Taking care of an infant is tiring work, and falling asleep whenever the opportunity arises seems like it should be easy. Ironically, some new parents struggle to do just that, a potential sign of postnatal insomnia. The condition may have a medical component or be related to depression, but sometimes insomnia can simply be the result of feeling overwhelmed, tense, or anxious about the arrival of a new baby. Here’s what you need to know about the causes of postnatal insomnia and smart ways to treat it.
Pinpoint the Start
Try to recall whether you’ve had trouble sleeping in the past. If so, did it last for more than a night or two? Occasional insomnia isn’t uncommon, but if your inability to fall asleep or stay asleep first appeared soon after your new baby, it’s likely situational.
Spot the Triggers
Symptoms that can lead to postnatal insomnia include feeling overwhelmed by day-to-day responsibilities, worrying about future events, or feeling over stimulated by all the new experiences that you are going through. Think about your daily routine leading up to those sleepless nights: Do any of these scenarios ring true? Make a note of any particular worries or emotions that might correlate with a sleepless night.
Record the Pattern
Not sleeping well can lead to more insomnia, in part because you may start to worry whether you’ll ever be able to sleep, and dread the thought of heading to bed each evening. Consider keeping a sleep journal, including wake times, bedtimes, and any naps in between. Jot down the hours you tried to sleep but couldn’t. This will give you a sense of how much (or how little) sleep you’re really getting.
Create a Pro-Sleep Environment
Practicing smart sleep habits can improve your chances of a successful night’s sleep. Keep your room cool, dark, and quiet. Be sure to avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime. Try to get regular exercise every day and power down all electronics at least an hour before you tuck in. And if insomnia is still keeping you up, don’t just stare at the ceiling. Get out of bed and read, knit, or do another low-stimulation activity until you’re ready to hit the hay again.
If your sleep struggles continue for more than a week or two, speak with your doctor. A medical professional might prescribe temporary medication, or identify other potential causes and treatments for the insomnia so you can get the sleep you need.