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What is Postpartum Insomnia?

According to the Better Sleep Council, May is Better Sleep Month. Better Sleep Month was created to help raise awareness of the importance of sleep and how it affects our health and well-being. 

We’re using Better Sleep Month (May) as an opportunity to discuss how insomnia can often be an unexpected issue for postpartum women. In this blog, we talk about how and why sleep disturbances occur during the fourth trimester, ways to improve postpartum sleep, and why getting adequate sleep is essential.

Postpartum Insomnia

Postpartum_insomniaInsomnia is a common issue among pregnant women, particularly in the third trimester. Symptoms associated with pregnancy-induced insomnia include difficulty falling asleep, struggling to stay asleep, and frequent nighttime awakenings. Unfortunately, these symptoms may continue after a mother has given birth, extending into the first few postpartum weeks, also known as the fourth trimester

It's natural to struggle with transitioning to a sleeping schedule required to care for your newborn. However, if you're having trouble sleeping more than three times a week and lack of sleep is causing distress, you may have postpartum insomnia.

Causes of Postpartum Insomnia

While bringing home a newborn for the first time is a beautiful experience, it’s also a significant lifestyle change. Newborns wake up frequently and require around-the-clock feedings and care. This disruption in routine is one of the leading causes of postpartum insomnia. 

Other causes of postpartum insomnia include:

  • Hormone changes: During the fourth trimester, a woman's progesterone (a female sex hormone with sleep-inducing qualities) and melatonin (a hormone produced by the brain in response to darkness to encourage sleepiness and relaxation) will drop. This abrupt drop in hormones can affect a woman's circadian rhythm, which regulates sleep, mood, and appetite. 
  • Anxiety and depression: A new mother may experience postpartum blues where she feels irritable, overwhelmed, inadequate, and extremely tired. She may also feel worried she is not doing enough to care for her infant. All these emotions can contribute to a lack of sleep.
  • Body changes: Physical postpartum changes like breast engorgement and night sweats can be uncomfortable, making falling or staying asleep more difficult.
  • Inadequate nutrition: Postpartum moms, especially those who are breastfeeding, have increased nutritional needs. Not getting the proper nutrients can cause physical and mental distress, leading to difficulty sleeping. A new mother may also frequently wake up feeling hungry or thirsty and have difficulty falling back asleep once awake.

Have you noticed your appetite change since giving birth? Take a look here for educational information on healthy breastfeeding and dietary considerations for nursing moms.

Tips for Improving Postpartum Sleep

Following these simple recommendations can improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep during the fourth trimester: 

  • Sleep (or nap) when your baby sleeps 
  • Keep your home routine flexible and relaxed 
  • Share the workload and accept offers for help with grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning 
  • Prioritize sleep and relaxation time 
  • Remove added stress by postponing house chores or tasks that can wait 
  • Control alcohol and caffeine intake
  • Prepare simple meals and set meal times

Practicing good sleep hygiene can also help improve postpartum sleep. Setting a comfortable bedroom temperature, dimming the lights before bedtime, getting outside, exercising, and limiting screen time and blue light exposure are ways to practice better sleep hygiene.

Talk to your Moreland OB-GYN doctor if you have tried these natural ways to help induce sleep and you are still struggling. They may recommend over-the-counter sleep aids or a consultation with a sleep behavioral psychologist to help pinpoint and work through the challenges keeping you from getting the sleep you need.

Check out our Self-Care Guide for more ideas and tips on managing and embracing change in your life, like bringing home a newborn.

Importance of Self Care

Website Images 800X534 (2)Sleep is medically necessary for many reasons. It is not just a luxury. You must take care of yourself first so you are physically and mentally strong enough to take care of your infant, and you should never feel ashamed to ask for help. 

Postpartum insomnia is a very serious health condition. It can be harmful to the mother and affect her infant, partner, and other small children in the home. Research has suggested a link between the mother’s emotional well-being and behavioral health and the physiological development of her child. Women who experience postpartum insomnia are also at a higher risk of postpartum pain and depression. 

Taking time to care for yourself and your health isn’t selfish but a medical need. Take a look at our self-care resources for more information on self-care!

Postpartum Depression and Sleep Deprivation

A new mother can suffer from both postpartum insomnia and postpartum depression, and each condition can exacerbate the other. 

For example, if you are not getting enough sleep, fatigue and tiredness can lead to a lack of motivation and feelings of helplessness and sadness. Postpartum depression, on the other hand, can cause anxiety and worries that may prevent you from sleeping. 

While it’s normal to experience postpartum blues from the lifestyle change and shift in hormones, postpartum depression is a serious condition identified by the following symptoms: 

  • Loss of appetite 
  • Intense feelings of guilt 
  • Feeling like an inadequate mother 
  • Extreme sadness, mood swings, and bouts of crying 
  • Difficulty functioning and completing daily tasks

If you notice your postpartum blues are getting worse instead of better, talk to your doctor about postpartum depression and insomnia and the treatments available to help you feel more like yourself again. 

Your physical and mental health needs to remain a priority. Take a look here to learn more about postpartum care and what to expect after you bring your baby home.

Talking to Your Doctor

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and if you’re experiencing postpartum insomnia, you should not hesitate to reach out to your doctor for help. 

The first step is finding the source of your insomnia, whether it be a lack of nutrition, hormones, anxiety, depression, or a change in routine. Once you and your doctor have identified the cause, a personalized treatment plan can help you recover your sleep, ultimately leading to better mental and physical health.

Moreland OB-GYN offers comprehensive postpartum help, and we will take the time to listen to all your feelings, concerns, and needs. Our outreach nurse will be with you as you journey through your fourth trimester, providing you with the proper resources you need to be your healthiest self.

We hope you'll give us a call today to make an appointment with one of our trusted providers

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