The phenomenon referred to as “momsomnia” is real, and it can sometimes be unbearable. Knowing you have no reason for being awake at 3:30 am, yet you're unable to drift into sleep, is something many new mothers are familiar with.
Pregnant women can get used to changing sleeping positions, hormonal changes, leg cramps, and bigger issues like gestational diabetes, but why is it so hard to achieve quality sleep?
While this frustrating “condition” is very common, it's also pretty easy to fix! You need good sleep hygiene. Before we give you some advice, let’s explain why this is happening in the first place and some of the common causes of insomnia.
What Is Momsomnia?
“Momsomnia” is a clever term used to describe new mom insomnia. You made it through your first trimester to the second trimester and your third trimester with no sleep problems. You were able to sleep during pregnancy, even with pregnancy symptoms like heartburn, restless legs syndrome, and back pain. But now that you need sleep more than ever, sleep disappears. If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably aware expecting mothers struggle with sleep. You also understand that your baby is going to dictate your sleep cycle for a while. But, you may not have known that even while your child sleeps soundly through the night, you may still law awake for no apparent reason.
What Causes Momsomnia?
There are a number of things that can cause momsomnia, but they mostly boil down to habit and mindset. Early on in your pregnancy, you will become well accustomed to waking up throughout the night. Whether it be from your baby’s activity or your frequent urination, your body gets used to constant waking. Here are some of the most common reasons you can’t sleep as a new mother:
- You think you just heard the baby cry, causing sleep disturbances as you go on the alert
- You’re hesitant to sleep because as soon as you drift away, you think the baby will need you
- You become anxious thinking your baby is sick or not breathing, and feel you should go check
- Your hormones are off, causing your body to sweat much more than you’re used to
- The lack of sleep causes you to become frustrated, lowering any chance you had of falling asleep
- You take naps during the day or early evening, which keeps your sleep patterns and keeps you up at night
- You are breastfeeding and your breasts are engorged with milk, and the tenderness/pain keeps you up
Most of the time, momsomnia is caused by repetition. After months of waking up to a crying infant, you become “on edge” whenever you’re in bed. It’s not good for your mental health.
Essentially, you are waiting to be woken up. You expect it. And because of this, you never really reach that deep sleep where our body restores itself. Momsomnia can build a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation, and unless you take serious steps to correct it, it will continue to affect you.
Why Do Moms Need Their Sleep?
With a new tiny tot to care for in addition to the dishes, bills, emails, social media, and Netflix all gunning for our attention, who has time for a full seven to nine hours of shut-eye?
According to research, many women struggle with insomnia after childbirth, but a busy schedule doesn’t diminish the need for quality sleep. Moms with sleep troubles are reported to have higher rates of postpartum depression and a whole host of other health and mood issues, from poor focus and irritability to weight gain and insulin resistance.
In other words, sleep is critical — especially for moms!
How To Cure Momsomnia
Curing momsomnia is as simple as restoring the positive sleep habits you had prior to pregnancy. You’ve likely looked into the best sleeping positions, looked at over-the-counter sleep medicine, and are worried about whether you have a sleep disorder. When you have trouble sleeping, it is important to remain consistent in whatever regimen you establish. After all, consistency compounds, and getting in the habit of prioritizing your sleep will just result in better and better rest!
Work on Controlling Your Thoughts
While it may sound impossible as you lie awake in frustration, learning how to shut your mind off at will is a valuable skill.
Sure, you’re worried about your baby. This is completely understandable. But, causing yourself unnecessary anxiety is just unhealthy. You can try yoga, meditation, or whatever else you need – just learn how to shut down your brain when it's time for bed.
Try Using Calm Background Noise and Scents
Downloading an app on your phone that plays peaceful sounds to help you get a good night’s sleep can be a game-changer. Any white noise at all, for that matter, will occupy your thoughts and help you fall asleep. This will assist you with our first recommendation, shutting down your mind.
Keep TV, Laptops, and Phones Out of the Bed
Plenty of people use their beds for more than just sleeping - whether to watch TV, do some work, or browse their social media feed. Studies have shown that doing these types of activities on a regular basis, particularly at night before bed, can have detrimental effects on your sleep.
Because of this, limit any screens in your bed, especially at night time. The blue light from the screens can interfere with your sleep hormones.
Try Focusing on Your Breath
Also known as “relaxing breath,” the 4-7-8 breathing method is praised by a number of celebrities, athletes, professionals, and — you guessed it — moms.
There’s limited scientific research to support this method, but there is quite a bit of anecdotal evidence to suggest that this specific type of deep, rhythmic breathing is relaxing and may help ease overtired moms into a deep, restful slumber.
To use the technique, focus on the breathing pattern below:
- Exhale to empty all the air from your lungs
- Inhale slowly through your nose for four seconds
- For a count of seven seconds, hold the air in your lungs
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound for eight seconds
- This completes one cycle. Repeat for a total of four cycles.
It might feel a little odd at first to practice relaxation techniques like this, but stick with it — remember, it takes 30 days to form a new habit, so be patient with yourself, and you’ll be sleeping “like a baby” in no time!
Limit Caffeine Throughout the Day
There is nothing wrong with a cup of coffee in the morning, but going back to the pot throughout the morning and into the afternoon is a bad idea. While you may not feel like the caffeine you had at 3 pm is why you can’t sleep, it could very well be why you experience insomnia. Caffeine stays in your bloodstream much longer than you can actively feel it and could be responsible for your middle-of-the-night wakeups. Switch to decaf later in the morning for better sleep.
Be As Active as Possible During the Day
Pushing yourself towards exhaustion on a daily basis isn’t necessarily a healthy habit to develop either, but making an effort to exercise and use energy throughout the day can go a long way. Take a yoga class, go for a walk with the baby, or just be active! Hopefully, it will help encourage the nighttime sleepiness you need to fall asleep and stay asleep.
No More Long Naps
A quick ten to 15-minute power nap can have profound benefits on your energy levels. However, long naps will hinder your nighttime sleep. It may be a vicious cycle (the less you sleep at night, the more you want to sleep during the day), but you need to try and sleep only at bedtime.
Momsomnia can feel overwhelming at times, but it is all in your head the vast majority of the time. Coming to the realization that your newborn doesn’t need your attention every waking minute, but it is necessary.
Optimize Your Sleep Environment
Temperature, noise, and lighting should be controlled to make your sleep environment conducive to falling asleep and staying asleep. According to experts, your bedroom should be a cool, dark, clean, clutter-free space that you use solely for sleep.
For instance, if you often work via your laptop from the comfort of your bed, you may have a harder time not thinking about work when you’re trying to hit the hay. Set your bedtime routine with sleep in mind. You want your body and mind to associate the bedroom with sleep and relaxation — not stress from work.
Take a Relaxing Pre-Bedtime Bath
If you ask us, there’s just about nothing better than a warm bath to help wind down and relax before bed, but don’t just take our word for it — many experts say that a relaxing bath can help improve overall sleep quality.
For an indulgent experience, consider lighting a few aromatherapy candles and turning on soft, gentle music. Toss in a nourishing bath bomb or sprinkle in some therapeutic bath salts to relieve stress and ease muscle aches, pains, and tension.
Learn to control your thoughts, and develop a consistent routine to help you get some much-needed rest so you can be supermom throughout the day!
Sleep and Depression in Postpartum Women: A Population-Based Study | PMC
Sleep Deprivation and Postpartum Depression | Sleep Foundation
4 -7- 8 Breath | Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine February 2010
A Warm Bedtime Bath Can Help You Cool Down And Sleep Better | NPR