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  • Dr. Michelle Casarella

Postpartum Insomnia: I Can’t Sleep After Giving Birth

Many expectant moms are showered with advice and horror stories (typically unsolicited) about sleep deprivation after the baby arrives. And of course, everyone tells you to “sleep when the baby sleeps.”


But what if you can’t sleep after giving birth? What if when your baby is sleeping you have horrible postpartum insomnia?

This happened to me and I never thought I’d be a new mom who can’t sleep when baby sleeps. No one ever mentioned I might have insomnia after having a baby when they were guessing the gender based on whether my face looked “round” (we all know that’s a euphemism for fat).


Let me start with some fun facts about me and sleep. I love sleep. Like really love sleep. I have always gone out of my way my entire life to ensure I got 8-9 hours of sleep. If I didn’t get amount of sleep while growing up, I would be in an “ornery” mood (my mother’s favorite word to describe my attitude without sleep). I wasn’t even the kind of person in my 20s who could go out late and then just get up and go about my day. I was never that person. I will never be that person. I can’t tell you how many people are in shock when I tell them I regularly get in bed at 9:30.


I literally slept at least 8 hours most nights up until the night I gave birth. There was no pregnancy insomnia for this girl. Even in that last month of pregnancy, I only woke up to pee and then went right back to sleep.


So when my baby was sleeping and I was wide awake, I became infuriated. I was tired, I didn’t give a shit about the housework---all I desperately wanted a rendezvous with my first love, sleep.

Postpartum insomnia is very real. And something that didn’t just happen to me. It is actually more common than many women realize. For some, they have a hard time falling asleep. Others can fall sleep but can’t stay sleeping. But postpartum insomnia gets better. I got better, and you can too.


There is a certain amount of adrenaline that flows through a woman’s body after giving birth. Part of this is from the substantial hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and after giving birth. If you are breastfeeding, there are also hormonal shifts that occur. Of course, all women experience and are impacted by these hormonal shifts to varying degrees and in different ways. For many women, returning to baseline hormonally can take at least 6-8 weeks postpartum. Therefore, a significant cause of severe postpartum insomnia is due to these hormonal changes in your body.


But there is also one’s mind and behavior at plays a role when a new mom can’t sleep when baby sleeps. Even if doesn’t reach the level of a diagnosis of postpartum anxiety symptoms, many women experience new mom anxiety. Just like any other form of anxiety, postpartum anxiety symptoms can be for a variety for reasons. Some common ones include: anxiety about SIDS, taking care of the baby, trying to get housework done, returning to work or questioning if you want to, adjusting to how different life is, feeling overwhelmed, anxiety about following a certain schedule or worrying about others taking care of baby way you would, etc.


What can I do about this horrible postpartum insomnia?

Here are 5 tips to combat postpartum insomnia:


1. Create a bedtime routine: The goal is to implement calming rituals before sleep so your body begins to associate these activities with sleep. You probably already do a bedtime routine with baby (or likely will when they’re a bit older), so why not one for yourself? Just like with baby, you can pick whatever calming activities you like—just be sure they are in the same order every night.


2. Cut down on caffeine and alcohol: Staying away from caffeine after 2pm is imperative. Make sure you are staying away from all forms of caffeine, such as decaf coffee, caffeinated tea, etc. Additionally, alcohol right before bed is a culprit for sleep issues—even just an innocent glass of wine with dinner at 7pm. Alcohol tends to make people fall asleep but is notorious for waking them up and feeling even slightly dehydrated.


3. Make your bedroom a sleep haven: That means first and foremost a dark and cool environment. Then only spend time in your bedroom for two things: sleep and sex.


4. Manage your expectations: Don’t except to go from not be able to sleep to sleeping a blissful 8 hours the next night. Have patience and compassion for yourself during this major life transition. At the same time, remind yourself that this is a phase and will not last forever.


5. Try Magnesium: For those who are interested in natural remedies, I recommend a magnesium powder supplement that you can purchase on Amazon. Use this link to purchase: https://amzn.to/2LF3wz2 It’s an affiliate link, meaning I get a small commission on your purchase. However, this is a product I truly believe in and would recommend it even without the commission. And I’m not the only one who believes in it—just check out the amazing Amazon reviews!


If you are suffering from postpartum anxiety or postpartum insomnia and want help, reach out for a free phone consultation https://www.mentalwellnessmamas.com/scheduling-contact


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Hawthorne, N.Y. 10532

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