If you are a mom struggling with postpartum insomnia, try out these 11 natural ways to fall asleep. These tips can help you get the sleep that you need to function at your very best!
Postpartum insomnia can take even the most prepared moms by surprise. A main symptom of postpartum insomnia is when you can’t sleep, even when your baby is sleeping. You may feel SO TIRED, and wonder how it is even possible that you can still be awake. Some women struggle to fall asleep, others struggle to stay asleep. For some women they struggle with this every night, and for others it’s once in a while.
Either way, postpartum insomnia can feel like torture to a new mom who desperately needs a good night of sleep. The research shows us that sleep deprivation can impact a mother’s ability to bond with her baby, adjust to motherhood, and can be a major risk factor for mental health struggles in the postpartum period.
1. Create a bedtime routine
Just like we create a bedtime routine for our babies (ie. bath, books, bottle, bed), we need to do the same for ourselves! Create a solid routine that you can complete every night before you go to bed. This will help both your body and your mind know that it is time for sleep. Make sure that this routine is calming, and that your exposure to light slowly decreases as the routine goes on.
For example, you may want to read something, wash your face with a warm cloth, moisturize, brush your teeth, put on your pajamas, and then get into bed.
2. Stay off your electronics
Remember when you were younger and your parents would try to get you off the family computer before you went to bed? It turns out that they were right all along! Being on your phone or computer before bed activates your brain, and make it hard to settle down before you go to sleep. To help yourself fall asleep more easily, try to stay off your phone for at least 30 minutes (ideally an hour) before bed.
3. Your bed is for sleep and sex
Are you someone who eats in bed, works in bed, watches tv in bed, and plays on their phone in bed? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this may be where a good portion of your struggle is. Your brain pairs items together. For example: kitchen table and food; couch and tv; gym and workout. If you are always doing things outside of sleep in your bed, your brain may start to pair your bed with other things like work, tv, or food.
Try and reserve your bed as a place only for sleep and for sex! This will help your brain know that when you go to bed at night, it is time to sleep.
4. Create an ideal sleep environment
Just like a bedtime routine, we also need to create a sleep environment that is conducive to sleeping! If you go to bed and your room is messy, your bed isn’t made, there are bright lights, and you can hear your neighbour’s dog barking, it may not be the best environment for sleep.
Instead, try to create a dark room, use white noise (like a fan), and make sure that your bed is cozy and ready for you to sleep in! The more comfortable you are in your space, the calmer you’ll be, and the better you will sleep.
5. Set up your feeding environment for success
Being a new mama, it is likely that you are needing to wake up to feed your baby during the night. For moms that struggle with insomnia, night feedings can be incredibly difficult to deal with. It may mean that you have finally fallen asleep, only to wake up to the sound of your baby crying. Many women become extremely anxious over this.
In order to help you fall back asleep after the feeding, try to make sure the feeding process is as simple as possible. If you are formula feeding, try get the bottle ready as much as you can before you go to bed. This way you don’t have to turn on all the lights in the kitchen to get the bottle ready. Try to keep the room dark when you are feeding as well, so that you don’t wake all the way back up.
6. Stay off Google and social media
One mistake that so many new moms make is going on their phone during those middle of the night feedings. Doing this is an endless cycle of reading what other moms are doing, and can easily make a sleep deprived mom’s mind spin! Instead of doing this in the middle of the night, try focussing on your baby. Listen to the way your baby is breathing, the sounds of them eating, and the feeling of them against your body.
7. Be careful of what you are consuming
Too much caffeine, alcohol, or sugar can make it very difficult to fall asleep. But, when we can’t sleep and are tired, these are the things our body CRAVES! Do your best to fight these cravings as much as possible, so your body stays nourished and ready for sleep!
8. Put a journal beside your bed
Often times, insomnia is a result of or a risk factor for postpartum depression or anxiety. If your mind is racing with things you need to do, worries you have for your new baby, or with feelings of inadequacy, write these down! Keep a little journal beside your bed. When a thought comes up that you can’t seem to shake, write it down. Remind yourself that you can deal with this thought in the morning! This helps you acknowledge your thought, so that you can let it go and get some sleep.
9. Develop a mindfulness/meditation plan
Meditation has been shown in the research to be extremely helpful for those who struggle with insomnia. You may find that putting on a guided muscle relaxation podcast or a meditation with imagery may help you fall asleep with ease. These resources are created so that, instead of focussing your mind on your racing thoughts, you follow the lead of someone else. Many people have success using these tools to help them fall asleep and stay asleep.
One application that we absolutely love for mindfulness is called Calm. There are many free guided meditations on here that we highly recommend!
10. Relax using deep breathing
Another tool that has been shown in the research to be very helpful for insomnia is deep breathing. Lay down in a comfortable position, and place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Take deep breaths. Notice the way that the breaths impact the movement of your body. Feel your breaths in your body. Allow yourself to feel calm. Continue doing this until your body is in a state of calm.
One more deep breathing technique that we often recommend is outlined in this post.
11. Get a mental health check-up
As we have talked about throughout this post, sleep deprivation is a huge risk factor for postpartum mental health struggles. If you are struggling with insomnia, it may be a sign that something else if going on. Talk to your doctor about how you are feeling. You may benefit from getting help from a counsellor or getting medication. Make sure that you talk to someone about this as soon as possible! You don’t need to struggle in silence, and you can feel better. Here, here, and here are some resources for you on postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.
If you are a new mom who can’t seem to fall asleep, even when your baby is sleeping, we hope these tips will help you get the sleep you need to thrive as a new mom.