Postpartum Insomnia: Causes, Treatment, and When to Seek Help

Postpartum Insomnia

Postpartum Insomnia Causes

Postpartum insomnia is a common yet often overlooked condition that affects many women post-childbirth. Sleeplessness caused by postpartum insomnia adversely impacts a mother’s ability to recover and look after the child and her well-being. Moreover, some expecting moms experience insomnia as a part of their pregnancy phase. Therefore, facing postpartum insomnia doesn’t seem new to them.

The causes of postpartum insomnia are multifaceted, involving hormonal changes, the physical aftermath of childbirth, and the psychological adjustments to parenthood. Understanding the various treatment options and knowing when to seek professional help are crucial steps in managing and overcoming this challenging condition. This guide explores causes, potential treatment, and complete guidance on the topic. So, let’s dive deep into the subject!

Also Read: Is Insomnia Hereditary? What The Research Shows

What is Postpartum Insomnia & What Causes Postpartum Insomnia?

New mothers experience postpartum insomnia, a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling, staying, or having a restful sleep despite having the opportunity to do so. Physical discomfort and mental and emotional stress can result in several sleepless nights. In addition to this, underlying psychological factors like anxiety, chronic depression, tension about new responsibilities, or panic attacks associated with motherhood can further exacerbate sleep difficulties.

Furthermore, several physical, hormonal, and emotional factors contribute to this sleepless condition, such as;

  • Lifestyle & Hormonal Changes: New mothers experience rapid hormonal changes post-childbirth. Additionally, they face a sudden fall in estrogen and progesterone levels. These hormones are responsible for inducing sleep. Therefore, the disrupted sleep-wake cycle makes it harder to sleep despite physical or mental exertion.
  • Physical Pain or Discomfort: Physical discomfort is pivotal in negatively impacting the recovery process, resulting in sleepless nights. This discomfort may include pain from delivery, specifically if there was a c-section, sore breasts, or episiotomy stitches.
  • Anxiety and Stress: Many new mothers experience heightened anxiety and stress. About 12 to 18 percent of new moms suffer from postpartum depression, leading to sleepless nights. Anxiety, stress, and depression can be consuming, hindering the ability to relax and sleep.
  • Body’s Altered Clock: As the body’s natural circadian rhythm changes, it is natural for new moms to experience disrupted sleep pattern. This change in the body’s clock makes it difficult for new moms to sleep despite exhaustion.
  • Baby’s Sleep Patterns & Breastfeeding: Newborns have irregular sleep cycles. Therefore, waking up every few hours is natural and disrupts the mother’s sleep schedule. This disturbance prevents new moms from deep and restorative sleep. Moreover, the frequent need to feed a newborn throughout the night can interrupt sleep cycles. Breastfeeding can also be physically uncomfortable and stressful, particularly if there are challenges like latching difficulties or breast pain.
  • Emotionally Overwhelmed: The transition to parenthood is a significant life event that can evoke a wide range of emotions. Being emotionally overwhelmed is common and can make it difficult for new mothers to fall asleep, increasing their risk of experiencing postpartum insomnia.

Furthermore, addressing these factors with appropriate strategies can help mitigate post-childbirth insomnia. These effective strategies can also enable new mothers to achieve better sleep and improve their overall well-being, resulting in better care for the child.

How Long Does Postpartum Insomnia Last?

Postpartum insomnia varies among new mothers when it comes to the duration and intensity. Typically, it’s closely linked to the physical and emotional changes accompanying the postpartum period. For many, sleep disruption might last only a few weeks as they adjust to a newborn’s sleep cycle and their new routine. However, for others, insomnia can persist for several months, especially if compounded by postpartum mood disorders like anxiety or depression.

However, as per doctors’ postpartum insomnia should not last too long if the baby sleeps through the night without interrupting the mother’s sleep pattern. If the insomnia continues, they may be experiencing chronic insomnia. It is advisable to consult a healthcare provider to work out practical plans for better sleep. Consultations could be conducted virtually through sleep telemedicine, making the process even more convenient and hassle-free.

How to Treat Postpartum Insomnia?

Treating postpartum insomnia involves a combination of lifestyle adjustments, psychological support, and medical interventions when necessary. Here are comprehensive pointers on how to address and manage this common condition in new mothers;

  • Sleep Hygiene Practices: Ensuring an environment that is conducive to sleep and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule can help with better sleep. Developing a pre-bedtime routine such as taking a warm bath, reading, or practicing relaxation techniques can aid in sending sleep signals to the body.
  • Healthy Diet and Workout Routine: Eating well can positively impact the quality of sleep. Also, refraining from caffeine and sugary drinks before bedtime can be of great help. Furthermore, engaging in regular and moderate workout routine has proved to be beneficial for improved sleep.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Practices like yoga, meditation, or deep-breathing exercises can reduce stress and improve sleep. CBT-I structured program helps address the thoughts and behaviors that cause or worsen insomnia. It’s highly effective and can be adapted for postpartum insomnia.
  • Sharing Nighttime Duties & Workload: Include partner and ask for help whenever it is required. If possible, share nighttime and early morning baby care duties. The shared load will allow longer periods of uninterrupted sleep.
  • Professional Help: If insomnia persists, consult a healthcare provider to rule out other sleep disorders or medical conditions that may be contributing to the problem. In addition to this, postpartum depression and anxiety can worsen postpartum insomnia. Hence, therapy, support groups, or sometimes medications under professional guidance can address these issues effectively.
  • Minimize Screen Exposure: Engaging with screens from devices like phones, computers, or TVs before bedtime exacerbates insomnia symptoms. The light emitted from screens stimulates the brain, hindering the ability to fall asleep easily. Strive to limit screen time at least two hours before bed.
  • Medication: In some cases, medication becomes necessary. It’s imperative to consult with a healthcare provider who can offer guidance on safe options, particularly for breastfeeding mothers.

How to Help Postpartum Insomnia?

Supporting new mothers with postpartum insomnia is crucial yet challenging. However, there are strategies to help eliminate or control symptoms, leading to improved sleep.

  • Prioritizing Self-Care: It’s essential for new mothers to prioritize their own well-being alongside caring for their newborns. Taking short breaks throughout the day, practicing mindfulness, and delegating tasks to supportive partners can contribute progressively.
  • Seek Support: Encourage new mothers to reach out for support from healthcare providers, friends, or family members if they’re struggling with postpartum insomnia. Connecting with others who understand and empathize with their experience can provide valuable emotional support.

Through effective strategies and seeking help whenever required, new moms can navigate through postpartum insomnia. Prioritizing the well-being of the mother and newborn is important during this transformative phase.

When To Seek Help?

As much as it’s common for new parents to face challenges during this transformative phase, it is equally important to seek professional assistance when needed. New parents often experience sleep deprivation but can typically fall asleep or return to sleep quickly when given the opportunity. However, if difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep persists for more than a few weeks, it may indicate a deeper issue that requires professional attention.

Fortunately, effective treatments, including non-medication therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia, help improve the quality of sleep. This therapy focuses on changing behaviors to promote better sleep and effectively addresses sleep disturbances.

To Summarize

Postpartum insomnia demands attention as it can escalate into a serious issue if left unaddressed. Postpartum insomnia can impose severe mental and physical risks. Therefore, it is advised to seek support or medical help when needed.

Additionally, lifestyle adjustments can be attempted to improve sleep quality. However, if these changes prove ineffective, seeking guidance from a healthcare provider is essential to devise an appropriate solution for managing sleep difficulties.

Home Sleep Center Team

Home Sleep Center Team