Thursday, October 7, 2010

Postpartum Insomnia: Help!!!

It is well past midnight, and here I sit.  I've gone through periods in my life where sleeping has been difficult, but I've never experienced anything like this.  It seems to be taking over, and like many other moms dealing with this, I am at a breaking point.

According to an article I read by Olivia Gordon from The Sunday Times, postpartum insomnia (or postnatal insomnia) can morph from difficulty sleeping after the baby is born into a chronic habit.  Many women have trouble sleeping in the first few weeks after delivery.  This is natural, especially if breast feeding.  The baby needs to eat every 2 hours or so and hasn't quite fallen into a routine.  Eventually, the baby begins sleeping through the night, and the mom is supposed to let out a sigh of relief and get much needed rest as well.  What are you supposed to do when that doesn't happen??

My daughter is 4 months old today.  She has been sleeping through the night for months, but I can't sleep.  If I do fall asleep, it seems to be around 3:30 in the morning.  The baby wakes up at 5:30.  Yay for me!  Two whole hours of sleep!  Even when I do fall asleep, the slightest movement or noise wakes me because my body is so on edge.  Oh, and what do I do from the time I try to go to bed until the time I actually succumb to the overwhelming desire to rest?  Why, I imagine the absolute most terrifying, horrific scenarios possible, of course!  My brain is on overdrive and pulls my heart through the ringer.  I can't stop thinking.  The worst part is that the house is dark, the husband is asleep and does not understand at all, and I obsess over the baby monitor.  I hear sounds that do not exist.  I am completely alone and can't stop my brain from dragging me into these horribly dark places.

Morning finally comes and as happy as I am to see daylight and have the baby to distract me, I know that I'm only getting up to do the same thing all over again.  I'm exhausted, so forget accomplishing anything productive around the house.

For many women, postpartum insomnia is part of postpartum depression, but I don't have the depression.  I find myself incredibly depressed in the middle of the night when I'm in those pits of darkness, but during the day, I'm the happiest I've ever been.  I don't know what to do, but I know this has to stop.

My husband actually calmed me down enough tonight to where I felt as though I would fall asleep.  Just as I was drifting off, he woke me up.  Naturally, he came back to bed and immediately passed out as soon as his head hit the pillow.  This isn't fair.

Every article I'm reading says to try sleeping pills.  All of the women say they didn't want to take medication to help with sleeping but regretted waiting so long once they finally decided to start.  I know I should probably find some sort of pill to take, but my fear is that I won't wake up if the baby needs me. What if I'm so out of it that I don't hear her cry?  Lord knows my husband wouldn't wake up if a train came crashing through the house.  Plus, I hate taking medicine anyway.  I feel as though I'm alone on an island here.  I wouldn't mind trying therapy (recommended in another article I read), but I live 2 and a half hours from the nearest city.  It isn't possible at the moment.

I don't know what to do, but it is slightly comforting knowing that postpartum insomnia is a real problem, and I'm not just losing my mind.  I need help.

If you think you might be suffering from postpartum (or postnatal) insomnia, I've included links to a few interesting articles below.

Sunday Times
When It Isn't the Baby Keeping You Awake
Insomnia in the Postpartum Period
Therapy Instead of Meds


  1. hi when did your postpartum insomnia starts?

  2. Well, until this week, I hadn't slept through the night since earlier on in my pregnancy. My daughter just turned 4 months old. I think the actual insomnia started around 2 months after she was born. I guess, if you don't get much sleep in those first few weeks or months, it can become a habit. I didn't realize it was a problem until I completely broke down crying at 2am one morning. I was so sick with exhaustion and wanted to sleep so badly but couldn't stop thinking. I did read that once you break the cycle, it fixes quickly. I refused to try the sleeping pills, so a few nights ago, my husband finally stayed up late enough to make me feel comfortable falling asleep. The next night, it was easier. Last night felt kind of normal again. I actually fell asleep before midnight. If you can get someone to watch the baby long enough to make you feel totally comfortable going to sleep, I recommend it. If you're willing to take sleeping pills, there are tons of discussion forums all over the place that support that as well.

  3. i suffered from the same with our twins - on and off for the first year. i eventually did take a sedative for a few months which helped immensely and i never had a problem not waking up in the night to help a child. now, with baby no. 5, i have learned the rhythms that help the most. I have a half beer at supper which calms me down and the baby stays with my hubby for the first part of the night during which my hubby feeds the baby his one bottle of the day. The result - I feel like a new woman because I get good sleep. i also go to bed at 9pm. I have had sleep troubles for years and have finally learned how to handle them with good sleep hygiene and some natural aids. Also, talk, talk, talk it out. This is all normal and does sound like PPD even without the depression during the day. Do mention it to your doc as you don't want it to get worse. p.s. I've also heard miracles with goat's whey - a naural sedative and, one more thing, don't let the "What do you mean you can't sleep???? You have a new baby and must be exhausted!" remarks stress you out. We are all individuals with our own quirks.

