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Postpartum Insomnia – Symptoms & Tips You Should Know

a profile image of TSA author Andjela

Written By Anđela Rajković

Certified Sleep Consultant

Woman breastfeeding

8 April 2024 12 min read

Postpartum insomnia is a condition that affects most women. It lasts for several weeks and does not have to be dangerous. However, insomnia can indicate postpartum depression, which means that it is important to consider other symptoms.

Numerous changes in the body occur during pregnancy. The level of reproductive hormones is 20 to 30 times higher than the normal level. After childbirth, hormone levels fall sharply, as do the changes that have occurred.

This means that a woman's body goes through major changes in a short time. Insomnia is a consequence of these changes. Symptoms of insomnia are often noticed in women who are in the later stages of pregnancy, but sometimes they do not stop even after the woman gives birth.

These symptoms include difficulty falling and staying asleep, as well as waking up at night. In addition, there is anxiety, extreme sadness, etc. This condition is especially stressful in the first few weeks after giving birth, because then there are changes in the mother's sleep schedule. Due to that, such sleep disorders may occur, which last longer.

3 main causes of postpartum insomnia

Stress, grief, an unfamiliar sleeping environment, hard work or a bad sleeping environment can be the causes of insomnia. This type of insomnia is defined as a permanent difficulty that impairs the quality and maintenance of sleep. The biggest problem with this condition is that it can occur despite a comfortable sleeping area. Women who have recently become mothers mostly experience this condition due to hormonal imbalance, anxiety and nighttime baby feeding.

Hormonal disbalance

Although hormones start to change in women immediately, the changes continue throughout the whole pregnancy. After the test confirms that you are pregnant, your hormones have largely received the message that something is happening in your body. This means that the pumping of progesterone and hCG begins, which stops the production during the next menstruation. This triggers the earliest symptoms such as nausea, fatigue and breast tenderness.

an image of a woman suffering from a hormonal disbalance

Over time, pregnancy progresses and your body produces more and more estrogen and progesterone, which gives you a feeling of calm and happiness. However, this condition does not last long because immediately after childbirth there is a sudden drop in estrogen and progesterone. At the same time, there is an increase in prolactin and oxytocin. These hormones are responsible for the crazy emotions you go through after giving birth, and they are the ones that can bring you insomnia.

Mental overwhelming

Most women are worried about their child after giving birth, especially those women who are in the role of a mother for the first time. They will spend a lot of time thinking about their actions, baby's health and behavior. Such thoughts usually occur during the evening hours and prevent mothers from establishing sleep. Some women also develop great fears and phobias, which only worsen the condition.

Anxiety thoughts can totally overwhelm you so you will feel like it will never end. Thus begins the vicious circle of insomnia. The solution to this problem is to suppress and eliminate stress. You can use various methods for this purpose, such as breathing exercises, meditation, physical activity, a warm bath or some other soothing activity.

Nighttime baby feeding

In the first few months, night feeding, equally disturbs the sleep of both the baby and the parent. Baby sleep is very different from the way adults sleep. Their food is digested very quickly and easily, which means that babies often need to be fed. Most babies temporarily drop out at night at the end of the 2nd month of age, although this is a fairly individual matter.

an image of a woman breastfeeding her baby

To feed your child you need to stop sleeping and wake up completely. This has a very bad effect on the quality of your sleep, which can lead to insomnia. To help you cope with nighttime breastfeeding, rest during the day when your baby is calm. The key is in proper organization and adjustment to the baby's rhythm. Of course, breastfeeding usually stops after one year.

Symptoms of postpartum insomnia

After giving birth, a large number of women experience different, confusing and contradictory feelings about the new role in which they find themselves. One of the common problems is postpartum insomnia, which brings various symptoms. These are mood changes, easy irritation, no-reason sadness, and anxiety attacks.

an image of a woman suffering from postpartum insomnia

Mood changes

When a woman suffers from any of the mentioned mood disorders, after the birth of a child, it inevitably affects all spheres of her life. That is why it is very important that she has the help of a partner or some other close person. This person should be an integral part of everyday life, because it is necessary to provide understanding to women. It is also easier to notice changes in mood, which means that a solution will be reached faster.

