Postpartum depression and anxiety, for me, meant a lot of sleepless nights. Even now, insomnia is still very much a struggle of mine. In fact, it is very difficult for me to fall asleep in my own bed. Usually, I lay wide awake until frustration causes me to find a new place to rest. My therapist suggested a makeover–for my room, not for me! The thinking is that perhaps a makeover would remove most of the negative associations in my room. I think there are many!

The first thing I would change is the orange walls. Orange isn’t exactly a soothing, calming color. It doesn’t lull one into sleep, that’s for sure. It is a beautiful color, and I love the way the orange works with the jewel tones of the curtains and other items in the room. The room has a warm Indian vibe. However, it has been said that orange is the color of adventure. While bedroom adventures sound fun (wink, wink), ain’t no adventure happening if I’m completely exhausted and sleep deprived!!

Then there’s the bed. I remember when my husband and I were at the beginning of our relationship and bought our bed. It was $900, which then felt like a helluva lot of money (ok, I admit, it still feels like a lot). We were so excited to have made our first major purchase together. All I wanted to do was lay in that bed. It was larger than the bed we’d previously shared.

But now it seems so small, although it takes up so much space in the room. There are 4 of us now, if you count the dog–and you should, since he shares the bed. He even sometimes sleeps like a human, his head on a pillow near ours and his body under the blankets. Most nights, I sleep with my son in his Twin bed. I do not like my own bed. It squeaks. It feels tiny. Every time my husband moves, it feels like someone is standing at the foot of the bed shaking it. Every single move wakes me up.

The alarm clock, with its angry red numbers, faces the bed, which seems so dumb. I spent so many sleepless nights staring at that thing. In my head, I begged for sleep until my anger got the better of me and I gave up and got up. Or until the baby cried and I had to get up anyway. I do that thing where I tell myself “If I fall asleep right now, I can get X hours of sleep.” I do it all night long, even though I know better.

Sometimes when I attempt to sleep in my room, I am hit with a wave of memories of the beginning of motherhood. A photograph that features my bed comes to mind when I think about my postpartum depression.

PPD

Taken at the end of my maternity leave, during the beginning of my PPD/PPA.

I’m sitting on the edge of the bed, holding my 4-month-old son. I had just returned to work from my maternity leave, or maybe I was about to. My smile is fake, and my eyes are wide and tired. I can see the anxiety behind the mask.

When I lay in that bed, I am anxious again. My therapist is right. I need to change the room. Insomnia was a HUGE part of my PPD. And my bedroom became associated with anxiety about sleep. During my PPD, I learned subconsciously to associate the bed, the walls, the everything-in-that-space with the darkest, scariest time of my life.

Googling “negative associations of the bedroom,” I found a website that said:

People who are conditioned against their own bedroom typically react with a heightened state of arousal when going to bed, rather than the kind of relaxed drowsiness that is more conducive to falling sleep.

Exactly.

I know what I need to do. First and foremost, I need to MAKE the time to spend reworking that room. The walls need to be a different, more soothing color. I’m keeping the curtains–they’re so pretty! I need to rearrange the furniture and maybe get rid of what isn’t necessary in order to open up some space. Clutter makes me angsty. I will remove the alarm clock altogether. I will replace the blinds with the room-darkening kind. I will use aromatherapy in the room. And a sound machine! I will treat myself to a new comforter, the softer the better! And since the floors are wood, perhaps an area rug would change the room even more. I bought my dog a fancy new bed, although I don’t think he will use it to sleep in.

What else do you think I should do to give my room–and maybe my sleep–a makeover?

 

guest postSleep… you know, that thing we did before we had kids? Parents all over the world struggle with sleepless nights when they first have a baby and, if they’re not careful and don’t nip issues in the bud as soon as possible, could be battling these restless nights for a long, long time to come.

While it’s inevitable for a newborn baby to wake during the night and only sleep in small amounts, as they grow, this will improve. Implementing good routines and teaching them to self-soothe can be hugely beneficial when it comes to them learning how to sleep for longer stretches of time. A newborn baby sleeps for about 16 to 18 hours a day – unfortunately for the parents, it’s not in substantial chunks. It takes a while for them to get used to how things work outside of the womb and for their circadian rhythms to kick in. However, incorporating good routines and sticking by them throughout baby and childhood will mean that eventually, you will be able to enjoy a nice, restful sleep again (although not the same as pre-baby, no doubt).

Here are some tips to help encourage good sleeping habits so that you and your children can enjoy a good night’s sleep in no time.

