Parenting

Sleep Training 101... For Mom

Does this situation sound at all familiar to you? It’s 3 a.m., my baby has been asleep since 8, and I haven’t gotten a wink of sleep all night. I have read countless sleep training books and by some stroke of luck have gotten my newborn to sleep, but why am I still awake?

Mom-somnia, or the more technical term, postnatal Insomnia, is something many women, including myself, struggle with for months if not years after the birth of our first baby.

When I experienced my own bout of mom-somnia, I remember waking up in the middle of the night frequently thinking my daughter was crying, while in fact she was sound asleep in her crib.

Also, it would take me upwards of three hours or more to fall asleep most nights. I remember ruminating over the previous day and all the responsibilities I had for the next. This kept me up and unable to relax enough to get any rest.

After reaching out to family and friends, I was frequently told not to stress out. Sleep deprivation is totally common for new parents. My insomnia will work itself out.

However, after months of crappy sleep, it didn’t work out. I needed to be sleep trained just like I sleep trained my newborn.

One interesting finding is mom-somnia has been found to be linked to postpartum depression and anxiety. In a study that analyzed 257 women who sought outpatient psychiatric treatment, researchers examined the relationship between insomnia and symptoms of depression and anxiety. They found women with high ISI scores (Insomnia Severity Index) during the postpartum phase had significantly higher odds for reporting symptoms consistent with depression and generalized anxiety compared to women with lower ISI scores (Swanson, pg. 1).

So for anyone suffering from a horrible case of mom-somnia, I recommend a few things. First, get checked out by a professional for postpartum depression. Next, it’s time to sleep train yourself.

What does this mean for adults? It’s not all that different from what you find in sleep training books for newborns. Create a bedtime ritual to help “turn off your brain.” Certified sleep consultant Alanna McGinn and founder of The Good Nite Sleep Site recommends a few ways we can start doing this:

1. Incorporate a bedtime routine to help relax, whether it be reading a book or listening to soft music.

2. Stay away from bright screens.

3. Make sure your environment is conducive to sleep. Is it quiet? At the right temperature?

4. Start a practice of mindful breathing: Alanna recommends Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 Mindful Breathing technique.

5. Focus on mindful thinking when trying to drift off to sleep: One way to stop the ruminating that typically perpetuates mom-somnia is by focusing on what is happening in the present moment. How does laying down in my bed feel? How do the sheets feel against my skin? This type of mindful thinking helps us avoid worrying about what we didn’t accomplish that day and what we have to do tomorrow.

6. Remove baby gear/baby reminders from bedroom: I found this extremely helpful. Once I removed baby clothes and toys from my bedroom, I started creating some distance between myself and my daughter. This allowed me to fall asleep easier.

In conclusion, lets all get better sleep.

References

Swanson, L. M., Pickett, S. M., Flynn, H., & Armitage, R. (2011). Relationships among depression, anxiety, and insomnia symptoms in perinatal women seeking mental health treatment. Journal Of Women’s Health, 20(4), 553-558. doi:10.1089/jwh.2010.2371