How Postnatal Insomnia Can Affect Your Body, According to Experts

Ad failed to load

In my opinion, the worst part of new motherhood is the overwhelming lack of sleep. Everything is harder when you're sleep deprived. It's not just that the baby keeps me up at night, though. I can't sleep when he's sleeping, which is so frustrating, and my anxiety takes over in the evening, so I often wake in the middle of the night, too. I recently learned this lovely phenomenon is called postnatal insomnia (or postpartum insomnia) and that postnatal insomnia can affect your body, mind, and general wellbeing.

According to the U.S. Institute of Medicine Institute of Medicine Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research, in addition to a tired body and fuzzy mind, insomnia can also impact your body by increasing your risk for heart disease, obesity, strokes, depression, diabetes, and heart attacks. Psychology Today notes that insomnia can be caused by a number of parts of new mom life, including the fact that you had a major life change, are likely experiencing stress and hormone changes, and adjusting to a new routine on top of your physical recovery from childbirth. The good news is that there are a number of strategies you can try to get more rest and address underlying postpartum depression (PPD) or anxiety, which might be related to your inability to sleep.

According Karen Kleinman, MSW, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and author of the book Therapy and the Postpartum Woman, there are two types of insomnia: middle-of-the-night insomnia — waking and not being able to fall asleep — and initial insomnia — not being able to fall asleep at bedtime. The former is a common symptom of depression. The latter is more often associated with anxiety and an inability to unwind. Or, in my case, laying awake questioning every bad decision I've ever made and replaying embarrassing social encounters in my mind over and over again, like a bad movie.

Ad failed to load

As Kleinman writes for Psychology Today, postnatal insomnia is often related to postpartum depression or anxiety, but it's hard to know which came first, because postpartum mood disorders can cause insomnia, but insomnia caused by stress, health, or other causes can be a risk factor for and can worsen the impact of mood disorders, too. The good news is that if you have PPD and receive treatment, your insomnia might go away, and if you treat your insomnia, your mood might very well improve as well.  

But postnatal insomnia doesn't just impact your mind — it can impact your body, too. If you are breastfeeding, the site Postpartum Progress notes that insomnia and resulting sleep deprivation can cause breast milk supply issues. Which seems so completely unfair, because what new breastfeeding mom isn't at least a little sleep deprived? (The answer is none of them, BTW.)  

Ad failed to load

According to the Mayo Clinic, insomnia can have short term impacts on your body, causing physical symptoms like night sweats and a racing heart, but it also impact how well your immune system works to fight infections. The site explained further in the following passage:

According to U.S. Institute of Medicine Institute of Medicine Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research, other physical health impacts of insomnia and chronic sleep deprivation, include an increased risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Yikes.

Ad failed to load

So what can a tired new mom do to nip insomnia in the bud and get some damn sleep? If you find yourself waking up in the early hours of the night, at imagined sounds or for no apparent reason, and can't get back to sleep afterwards, Psychology Today recommends bringing it up with your doctor or midwife, as this type of insomnia can be a key symptom of postpartum depression.

If you have trouble falling asleep at the beginning of the night, even when you are completely exhausted, the Baby Sleep Site recommends changing your bedtime routine to prepare your body for sleep — namely putting down your phone at least an hour before you plan to go to bed, limiting caffeine intake, and creating a soothing routine to help your body and mind relax and get primed for sleep. The same site suggests getting your partner, or another support person, involved to help you relax or to take a shift at night so you can get some rest.

Ad failed to load

Because insomnia at bedtime can be related to anxiety (for example — being unable to sleep because you are worried or your mind won't stop racing), the National Sleep Foundation suggests medical intervention or therapy to treat your anxiety and help you shut down anxious thoughts. If these strategies don't work, you should never hesitate to talk to your health care provider. You don't have to go it alone, and your body needs sleep to carry you through all of the struggles of new motherhood.

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Ad failed to load

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Umm, Toys "R" Us Has A BOGO 50 Percent Off Deal So You Better Stock Up

After the holidays, you were probably hoping that your kid's massive toy collection would keep him entertained for a little while, at least. But that was wishful thinking, wasn't it? Because now that a couple of months have passed, all those must-hav…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

A Hot Mess Mom's Guide To Surviving Winter

As I sit here at my home office in Connecticut, it's cold. Damn cold. Winter is a rough season in New England and it's even worse when you're a parent and have to manage cooped up, restless children. It's even worse when you're a hot mess as it is, u…
By Jamie Kenney

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

11 Ways Your Pregnancy Will Be Different If You Have A Boy Vs A Girl

If you've been pregnant before, you might start comparing your previous pregnancies to that of your current pregnancy. A lot of things can change from pregnancy to pregnancy, based on a whole host of different factors (including how well you remember…
By Lauren Schumacker

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

8 Reasons I Let My Toddler Play Outside Unsupervised

I'm not a helicopter mom, but I'm not exactly a free-range parent either. I like to think of myself as safely ensconced somewhere in the middle. I insist on certain safety measures, like car seats and helmets. I prefer to keep my 2-year-old in my sig…
By Kimmie Fink

12 Moms Share How They Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of the roughest flu seasons in recent memory. And we’re not totally out of the woods, either. People around the country are still getting the flu, and, sadly, some of them are having to be hospitalized due to flu-re…
By Priscilla Blossom

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack