Last Updated on April 7, 2021 by Creative Parenting
If you’re fighting postpartum insomnia, this post’s for you.
We’ve all dealt with bedtime anxiety at some point in parenthood…
Getting up and down, for no reason.
Waking up early and not being able to fall back asleep.
But postpartum insomnia takes this to a whole new level.
When you’ve got a ton on your mind, it can easily keep you up.
You might lay down, but your body doesn’t feel sleepy. Or you might go to sleep with no problems, but you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep.
In good times postpartum insomnia is tough but during a pandemic?
On top of that, postpartum insomnia makes EVERYTHING harder.
If you fall asleep with no problem, this post might not be for you.
But if you often have a hard time falling asleep…
Here are 14 ways to beat postpartum insomnia.
Wind Down With Well Brewed Chamomile Tea
This one has been an important part of our bedtime routine for a long time. Because it’s not just about the tea. It’s about creating a nightly winding down routine.
But a note of caution. If you drink a ton of coffee late in the day, this tip won’t be as effective. Read this if you think you might be a coffee addict.
The tea is the catalyst signaling to your body to wind down. Every night after we get ready for bed, I make a cup of tea. You can make regular tea with hot water, or add in a bit of milk.
That means boiling a pot of water in a tea kettle. Prepping the mugs. Getting good quality tea that tastes delicious. Making sure the tea doesn’t have caffeine. Then, giving yourself time to let the tea steep. At least 5 minutes.
Then, taking the tea back to bed. Relaxing. Feel the warmth in your hands. Turning off your cell phone devices to nix the exposure to blue life. Practicing gratitude. Talking with your spouse. Reflecting on the day.
When you do all this, you’ll able to reduce bedtime anxiety and relax. Your mind starts to calm down. You’ll be thinking less of your running to-do lists, and more about the bigger picture things in life.
This routine then becomes meditative.
You won’t want to wind down without it.
And this routine is even better when paired with the next item on the list:
Reduce Cortisol Levels With Regular Physical Exercise
Everybody talks of course about exercise these days. And it’s easy to understand why.
But let’s get more specific here and talk about the WHY of exercise (and how it relates to night anxiety).
If you’ve ever randomly woken up with your mind racing, then this section’s for you.
When we’re stressed, the cortisol levels in our bodies increases.
And it’s the excess buildup of cortisol that increases anxiety.
So a key component to reducing anxiety is getting those cortisol levels down.
Best way to do this?
Regular exercise and physical activity.
But for busy (and stressed) parents, it’s hard to know how to work it into the day.
Here are a few tips most people can work into their day:
First is just trying to WALK whenever you can. During the day. Up and downstairs. In Target. Wherever. Just starting small will give you momentum here. And that momentum adds up over time.
Exercising with the family:
For example, you can get up early on the weekend and all go for a walk.
This is a healthier choice than the usual temptations, like watching Sesame Street, drinking coffee, or scrolling Pinterest.
This routine can set your mood in a positive place. It boosts the mindset for everyone and reduces the cortisol levels for you.
So figure out a way to work in some family exercise time!
While it might feel like a hassle to get out of the house, the benefits are worth it.
Ok, next up is a trend that I’m sure you’re familiar with, but with a twist.
Meditate WITH Your Spouse and Baby
These days, meditation is all the rage.
But how do you find the time?
Once you try it, you’ll realize how obvious this solution is.
Simply meditate with your spouse and kids.
This is something we’ve started doing. And it helps!
Here’s our approach:
Find a free YouTube meditation video, about 15-20 minutes long. After you drink your chamomile tea, set a 15 or 20-minute meditation to play.
Close your eyes. Lay down. Fold your hands over your waist. Get comfortable.
After about 6 or 7 minutes of doing this, you’ll start to feel a new sense of calm. You’ll feel more in the present.
The anxious thoughts tend to ease. Once that happens, you can key it in by focusing on other senses.
Try to listen to the sounds you’re hearing. Or your breathing. Or your sense of touch.
You get the idea.
20 minutes of that on the books?
When we do that, we find we fall asleep faster.
Ok, last but not least:
Control Your Devices At Bedtime
The phone devices that we’re all addicted to can mess up bedtime.
People talk about reducing screen time.
But we’re going to get a little more specific than that generic advice.
You see, there’s something about using your phone before bed that can mess up your sleep.
If you don’t know what it is, you might be waking up at night because you haven’t done one small thing…
We’re referring to the problem of blue light.
To make a long story short…
Blue light is emitted from your device, and it can throw off your body’s natural clock. You can read more about this here.
But if you use an iPhone, there’s an easy way to mitigate this.
There is an automation tool on your iPhone though that can help reduce your exposure to blue light before bedtime.
What is it?
Well, it’s setting up something called “night shift.”
This auto feature will shift the light emitted from your device away from the blue spectrum to warmer tones that are less impactful on your seep.
Set it to switch at about 8 p.m. If you go to bed around 10, that’ll give you a couple of hours before bed without exposure to blue light.
At first, everything looks a little different.
But over time you’ll get used to it.
And our experience?
And with those two hours between 8 and 10 p.m.?
You’ll be able to do all those things above that we just talked about.
Start A Journal
Starting a journal is a shortcut to rewiring your brain. Write your anxieties and frustrations onto a piece of paper and you can find clarity of thought, process your emotions, and vent your anger.
And the best part?
It’s like copay-less therapy for your brain.
You don’t have to pay a penny to get the benefits.
Take 10-15 minutes (or 5 if your kids are under 3) to write about your frustrations and how you can reframe them.
One NIH study notes: “Positive affect journaling (PAJ), an emotion-focused self-regulation intervention, has been associated with positive outcomes among medical populations.”
