connection, it brings positive changes to your brain. It just happens to feel really good too
- Do conscious breathing. Taking just a few conscious breaths reminds your brain it’s time to get ready for sleep
- Cut back on social media, which can make you feel overwhelmed with its constant news alerts and headlines
- Avoid the news at night – worrying about the state of the world can keep you awake
- Create a bedtime routine and stick to it, giving your body and mind the opportunity to create a new habit designed to help ease you into sleep. It could involve a shower, then a soothing hot drink followed by a good book to read for a few minutes. Whatever relaxes you most, make it into your pre-bedtime ritual and stick to it
- Turn down the lights a couple of hours before bedtime so your brain gets sleepy in advance
- If your baby is asleep, try to have a little nap yourself – make the most of every opportunity. Just bear in mind too many day naps will make it harder to sleep through the night. It’s a balancing act
- If you wake up and can’t get back to sleep, get up and do something to give your brain and body a change of scene. Just don’t do anything so exciting it wakes you up – keep it boring!
- Don’t worry about not hearing your baby crying if you go to sleep. You will hear them, we’re programmed to wake when they cry. If in doubt get a baby monitor, and bear in mind they won’t come to any harm crying for a little while
- Cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia can be incredibly powerful. You should be able to find a great CBT therapist who works online
- Wear lovely, comfy sleeping clothes – something silky feels wonderful and doesn’t act like velcro, sticking you to the sheets!
- Reduce the tog value of your duvet in summer so you stay nice and cool all night
- Close the windows in your bedroom to keep noise out
- Sleep aids like ear plugs and sleeping masks can be very helpful
- Don’t accept any more responsibilities – having too much to do makes you feel stressed, and stress never makes for a good sleep
- If you start to feel really depressed, see your doctor. If naps aren’t refreshing you, there might be an underlying medical reason for your sleep problems – again, see your doctor
- Get your partner to help you cope with childcare responsibilities, so you’re not alone
- Accept every bit of help you’re offered – you’re worth it!
- Don’t stay up late
You might find that one or two of the above are enough to ease you back into quality sleep, or you might find you need to do more to get back into the sleeping habit. But once you’ve cracked the problem of post part sleep deprivation you’ll soon start to feel so much better.
Disclaimer: Biovault Family do not endorse or make recommendations with respect to research, medications or treatment. All information is provided for informational purposes only.
BSc (Hons) Microbiology
Biovault Family CEO, Kate Sneddon, joined Biovault in July 2009 and became Chief Executive Officer in 2016. As health industry professional her experience includes working as a microbiologist and leader at GSK for over 10 years. Her expertise in cord blood banking has been recognised in her awards, features in Parliamentary Review and Parents Guide to Cord Blood, as well as contributions to research with UCL and others.