  • Teach them to self-soothe by laying them in their cot whilst they’re still awake. Affix a Baby mobile to their cot, or to the ceiling light, so that they have something to look at as they drift off into dream world. By laying them in their cot awake, they will learn that they don’t need you to settle off to sleep, so you can rest easy too!
  • Swaddling can help baby feel safe and secure, therefore more likely to sleep soundly. While it’s certainly not for every baby (some like to have their arms free), it’s worth a shot for peaceful nights.
  • Incorporate some white noise, whether it’s the baby mobile working away in the background, the sound of a fan or a low volume static from the radio, white noise can often help to settle a newborn because it emulates the sounds they used to hear in the womb.
  • Dim the lights to help them distinguish between bedtime and wake time. There’s more chance of them syncing into a good routine if they don’t have nightlights to confuse them.
  • Be aware of SIDS and how you can minimise the risk. Leave anything unnecessary – pillows, teddies, duvets – out of the cot and simply swaddle baby with a cotton blanket. Lay them on their backs, too.

It’s expected to be up at all hours during the first few weeks, but babies should begin to sleep for longer when they’re a couple of months old. While it can be an arduous process, as long as you stick to a routine, eventually, your child will be happy to sleep through the night just like you will be.

 

17. June 2013 · 3 comments · Categories: Anxiety, Sleep · Tags: , ,

Let’s call this a stream-of-barely-conscious-consciousness, OK? It’s early in the morning, I’m awake after being awake a good portion of the night. Insomnia has returned.

I’ve struggled with sleep since the third trimester of my pregnancy with Jax–in 2009. Before then, I slept easily. I could–and sometimes did–drink a cup of coffee (none of this weak decaf stuff I drink now) and be asleep a few minutes later. I could sleep in a car, on a plane, in the rain…

In my third trimester, Jax was most active around 3 in the morning, nearly every night. I couldn’t sleep through the movement. My sleep became lighter, and things I easily slept through before (e.g., my husband’s snoring, my dog curling up at my feet) drove me insane because they woke me up and/or kept me awake.

We can skip the part about how sleep changed for the worse after Jax was born, because goodness knows I’ve blogged, tweeted, and posted on Facebook plenty of times about my little non-sleeper.

But now he’s almost 4 years old. And I’m co-sleeping with him in his comfy-but-tiny twin bed. My reasons are numerous, and I’m not listing them here, though I’ll tell you why privately if you’re curious.

My insomnia doesn’t have much to do with Jax at all now.

Now I can’t sleep because it’s too warm in the room. Or because I’ve had 2 beers (or glasses of wine) and the sugar is keeping me awake. Or because I heard a noise outside that woke me. Or because my to do list for tomorrow is way too long. Or because I’m thinking about someone who probably isn’t thinking about me in the middle of the night! Or because my mind is racing with a thousand other thoughts. Or because my dog barked at someone walking by my corner house.

My anger about being awake in the middle of the night is a big deal. I quite literally have to give myself a calming talk when I’ve been awake for hours and feel like punching a hole in the wall.

I’ve been prescribed a sleeping pill, but I don’t like to take medication unless it’s an emergency. Since April when it was prescribed, I’ve taken in 3 times. It takes an hour to kick in and doesn’t have a long half-life, which is good because I can take it very late at night and not feel terrible the next day but bad because it seems to give me maybe 3 or 4 hours of sleep at most. But taking it tends to give me an added boost of anxiety because I worry about all the potential things I could do in my sleep and not remember–the package insert lists a few: sleep-driving, sleep-eating, sleep-sex.

If I show up at your doorstep in the middle of the night, please just toss me a pillow and blanket and tuck me in?

Since the last terrible bout of insomnia in April (which lasted for 10+ days–I stopped counting), I’ve been taking 3 mg of melatonin around 9:00 every single night. I had 2+ months of amazing sleep. The kind of sleep that made me feel like myself again!

On Friday, I told my friend about my fantastic sleep. I even said, “I haven’t had any insomnia in months!”

There is a joke on Twitter about talking about sleep and the consequences of this slip-up.

I don’t know why the melatonin seems to have stopped working. Was it really the reason for my good sleep the past 2+ months? I’m also wondering whether my new pattern of insomnia for up to 2 weeks every few months is going to be the norm for the rest of my life. Will I spend day after day feeling like a zombie, snapping at the people around me, feeling guilty about it, crying at my desk, making poor choices because I’m too tired to think straight, having anxiety because I’m worried about not sleeping, and so on?

I don’t know what to do now that I can’t count on melatonin. Keep taking it anyway? Stop? Rely more heavily on sleeping pills? Get a hotel room so I can catch up on my sleep completely alone and distraction-free for a night? I feel like I’ve done everything right (limiting my sugar, nearly eliminating caffeine, rarely drinking more than 1 alcoholic beverage per night and avoiding doing so too close to bedtime, getting exercise daily, eating well, and so on). So now what?

If you have experienced insomnia, what are some of the things you’ve tried, and have they worked?

23. April 2013 · 8 comments · Categories: Sleep · Tags: ,

sleeping ladyYesterday was so much different than today is shaping up to be. Jax woke up close to 3:00 am on Monday morning to use the bathroom, and he was unable to fall back to sleep. After 2 hours of laying next to him as he tossed and turned while I tried to manage my anger and frustration, we got out of his bed around 5:30 and went into the living room, turned on the tv, and lay on the couch. I drafted a two-line e-mail to my boss, calling out of work for the day.

