For most of us, the first weeks or months after a new baby are a haze of sleeplessness. But for some mothers, it never quite goes away. Instead, we develop postpartum insomnia, staring at the ceiling while our babies snooze blissfully away.
And that, I can tell you as someone who’s contending with it right now, pretty much sucks. I’ve gone from being someone who sleeps like the dead for as many hours as I can cram in to someone who usually wakes at least once or twice in the night. And then the real fun starts — I worry about money, about the economy, about rising crime and plummeting property values in my neighborhood, about swine flu, car accidents or many other ills which could befall my kids. And just as I am starting to think I might be able to go back to sleep, my husband commences snoring, or the kitten decides it’s playtime, or one or both of my kids needs some attention.
As one of the insomniacs profiled in the story says, “your brain goes to these really dark, twisted places, which, in the cold light of day, seem like nothing.”
I’d be willing to bet that lots of parents are experiencing this right now. We’re living in very anxious times, and the kind of small interruptions you’d normally be able to roll right over and ignore can snowball into big anxious worries at night. The story has a few suggestions: first, do what you can to break the cycle by taking medication, leaving the house for the night, even taking to a spare bed somewhere in the house and putting your kids and spouse on notice that you are not to be disturbed. Exhaustion can breed anxiety which breeds insomnia, so breaking the cycle by getting a few good nights of sleep can sort of hit the “reset” button.
Also, try to avoid middle of the night interruptions to prevent those scary thoughts from creeping in.Your body transitions into a pre-awakening lighter sleep at around 3 am, and being stressed and hyperalert can make your body very receptive to those waking-up signals. And finally, breathe slowly and consciously to relax and allow yourself to fall back asleep.
My trick? Naming all 50 states. It’s engaging enough to keep my mind from wandering, but boring enough that eventually I just drift off.
Anybody else out there? And do you have any tricks to beat it? Share!