My [Ongoing] Adventures with Postpartum Sleep Anxiety

Let’s be straight right from the start: my journey with postpartum sleep anxiety is currently ongoing, so if you’re looking for some solid answers or solutions, this is not the place. If, however, you are looking for some empathy and support as you navigate your own issues, I gotchu.

No one told me about sleep anxiety. I was warned of course about postpartum depression, had heard about women with preexisting anxiety issues (right here) having more difficult times, problems with unfounded anger, and a mired of other disorders to look forward to once little arrived and the realities of parenting really hit. I had heard that some babies just don’t sleep well through the night, no matter how much activity or food they get in a day. I’ve heard it gets better.

And it does. It gets better, or you get stronger…or maybe it’s both. It’s probably both.

But what had never occurred to me is that while the situation gets better, I might not be able to quickly adjust to the dare I say normalcy that eventually comes back. My daughter has started sleeping through the night more and more as she has gotten closer to toddler-dom, but I’ve been so used to waking up every night for over a year so now I almost always still wake with a start somewhere between 3-5am. I’m so tuned to listening for her even as I’m dead asleep, and now every single noise — the dog coughing, the fridge running, my husband gently snoring — not only wakes me up but WAKES ME THE FUCK UP.

Waking up isn’t the entire a problem; the anxiety comes into play when I’m not able to fall back asleep for fear of, well, just getting woken up again. I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop, as my mother would say. When you are so sensitive to all noises waking you up, and then get used to being woken up constantly, there is this indescribable sense or dread that overtakes me at night, knowing that something is about to disturb me. So why even bother trying? So asks the lunatic mama voice at 4am.

It has only been a couple of months since my eighteen-month-old daughter has occasionally started sleeping through the night, and it’s just recently that I’ve realized what’s going on with me and have been able to identify it as sleep anxiety. And now, just in the last week or so, have I really addressed this sleep anxiety and started being proactive to overcome. The ways in which I’ve managed to live with my generalized anxiety disorder are holistically-based, and this is the same approach I want to use for addressing and treating my sleep-specific anxiety, too. I’m therefore doing the following to help myself fall asleep easier and sleep more soundly throughout the night:

  • Limiting myself to just 2 cups of coffee in the morning, no coffee in the afternoon.
  • Turning off electronic devices one hour before bed.
  • Spraying my linens with a lovely organic lavender mist.
  • Going to bed and performing a “body scan” mindfulness meditation, to settle myself into the comfort of my body and release any tension that I might be holding over.
  • Practicing lovingkindness with myself: when I do wake up at night, being mindful to not get made at myself. I have become sensitive for a very good reason – taking care of my baby – and as I had to learn her cues I now need to accept not always getting them from her, too.
  • For getting back to sleep at night, focusing on a silent OM mantra. Keeping my eyelids gently closed, I envision OM as a soft, white light that shines peace as it vibrates. Like a ripple in a pool, where OM is the stone setting perfectly in the middle.
  • Also, practicing lovingkindness to myself the next day if I do have a rough night. It certainly was not my fault, it was not anyone’s fault; I’m doing the best I can and it will get better.

I would absolutely adore hearing your insight on sleep anxiety, whether you’ve suffered or are suffering or are concerned about possibly dealing with it in the future. And anyone who has tips for overcoming SHARE SHARE away!


❤ Love and Light


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