A new mother needs to be encouraged to dedicate at least an hour a day to herself. Although many young mothers think that they can do everything on their own, they are wrong. You don't have to do everything yourself to prove that you are up to the role of mother, wife, etc. If you are constantly exhausted, you cannot be good to yourself or your baby, or to your partner.

Easy irritation

Women go through various types of irritation after childbirth. There are many factors that affect your condition. For example, the symptoms will depend on the type of birth, because some births can be much more difficult than others. There is also a difference between women who give birth for the first time and those who have done it more than once. However, there are also strategies for overcoming such conditions.

an image of an angry woman

So be prepared to deal with problems such as mild bleeding, abdominal cramps, sore perineum, urination problems, hemorrhoids and the like for a while. Take care of your health in consultation with your chosen doctor, and you should fully recover after a few weeks. It will also solve your insomnia problem if it is caused by easy irritation.

No-reason sadness

There is the initial excitement due to the birth of the baby, but after that, the mother is faced with reality. This means that she encounters new changes in the body, because there are great hormonal changes. That is why many women find themselves in a very strange situation, such as this one. The mood starts to vary a lot.

For example, at one moment the mother looks at the baby and feels great joy, and at another she cries for no apparent reason. This can happen several times a day, and she has a feeling that her emotions are being controlled by someone else. This condition can last up to a couple of weeks unless the sleep problem is resolved in the meantime.

Anxiety attacks

The occurrence of sleep problems in pregnant women, especially in the first pregnancy, can be greatly influenced by the fears she encounters that are related to the second condition. For example, new mothers can experience many sleepless nights, thinking about whether they will be good mothers, how they will find themselves in a new role, etc. This greatly affects other health-related fears. Thus, insomnia deepens and anxious behavior develops.

an image of a woman suffering from anxiety after the childbirth

In addition, dreams of childbirth, thinking about changes in the body, worrying about the baby, and just when it's time to go to bed, can happen. Attempts to calm down will hardly be successful, because this is a classic fear of the unknown that he has to deal with at a certain moment. Talking to a partner, mother, friend or other trusted person helps in this situation. It is also recommended to talk to an expert, because he will be of the greatest help.

How to cope with postpartum insomnia successfully?

There are several ways to overcome postpartum insomnia. The most important thing is to find a suitable sleeping position. It is also important how you behave before bed or what foods or drinks you consume. For example, a light dinner, herbal teas, and a walk before bed are advised. Pay attention to the amount of magnesium you take during the day, but also to the following items.

Sleep when your baby goes to sleep

Caring for a newborn is very exhausting, which means that some parents could sleep anytime and anywhere, but that is not always the case. If you have trouble sleeping, try to create an environment that is suitable for sleeping. It also means that you should use these precious moments, such as your baby's sound sleep. Sleep when your baby is asleep, turn down your cell phone and neglect other responsibilities such as washing dishes and the like.

Also postpone social visits. It is best not to want a bed while sleeping, and sharing responsibilities is equally recommended. This means that your partner should take care of you when possible, as well as you take care of him. It is important that both parents rest equally while caring for the baby.

Don’t stay awake for too long

If you want to watch social networks, series or movies after a hard day, don't do it for too long. Try to go to bed as early as possible, but if you have a problem, do it gradually. For example, an hour before you go to bed dim the light sources such as lamps, phones or computers.

It is best to turn them all off, but you can only reduce the intensity of the light to begin with. When you wake up during the night, do not use the telephone or turn on the lights. Fight this temptation.

