The baby has finally arrived. It’s all merry around with the blessings pouring in for the little one but what about the new mum? With her schedule turned upside down, tiredness and exhaustion from childbirth seem to overpower the joy of enjoying motherhood.
One of the most common problems that pregnant women start to experience right from their third trimester is lack of sleep – both falling into and trying to stay asleep. These problems can start due to the mother’s change in sleep cycle and are known to be particularly difficult in the first six weeks post-delivery.
Identifying the causes
Insomnia or lack of sleep isn’t anything new and is known to affect almost 20-30% of adults who suffer sleep disruptions. It is commonly seen in new mothers too who face sleep challenges as the newborn keeps waking up frequently and needs to be fed every couple of hours through the day and night. This inevitably leads to adjusting her sleep schedule and often sleep less than required, especially during the nights. In addition to this, the hormonal changes, labor and perineal pain, underlying medical issues such as anemia, hypothyroidism, extreme blood loss during labor, postpartum depressioncan potentially affect sleep pattern, mood, appetite and physical behavior in a new mother.
Tackling sleep and fatigue problems
Sleep disturbances during the postpartum period isn’t just a passing phase. It can lead to serious consequences including lack of initial bonding mother and baby, deteriorating cognitive and psychosocial health and wellbeing. Before the minor sleep problems snowball and starts to turn chronic, here are few tips to treat insomnia and improve quality of sleep in the new mothers.
• Ditch yours and follow your baby’s sleep routine. This is the easiest way to tackle the problem. Sleep and rest when your baby is asleep. If you want to finish your chores, set an alarm and wake up.
• Retire early for the day. An early end to your day can help you get time to fall asleep if you are not a quick sleeper. Try taking a hot and relaxing shower, if needed before bedtime.
• Take turns to take care of the baby during nights. Seek help from your partner for diaper duties, formula feeding or feeding the baby stored breast milk. Seek support from family or friends to help you rest and get adequate sleep.
• Step out and go for a walk. Try some mild form of exercises that can keep you physically fit and healthy, and help you feel less tired and fatigued.
• Eat well and prioritize nutritious intake. Since breastfeeding mothers need extra calories, make sure to have high-protein diet, limited intake of caffeine, alcohol. Stay hydrated.
• Learn about sleep education and hygiene – factors that disrupt your sleep, ways you can get more rest (no caffeine and alcohol intake before bedtime, maintaining proper temperature in the bedroom, eating at least 2-3 hours before sleep, setting an alarm to wake up every day at the same time) and sleep better and how maintaining a sleep diary can help you stay aware of sleep patterns.
• Meditate as often as you can. Practice relaxation techniques and controlled breathing to keep postpartum depression and stress at bay.
If there are minor sleep issues, you have nothing to worry about, but continued fatigue and tiredness may be a warning sign of underlying health problems. Do not hesitate to consult your doctor before these stop you from taking care of the baby the way you planned to.
Dr. Kavita Pujar, Senior Consultant – Obstetrics &Gynaecology, Kinder Women’s Hospital,
and Fertility Centre, Bengaluru