When you’re fighting sleeplessness at 3 a.m., you’re looking for anything to get the anxiety off your mind.
Writing your anxieties into a journal can do that for you.
Pace Around Your House
In the middle of the night when you can’t sleep, your postpartum insomnia probably has you up walking around your house anyway.
You know how it goes:
You lay awake. Toss and turn. Get up to use the bathroom. Get up for a drink of water. Get up to…eat some snacks. Whatever.
So if you’re up and down all hours of the night, you might as well make it intentional.
Pace around your house. Stride back and forth. Move. Expending a little bit of energy might be the catalyst you need to get drowsy.
But don’t overdo it! Exercise that’s too strenuous can wake you up.
Take Up The Habits of A Zen Master
Savvy sleepers and Zen masters elevate their mental states (and diminish anxiety) through daily habits that reduce their cortisol levels and mental load.
This is a strategy you can use too to combat postpartum insomnia.
Writing, meditation, exercise, and…vinyasas, can all help you wind down, get sleepy, and beat postpartum insomnia.
Ever heard of a vinyasa?
It’s a foundational movement in yoga.
Maybe you want to get into a zen headspace before bedtime, decompress after writing in your journal, and get some good vibrations flowing in your head- and do so quickly.
Add a few vinyasas or a short yoga routine to your bedtime routine — a little extra nudge to get your brain ready for bed.
Then you’ll be ready to meditate.
Use These 2 Popular Meditation Apps
Nowadays, a lotta people love to use meditation apps (us included).
And we’ve tried several alternatives, including:
- Youtube videos
- Audio recordings
- Unguided meditation (alone with your thoughts)
People love using meditation apps because it takes away the guesswork. If you’re a newbie with meditation, you can end up second-guessing yourself when you’re sitting alone with your thoughts…
Am I even meditating? Am I meditating at all? You might think.
With an app, you’ll have a friendly guide to bring you back to the present moment along the way.
Our two favorites are:
- Waking Up
If you meditate and your postpartum insomnia is keeping you up? Then it’s time to crack open your favorite booooring book.
Read A Boring Book
The slow drone of a lengthy tome…
Your eyes get heavier…
You start to nod off…
Not everyone loves to read, but if you do then don’t rule this out. Grabbing the dullest, slowest, most boring tome in your household is a guaranteed way to get your mind off things and get your brain ready to nod off.
Crack open the dictionary and start from page one…
Your eyes will feel heavy in no time.
Drink A Warm Glass Of Milk
There’s a reason it’s age-old wisdom that kids enjoy a creamy glass of milk at bedtime.
When it comes to getting them to fall asleep? It helps.
And for postpartum insomnia? Might just be what you need.
The next time you find yourself standing in your kitchen, having climbed out of bed at 2 am in search of something to make you sleep, listen to the ancient wisdom of grandmothers everywhere:
Fix yourself a warm glass of milk.
Then you’ll know what to do…
Lay down, take some deep breaths…
And let the milk guide you to blissful sleep.
And if your partner’s snoring is keeping you awake?
Then it might be time for a special kind of divorce.
Get A Sleep Divorce
A “sleep divorce” is a bit of an exaggeration, but you instantly know what it implies:
Somebody ain’t gonna be sleeping the way they used to be.
It’s like my grandma used to say ” oh that’s grandad’s room,” to which we’d later learn that the two had come to that mutual understanding of sleeping in different rooms because he snored so loudly.
So if your partner’s snoring is keeping you up all hours of the night…
Might be time for a sleep divorce.
Upgrade Your Mattress
Does a delightful night of sleep sound too good to be true?
Imagine getting sleep where you didn’t:
Toss and turn
Sag into the bed
Have lumps under your back
It isn’t too good to be true. You can get sleep without those things.
What can make the difference in dealing with these, or not, is your mattress.
A quality mattress will prevent many of these barriers to sleep from happening.
Invest in a mattress you find supremely comfortable. You’ll be excited to lay down, you’ll forget for a while the worries taking up mental space.
That’ll help you get a better night’s sleep, which will reduce your cortisol levels.
Warm Up With A Heating Pad
Let’s talk about an underrated factor that can adversely affect your sleep:
Specifically, we’re talking about temperature in all sorts of contexts…
Your body. The room. The air. The sheets. Your pillow.
As much as we’d all like to admit we’re not Goldilocks wanting everything just right…
Truth is, an uncomfortable temperature will throw off anybody’s sleep.
Of the people, you know very well, how many of them have ZERO preference for the temperature they sleep at?
Think of an immediate family member, like your kids or spouse.
Do they ever say “oh well doesn’t matter what the temperature is for going to sleep, I can fall asleep with whatever temperature it happens to be?”
Written out, that sounds nuts.
Most people are sensitive to temperature. They want things just so.
Do you feel that way?
It usually goes 1 of 2 ways: They’re either too cold or too warm.
If it’s the former, putting a heating pad under your covers to warm up your bed will feel magical.
Soothe Your Postpartum Insomnia With A Weighted Blanket
Want to know one of the biggest mistakes parents fighting insomnia make?
Not investing in a weighted blanket sooner.
With a regular blanket, you don’t get the soothing effects that a weighted blanket provides.
Whether you’re an intermittent insomniac or a regular at being up all night, there’s plenty of weighted blankets on the market to choose from.
You spend a lotta time in bed. And if you’re lying awake at night trying to calm a frenetic mind, a weighted blanket can work wonders.
Now, there’s always a chance there’s something else that is causing your bedtime anxiety that these might not address.
But we can tell you this:
These strategies have helped us! And we like to think they could help you too.
Let us know…
Have you tried these?
How do you reduce your bedtime anxiety and fight postpartum insomnia?