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New motherhood: Do you have trouble sleeping after giving birth?

Sleep issues postpartum are common but may be cause for worry if they're persistent

Giving birth to a baby can be physically and emotionally exhausting for the mother. It is a period when the mother needs a lot of rest and relaxation, so that she can recover from the draining experience. However, many mothers struggle to get enough rest or sleep, and this can add to their emotional distress. Anxieties related to the health of the baby, and constant concerns about whether the baby is sleeping well, can really hamper the mother’s ability to relax and get some rest. Some mothers even worry that they may harm the baby in their sleep. Many mothers are able to cope with the tiredness and fatigue and get back to a healthy sleep routine, but for some others it becomes harder to sleep.

Postpartum insomnia is a condition where mothers are unable to sleep even though they are exhausted and their baby is sleeping soundly. They are constantly on edge, listening to the baby sleep. They worry that if they fall asleep, they might not hear the baby cry. Sometimes, when they do fall asleep, they wake up to ‘phantom sounds’: imagining crying sounds even when the baby is fast asleep. Postpartum insomnia has been linked with postpartum depression, even though it is known to present independently.

What you can do to improve your sleep

If you have been finding it hard to get enough sleep since you had your baby, here are some things you could do to improve the quality of your sleep:

  • Avoid caffeinated products: Caffeine can cause disruptions to your sleep and should be avoided, especially later in the day.
  • Create a sleep routine: It is important to unwind before bedtime. A warm bath, reading a book, or listening to some light music can help you relax before you are ready for bed.
  • Relaxation techniques: Deep breathing and muscle-relaxation techniques can help your body relax physically.
  • Involve your partner: Your partner or spouse can go a long way in helping you sleep better. Massages can help you relax physically. Sharing or alternating ‘night duty’ with them can also help you relax, as you won’t have to worry about the baby.

Most importantly, speak to your doctor about your sleep problems. They will best advise you on the course of action to be taken. Avoid using sleeping aids without consulting your doctor first.