Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Fighting Postnatal Insomnia

It's hard to write about insomnia, as if writing about it means it's really there and you really have to deal with it. The old bury-your-head-in-the-sand approach is so much easier. And yet...isn't the reason I started this blog to try to document my year with Little Monster and keep me sane? So maybe the writing will help.

Disappointingly, postnatal insomnia is not particularly well documented on the web (per my 5 minute Google search), but I did find a good blog post about it here. There are some useful links at the bottom so obviously that search was a little more thorough than mine...

One of the problems with postnatal insomnia is the reaction you get from people (sadly, for me, that also includes some healthcare professionals). The conversation predictably goes something like this - ME: "I'm not sleeping well at night". THEM: *sympathetic but slightly amused smile* "Well, that's newborns for you. It does get easier!". The thing is, it isn't Little Monster keeping me awake. He's actually starting to sleep better. I, on the other hand, get up to feed him and then lie awake for the rest of the night.

I think it started because Little Monster has a tendency to wake every hour after 4 or 5am. I would creep back to bed and by the time I'd drifted off he was awake again. Then it progressed to not going back to sleep between those feeds. And then, inevitably, the cycle has migrated to the other feeds which has left me with only 2-4hours sleep for the last couple of nights. Which equals a very tearful and depressed me, not to mention that I'm not much fun for Little Monster.

So today I've been doing my usual thing of Googling the problem to find a solution. The general advice seems to be:

  1. Adopt a consistent bedtime routine (same time every night, same activities before bed) 
  2. Get some exercise in the day 
  3. Try relaxation techniques like listening to relaxation tracks, breathing exercises and muscle exercises 
  4. Limit caffeine and alcohol 
  5. Work on reducing anxiety by thinking about happy thoughts/memories 
If, like me, the slightest noise on the baby monitor sets you on edge, see if you can get hubby to do at least one night feed. I found that one night when I knew hubby was getting up for the first feed, I didn't hear the monitor and likewise he is normally oblivious because I'm getting up. One option is that they take some weekend feeds so that you know there's a break waiting at the end of the week.

To be perfectly honest, I think anxiety is the route of the sleeplessness. Ever since Little Monster was born I seem unable to relax. I get really stressed out if he's crying (and babies...well they cry right?). I have been constantly worrying and feeling guilty about breast feeding (more about that on a later post I think). All in all, I'm a little bundle of wound up energy and nothing seems to help me relax, even though Little Monster seems to be pretty content most of the time.

I don't know what the fix is. At this point I'll try anything. I'll be updating here when there's any progress on my journey. If you're reading this because you're suffering postnatal/postpartum insomnia, I hope things improve for you soon. X


  1. I couldn't get any sleep when my little one was in with us - had to wear earplugs so only the significant noise woke me. That was the only way to keep my sanity as even the slightest rustle would keep a 'precious first baby' mum awake.

    I suffered terrible anxiety and I didn't know what it was even about, luckily only affected me in the day but could not get any daytime naps even with earplugs in place. I also found socialising, sharing experiences, a daily walk (and sunlight) helped me but not enough so I finally admitted that there wasn't anything more I could do to make it better and went to the doctors. Going on antidepressants cracked it for me and I now feel sane and am enjoying the experience.

    By the way Parsloes is Alice if you want to call me anytime to chew the fat then please do.

  2. Wow, I've just come across your blog whilst searching for info about the local Oundle Sure start centre. What a great idea, it's wonderful to read a "real" account of what it's like to have a child. So many of your posts I can relate to, especailly this one. This has been really helpful to me. I have a 2 year old and 3 year old. The 3 year old has only just started sleeping properly earlier this year. It was rare that both children were ever asleep at the same time, usually only between 6am-9am. Which left me to have 3 hours sleep, only I couldn't sleep. It's only recently that I've realised how it had affected me. My Dad died a week before my wedding, when my eldest was only 3 months old. We also had 2 house moves before she was 6 months old! My husband works in a pub so he isn't here at night-I think having the complete responsibilty of a newborn at night on my own mixed with everything else that had happened made me have too much anxiety to sleep. Then I'd be so tired when the children woke, the last thing I felt like doing was taking them out anywhere although I'd do lots of activities with them at home, this then made me feel guilty that I wasn't helping them to socialise. I don't know many people in the area and my confidence was low, I found it hard to talk to people when I did go to groups(it's getting better). I just got used to not sleeping and didn't realise the impact it had on me mentally. When I tried to sleep I'd worry about everything and anything. I'd then worry when I woke a 9am because people would presume that I was a lazy mother who slept all the time. Unless you suffer from this sleep anxiety I think it's hard for people to understand. You say you've not slept and they think oh well you'll make up for it in the day, sleep when baby sleeps! Argh! I am starting to sleep better now and things are looking a lot brighter. Sorry for the long rant-your post has made me realise rather a lot.

    1. Thanks so much for your message. If you're in Oundle, I really found the SureStart centre a lifesaver in terms of getting me out and doing stuff, even when I didn't feel like it. I need to write a new blog post about my insomnia actually because things really have improved lately. Someone once said to me 'this too shall pass' when we were talking about baby woes and I think this is another case of that. At the time, it feels like the end of the world. But slowly, slowly, it gets better. Take care! x