Get help from your spouse

Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, eating and sleeping disorders, lack of interest for sexual intercourse are just some of the symptoms of postpartum depression. However, this condition is much easier to overcome when you have help. This refers to the support you receive from your spouse, family, friends or a professional.

an image of a man helping his spouse with children

It is important that there is someone next to you who will understand you and who will be willing to help you at all times. If you don't ask for help, it's hard to get it. Therefore, if you have the opportunity to get any help around the baby or at home, do not refuse it.

Don’t let the stress and anxiety disrupt you

Stop worrying about little things, turn off the phone, leave social networks or the cleaning you planned. Finish it later. As soon as you feel a wave of anxiety, try to focus on the feeling of gratitude and love. Practice these feelings by associating important things in your life with them. You can also do your own soothing evening ritual.

For example, ask your wife to massage you, listen to light music, turn off the TV, read a book or write a diary. Writing a diary is a great way to deal with your emotions and inner fears. It is a very powerful tool for overcoming anxiety and depression.

Ensure darkness in the room

When fighting insomnia, it is important to create ideal sleeping conditions in your bedroom. This means that you will take care of noise and lighting. Of course, it is very important to eliminate external noise, but even more important is the light that reaches you. As long as the light is on, your brain will think it's day. This means that they will not react to your commands while you are desperately trying to fall asleep. Even the faintest source of light can be the culprit for poor sleep, so make sure you provide yourself with absolute darkness.

When light is present, the brain turns off the production of natural melatonin, which means that drowsiness comes later. Instead of getting ready for bed, you can feel very awake in the evening. If you can't eliminate all light sources, get a sleeping mask.

Don’t drink too much coffee

In addition to stimulating lighting, stimulating beverages such as coffee should be avoided. Although experts claim that coffee is good for the body, it is not your friend at all times. In fact, it is necessary to avoid this and similar drinks just before bedtime. People react differently to the effect of coffee, and while some can drink a few cups of coffee and sleep peacefully, for others this beverage disturbs sleep.

an image of a woman drinking coffee

Remember, coffee even six hours before bedtime can affect sleep quality. If you are sensitive to caffeine, you should avoid it in the evening. Coffee is a healthy elixir, and if you like to drink it, it is best to do it during the morning hours.

Practice deep breathing and meditation

A person who has to solve many tasks in parallel during the day, cannot suddenly become an expert in meditation. However, you can start with breathing exercises and gradually switch to meditation. After putting your baby to sleep, it is important that you calm down. Take a warm bath after a busy day or treat yourself to another atmosphere. Then, start with breathing / calming exercises that will further relax your mind and body.

You need to completely relax your muscles and pay attention to breathing. This means that breathing should be very slow, and pay special attention to exhalation. It must be as long and slow as a breath. During this exercise, try to think about positive things and so you will fill your heart with joy with every breath. For example, focus on things that bring you satisfaction, think of a safe and comfortable place.

Conclusion

Pregnancy is a big change for the body. These changes start from the moment of conception, and do not end with childbirth. Then there is a big drop in hormones and the woman shows different symptoms of hormonal imbalance. In some cases, insomnia occurs, but hormones are not the only factor influencing the occurrence of this condition. Mental overwhelming and nighttime baby feeding have an equally big impact. Women go through different emotional states while facing a new role.

These include mood changes, easy irritation, no-reason sadness and many other changes. Fortunately, there are methods that can help you deal with this problem. It is important to provide yourself with ideal sleeping conditions, eliminate stress, prepare the environment, meditate, darken the room and engage in activities that relax you.

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About the author

Anđela Rajković
As a CPD certified Sleep Consultant and well-practiced sleep enthusiast, I find a lot of joy in bringing my expertise to our readers – preferably those who love to sleep. With a background in the English language and literature and a love of research, I'm always seeking new ways to share the latest sleep science and bed-related findings. And, when I'm not connecting with my readers, you can find me exploring the great outdoors, or, well, curling up in bed.
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