Managing to sleep peacefully and without interruption is a challenge every new mother faces, at least for the first few weeks. Their sleep schedule is disturbed mainly because they have to wake every few hours to feed the baby and their anxiety may be connected to the well-being of the baby. There are hormonal issues too that do not let the new mothers have a good night’s sleep which affects their overall well-being.
Dr Divya A (PT), Executive physiotherapist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Panchkula tells HT Digital that the postpartum insomnia also has roots in neurobiological mechanisms and there is elevation of monoamine oxidase, decrement of estrogen levels during the first week of postpartum period, and alteration of sleep pattern with other behavioral disturbances.
“Circadian rhythms which are regulated by the body’s internal master clock in the brain are influenced by this hormonal disturbance. Hormonal changes in the immediate postpartum period like decline of progesterone due to its sedative properties and changes in melatonin levels can affect circadian rhythms within the first 3 months and have been implicated in women’s postpartum sleep difficulties.
No wonder all these changes may bring a great deal of mood swings, anxiety, insomnia, and neuropsychiatric disturbances in women.
“The first six weeks after delivery can be particularly challenging. After giving birth, mothers are forced to awake at night to take care of their babies. According to some studies, the average new mother receives about five to six hours of sleep every night during the initial time period,” says Dr Divya.
Tips to deal with insomnia in new mothers
1. Sleep education: By learning more about how sleep works and what we can do to get more rest each night, people with insomnia and other sleep disturbances can address their difficulties from a more informed perspective. Maintaining a sleep diary promotes awareness of sleep patterns.
2. Create a routine: A consistent bedtime routine helps babies develop good sleep habits, but a routine can be beneficial for parents, too. Slowing down signals to your body that it is time to rest. Dim the lights, put on comfy pajamas, listen to soft music, meditate, read a book, try restorative yoga and avoid screens a few hours before bed.
3. Practice good sleep hygiene: Once you head to bed, keep your bedroom dark and quiet. Keep your cellphone and other devices away from your bed, since the light can disturb your circadian rhythm and make falling asleep more difficult. Try to do practices that improve sleep, such as following a daytime routine that promotes restfulness at night and maintaining a comfortable, healthy sleep environment by altering bedroom temperature and light levels.
4. Consider your eating habits: Avoid caffeine and chocolate, both of which can keep you awake, especially if you indulge in the late afternoon or early evening. A big meal before bed may have the same effect.
5. Keep nighttime care brief: When your little one wakes up at night — whether for a feeding, diaper change or reassurance — do your best to keep the visit short. Feed, burp and change your baby, then immediately put him back to bed. Keep the room quiet and dark to prevent him from fully waking up.
6. Stimulus control: Some people develop anxieties about sleeping after dealing with insomnia and other night time disturbances, and they need to be reconditioned in order to sleep more soundly. Stimulus control stresses the importance of only using a bed for sleep and sex, getting out of bed on nights when it’s difficult to fall asleep, and setting an alarm for the same wakeup time every day of the week.
7. Exercise: Once your consultant has given you the green light, ease back into a workout routine. Exercise is a non-pharmacological therapy for insomnia, is readily available, and costs less than other non-pharmacological treatments for insomnia and notably, its effects depend upon exercise types. According to some recent studies, exercise has positive effects on sleep quality, sleep onset latency, total sleep time, sleep efficiency, and insomnia severity and help you de-stress and even ward off postpartum depression, and getting your heart rate up during the day might make sleep easier to come by at night.
8. Aerobics: Moderate intensity aerobic activity (50 min, 3 times/week) can lead to improvements in self-rated and diary-based measures of sleep quality. On the other hand, there are no significant improvements in sleep during the night following high intensity exercise, a study proves. Moderate-intensity activities will increase your heart rate and cause you to perspire. Examples include brisk walking, water aerobics, and semi-hilly bike rides. Vigorous-intensity aerobics, which can raise your heart rate to a much greater extent, include running or jogging, lap-swimming, intense bike rides.
9. Relaxation: Controlled breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation and other relaxation techniques may help people unwind in the evening and fall back asleep if they wake up during the night.
10. Yoga: Yoga is a specific type of resistance training that focuses on posture improvement, breathing exercises, and meditation. Yoga has been shown to alleviate stress, help people lose weight, and reduce pain in the neck and lower back. Practicing yoga may also improve sleep quality. While the link between yoga and better sleep has not been extensively evaluated in terms of the overall population, some studies have noted sleep improvements for certain individuals.
11. Go for a morning walk: After a sleepless night carrying for their infant, mothers can recharge a bit by taking a stroll that morning. Exposure to natural sunlight can realign the circadian rhythm, which is normally calibrated with the rise and fall of the sun. Moderate exercises along with walk can also help them sleep more soundly the following night.
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