My Baby is Sleeping, But I Can’t: All About Postpartum Insomnia

You’ve been wait­ing for this moment: Your baby is sleep­ing through the night. You are look­ing for­ward to hav­ing hours of unin­ter­rupt­ed sleep time ahead of you. 

You climb into bed, expect­ing to fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow. 

Cut to 2 hours lat­er, and you’re still awake — despite the fact that you’re also exhausted. 

If this is your real­i­ty, you may have post­par­tum insom­nia. Insom­nia is a sleep dis­or­der that involves hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ty falling or stay­ing asleep or get­ting good qual­i­ty sleep. It’s a com­mon dis­or­der — espe­cial­ly among women who have recent­ly giv­en birth.

So, how is it that you are beyond exhaust­ed but can­not get a good night’s sleep? Here are 6 rea­sons why your baby is sleep­ing through the night but you may not be.

1. You’re wor­ried about your baby.

Moth­er­hood is a 247 job — and wor­ry comes along with the job. One of the biggest things that keeps moms up at night is fear that their baby will stop breath­ing while asleep.

This fear prob­a­bly won’t go away in the near future. The good news is that there are steps you can take to keep your child safe when they’re sleep­ing — steps which might help you rest a lit­tle easier.

2. You can’t turn your brain off.

Falling asleep is dif­fi­cult when your mind is rac­ing — and that’s not uncom­mon when you’re a new mom. Whether you’re think­ing about your baby’s sched­ule for the week, when you need to size up dia­pers, or when they’ll ever stop teething (don’t wor­ry, it will hap­pen), there’s a whole lot to think about.

You may also sim­ply feel guilty about sleep­ing. While this might not be healthy, it’s nor­mal for new moms. As you lay in bed, your mind might wan­der to all the things you didn’t get done dur­ing the day that you could be doing instead. Clean­ing, doing laun­dry, fix­ing that bro­ken cab­i­net door — before you know it, your guilt about tak­ing time for your­self to go to sleep is giv­ing you insomnia.

Get­ting rid of guilt might be eas­i­er said than done. But if you’re feel­ing guilty about doing some­thing for your­self, remem­ber that you’re actu­al­ly also doing some­thing for oth­ers. You’re at your best as a care­giv­er for some­one else when you also care for yourself.

3. You’re strug­gling with your men­tal health.

Stress, anx­i­ety, and post­par­tum depres­sion (depres­sion after giv­ing birth that is more intense and long-last­ing than the baby blues”) are com­mon among new moms. In fact, it’s esti­mat­ed that any­where between one in sev­en to one in ten women in the US have post­par­tum depression.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, these con­di­tions can wreak hav­oc on your sleep — and they are known risk fac­tors for insomnia.

If you have post­par­tum depres­sion, anx­i­ety, or stress, you’re more like­ly to devel­op insom­nia and suf­fer from lack of sleep. But the less you sleep, the more like­ly you are to devel­op or wors­en symp­toms of stress, anx­i­ety, or depression.

Prac­tic­ing mind­ful­ness tech­niques before bed, like med­i­ta­tion or deep breath­ing, are great ways to get your­self more relaxed. How­ev­er, those tech­niques aren’t always enough. 

If you are suf­fer­ing from post­par­tum depres­sion, anx­i­ety, or stress — even if it’s not inter­fer­ing with your sleep — don’t hes­i­tate to talk to your provider.

4. You loaded up on caffeine.

Car­ing for a baby is tir­ing. And some days, espe­cial­ly those after a sleep­less night before, you need to load up on cof­fee to get through the day. 

Caf­feine might be your life­saver in the morn­ing, but it’s some­thing you want to avoid before bed — and not just in the hour or two lead­ing up to it. The effects of caf­feine can last for up to 6 hours. So if bed­time is 10 p.m., make sure to take your last sip of cof­fee before 4 p.m.

Hav­ing trou­ble sleep­ing as a new mom? Your OB/GYN or Sleep Med­i­cine provider at Duly Health and Care may be able to help.

5. Or you took a few too many naps.

Naps might also be how you get through your day. For some women, nap­ping is a great way to make up for lost sleep. But for oth­er women, nap­ping dur­ing the day can lead to more insom­nia at night.

Don’t pan­ic — you can still nap. In fact, there are oth­er ben­e­fits of nap­ping, like improved mem­o­ry and increased alert­ness. Just try to lim­it your naps to 30 min­utes and don’t nap after 3 p.m.

6. You’re a woman.

This isn’t to say that men nev­er stay up wor­ry­ing about their baby, but chances are, they have an eas­i­er time falling asleep. That’s not very sur­pris­ing — the unfair truth is that females are more like­ly to have insom­nia than men regard­less of whether or not they have just had a baby. 

How to Get to Sleep

You might not be able to get rid of wor­ry, guilt, or your dai­ly cof­fee, but there are still meth­ods for help­ing you fall and stay asleep:

  • Prac­tic­ing mind­ful­ness tech­niques before bed, like med­i­ta­tion or breath­ing exercises

  • Avoid­ing screens an hour before bedtime

  • Exer­cis­ing dur­ing the day, like when your baby is nap­ping, rather than after they go to bed

  • Lim­it­ing how much you drink before bed so you won’t need to get up to use the bathroom

Over-the-counter sleep med­ica­tions or sup­ple­ments may also help, but check with your provider before any­thing, espe­cial­ly if you are breastfeeding. 

Also read, Trend­ing Sleep Aids: A few of our favorite prod­ucts to help you catch great z’s

And remem­ber — if you’re strug­gling with post­par­tum insom­nia, you can always reach out to your OB/GYN or a sleep med­i­cine provider.

Health Topics:

  • Haleema Sadath, MD, Bloomingdale OBGYN

    To give comprehensive care to women in all stages of life. Provide compassion and teaching to empower women to make better health care decisions.