  4. Thanks for the advice. I think I do need to see a doctor. I hate going to the doctor, but I'm finding myself experiencing more PPD things. Probably should do something.

  5. Your baby is adorable! So thankful that your blog shows up high on google when women search or "postpartum insomnia". I had an awful experience with postpartum insomnia. Check my blog in a few weeks. I should have the whole story up by then!

  6. Thanks for all of the comments!

    If anyone is interested in reading my 2nd post on insomnia, it should be listed to the right. If not, copy the link below into your browser.

  7. Thank you for your article. it made me feel that i am not alone.

  8. I suffered from post natal insomnia from the outset of my daughter being born. Now 10 months in I am just getting to grips with it. I was put on amitriptyline 10mg right at the beginning but didn't take it as it's an anti-depressant and i wasn't depressed. However after months and months of the insomnia and it was awful. Some nights I didn't sleep at all. In the end I decided to tale the amitriptyline and it was amazing. I took it for a few months and then gradually came off it over a month. I am not the kind of person to be ill or take medication but it worked. I would recommend it. The one drawback however is that you can't breastfeed with it. Good luck to you all. I know how terrible it can be!!

  9. I am having insomnia for over 4months now, it started since the last 3 months of my pregnancy. my baby just 2weeks old.
    It's really frustrating, I couldnt put myself to sleep, even I tried to close my eyes all night. I broke down to my husband and so far he has been very supportive.
    My ob doc recomended benadryl but it only helped on the 1st night. She was reluctant to prescribe me with sleeping pill. On the other hand, another ob doc in the hospital said that I did have sleep but it's light sleep and I wasn't aware of it.
    I really want to know how you can deal with it.
    my husband always said, just relax, even you can't sleep, just close your eyes, just relax....
    but he didn't know how it feels not being able to sleep.

  10. I have had insomnia for 6 months started when my baby was 4 months old. I am not one to take medicine, on top of it, I have a job that will not allow me to take meds. I had all the same symptoms that you have had...up for 2 or 3 nights in a row sometimes. My mind will not turn off. I've had to take off of work and just recently started cymbalta. It hasn't started working yet...should take 2-4 weeks. I pray this works. Because this is just Horiffic!

  11. I just wanted to add that very very often postpartum insomnia is caused by a hormonal imbalance (estrogen and/or progesterone) or a thyroid problem that surfaces after childbirth! So, if the antidepressants aren't making your insomnia better or you aren't even depressed, you can consider getting a full thyroid panel blood test done and saliva testing for your hormones.

  12. I have been suffering with postpartum insomnia now for 3 months - starting when by baby was 5 months old. He was always a bad sleeper while being breastfed and I think 5 months of being woken constantly is what started my insomnia, he now sleeps through most nights but I lay there awake. If I can get to sleep in the first instance it normally gives me the confidence to get back to sleep if I wake, however many many nights I have laid there literally ALL night with no sleep whatsoever. I would describe this as living hell, I want desperately to be over this. I have been on anti-deppresants not for 2 and a half months and they did work at first but after a bout of teething and my baby waking frequently, its come back. I am going to try cognitive behavioural therapy as from next week which I pray will help me. I kind of feel this is my last option and if this doesn't work I have no where left to turn, other than sleeping pills (which I have taken but only for short bouts to avoid dependency). It is reassuring to know I'm not alone in this.

    1. I too agree and would definitely describe laying there all night with no sleep whatsoever as living hell. I'm not one to ever use the word hell, but that is the only way to describe it. I was so desperate for sleep throughout my years of beyond extreme postpartum insomnia that I cried out to God to let me naturally die due to the mental and physical torment.

  13. Hi Kay, My wife is going on three months without sleep now. She's seen all sorts of doctors, been hospitalized, drugged, etc.., Nothing has worked. She is seeing a therapist and has had the same experience as you in terms of anti-depressants working for a short time and then not at all.

    How are you now? Did you ever find something that worked? We're willing to try anything at this point.

    1. I just wanted to say I love when I see husbands online trying to help there wives out! (:

    2. Btw did you guys ever find out the problem or get anything to work?

  14. Hello,
    My name is Giselle and I have been dealing with SEVERE insomnia since my daughter was born on August 31, 2012. Most nights I can't fall asleep and if I do, my body wakes up within 2-4 hours and my heart is just racing. I have literally gone days straight without any sleep and felt like I was just going to die, but now my body is used to it (which is crazy). I thought that once I returned to working long 12 hour shifts at work, that I would tire out and fall asleep but that didn't happen. I have been back to work now for 2 months and still not sleeping. Sometimes I go to work on only 1 hour of sleep and still manage to stay up at nights.
    For two months after birth I toughed it out and didn't take anything because I knew I was going to be waking up to feed the baby and there would be no point. Since my mother lives with me, when my baby was 8 weeks old I started to let her sleep with her just to see if it would help but it didn't. My baby is 4 months old and still sleeps upstairs with my mom and I still can't. The baby has been sleeping for up to 12 hours a night (yes up to 12 hours a night) since she was 2 months old. At around 2.5 months I started taking Melatonin, then Valerian root pill, Chamomille tea, Valerian root tea, hot milk, honey, cherry tart juice, lavender sprays for my pillow, massages; etc. I even ordered the $100.00 "My Pillow" and nothing.
    After having none of those work, I then started going to my PCP which prescribed (Ambien, then Ambien CR, Lunesta, Restoril). After trying all of those and still no sleep at all I started seeing a sleep disorder doctor. He has tried me on Trazadone, Mirtazapine, Klonazapam, and Xanax. I'm currently on the Xanax and it only helps me sleep 3-4 hours, but last 2 nights ago I stayed up 2 days in a row. I had a sleep study done (which I only slept 3 scattered hours) and it was negative. I saw a Chiropractor for 3 weeks to see if having my back adjusted would help but it didn't help me sleep. I then went and saw an Endocrinologist as well and all my lab tests were NORMAL.
    For the record I have no depression, anxiety, or even stress (while my husband and I work my mother takes care of our girls, cooks, and even cleans). Even though I hardly sleep I still go to the gym 4 times a week. I even work out on the days I get ZERO sleep to see if I can just tire out and NOTHING. I have even been working with a personal trainer to see if I can tire out and NOTHING. :(
    I have noticed no-one has really posted on here in a few years and I was wondering if any of you moms have been through this (in terms of trying all most everything like I have and NOTHING works to sleep). Did your insomnia ever go away? I have been like this for MONTHS now and starting to loose hope. Please help.
    Thank you,

  15. Hi Giselle, it has been a few years now after your post. I am having the same thing but not as bad as yours (not sleeping at all!). Just wondering if you have overcome your insomnia at all and if its okay to share how you overcome it in the end...
    Thank you

  16. Oh wow! Giselle, I hope all your sleeping troubles are in the past and you regained your positivity. I just started to be a victim of postnatal insomnia with a 6month old and a husband sleeping soundly and me just laying there hating myself... Already feeling forgetful and down after 3 nights of no sleep and afraid i'll collapse if it continues like this.
    Just wanted to say that I'll keep you in my prayers and you are a very strong courageous woman.


    1. This is a sign your body ones not have the nutrition it needs to build itself up again. During my pregnancy I was told to eat eggs and meat (I did well during) but afterwards I had a wicked recovery and now eat loads of fiber and veggies. Check out my note below.

  17. Okay, so I am 4 months postpartum with alot of answers thanks to a wonderful Christian 90 year old Naturopath and God. So, after 3 day homebirth, severe dehydration (almost died) 8 days in hospital (half of that being in ICU) I went home with postpartum insomnia. Here's what I can tell you, your going to want to throw the kitchen sink at this. Take 5000mg of vitamin D (for mood enhancement, especially if you did not spend your pregnancy outdoors) next, start taking trace mineral brand ionic mineral drops (crucial for brain) take a high quality iodine supplement (the thyroid often screws up after birth and this effects EVERYTHING) take b6 and chromium for hormones and sugar balance. (my worst nights were the when I had consumed sugar that day, even too much fruit) now, well all that is addressing your underlying problem, take 500mg magnesium, full dose valerian (the max dose the bottle recommends, and 5 mg of melatonin(take a second 5 mg if need be) And don't be afraid of it. My naturopath explained to me that my brain was not making enough. Have your husband take care of the baby one night in a separate room. Pump if you have to that night, or do a night of formula (I exclusively breast feed, but I did have to do the formula for that) After doing this on my worst night (like scrambled brain, verge of losing my mind) I woke up a different human being, able to have hope, take care of my baby, and realize my body could fall asleep again. I know its alot. But after working in a vitamin store for 7 years of my life, I am very familiar with taking ALOT and knowing what is or is not safe. And defiantly would do this over some chemical laden brain altering drug from the hospital. And no, it does not mean you are depressed just because you can't sleep. There are just literal physical ramifications to not sleeping. We are human!