One unfair truth about me is that I cannot function on 3 hours of sleep. I’ve tried and failed countless times. I am an entirely different person when I am sleep deprived. I am angry, resentful, impatient, pessimistic, and sometimes downright mean. I also tend to rant about my lack of sleep on Twitter. And then I feel guilty and embarrassed about that. And I haven’t even gotten to mentioning the physical side effects of sleep deprivation that wreak their havoc! To me, sleep deprivation feels a lot like the flu.

My tribe on Twitter—aka, my friends—have done their best to reassure me that my ranting on Twitter is actually a positive thing, that it is always good to reach out when we are despairing. I am trying to convince myself of this, but it’s a long, slow process. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to see my ranting as a positive thing, even though when people respond warmly it does help me. Even a simple “I struggle, too” is helpful. With that in mind, I’m trying to stop berating myself for tweeting angrily in the middle of the night, as it obviously does serve a purpose: I feel less alone with each and every response to those tweets. It’s also comforting, I’m sorry to say, to not be the only person awake at 4 in the morning!

Last night, I gave both Jax and myself melatonin before bedtime in a desperate attempt to reset both our sleep clocks. We snuggled up at 8:30 and were both asleep by 9. I think I woke up once or twice, but overall we both got plenty of sleep. I’m having an amazing day so far. I don’t think it’s any coincidence.

My mood is bright, even though it’s chilly and gray outside. I’m not angry. I’m not in survival mode. It feels great to be optimistic and cheerful. Maybe it’s no coincidence either that I’ve been complimented several times so far today and that people have done nice things for me.

If you are one of the people who responded to me in the middle of the night, thank you. Your words help. To those who checked in with me yesterday, thank you, too. I appreciate you more than you know! Sleep deprivation is no joke.

 

NYCLast August, I bought my ticket to BlogHer ’12 in New York City without a single worry (so unlike me!). Over the next half year or more, I easily spent hours daydreaming about a weekend-long slumber party with my roommates, all the fantastic NYC pizza I could cram into my belly, late nights, parties, glitter (!), and so on.

But that’s not exactly how it went down.

For more than a week leading up to the conference, I had insomnia. Most nights, I slept great the first few hours and then woke up after midnight, unable to return to sleep for many hours, if at all. The night before I left for BlogHer ’12, I slept from 9:30 until 12:30, and then I was awake until 4:00, at which time I finally fell asleep watching Netflix. My alarm woke me up at 4:30. Ouch.

If you’ve ever suffered from insomnia, you know that the worst part is the anxiety that you may never sleep well again. And you know that the worst thing you can do is lay awake in bed thinking about how you can’t sleep. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. You can’t sleep, so you worry. Then your worry keeps you awake.

Add in a conference in the city that never sleeps, and you end up with a recipe for disaster. Or at least for enormous amounts of anxiety.

Zombie-Like

The first day at the conference, after 3 modes of transportation and several hours, I arrived at the conference in a dreamlike state. I walked through the exhibit hall like a zombie. I sat through a session just hoping I wouldn’t fall asleep in my chair. I counted the hours until it would be acceptable to go to bed. I worried that my roommates would think I was boring, unenergetic, disinterested, you name it. I also worried about how much I would miss out on because of my quest for sleep–sessions, parties, swag, hugs with the long list of women I had been dying to meet for so long!

Worry, worry, worry. Is it any wonder I struggled to sleep?

Some Advice about Insomnia

My advice, in hindsight after experiencing insomnia at a conference, is this:

  • If at all possible, find an insomnia conference buddy before you get there. I was fortunate to exchange phone numbers with another attendee who doesn’t sleep well. And in the event I needed to get out of my room to take a walk or even just commiserate via text, I’d have used that number. Instead, though, I texted a friend who works the night shift and he helped calm me down during an anxiety attack on that first night as I lay in bed wide awake at 1:30 in the morning while my roomate slept soundly next to me. So if you can’t find a fellow insomniac attendee, see if you can find someone back at home who is up in the night.
  • Bring whatever sleep aid (pharmaceutical or not) you rely on at home on the rough nights. I packed Yogi Calming tea, Xanax, Rescue Remedy, and earplugs. I should have also packed Benadryl and a sleep mask, and next time I will.
  • Get out of bed! The good thing about conferences like BlogHer is that there is always something to do, at any given time of the day or night. So if you’re the kind of insomniac who likes to get up out of bed for a while, it’s easy to go explore, alone or with others. I am the kind of insomniac who is afraid to get out of bed for fear of becoming even more stimulated and more awake, so I did not leave my room–which is against all the sleep advice I’ve ever read.
  • Tell your roommates what’s going on. I’m certain they will be sympathetic and try to be quiet coming in and out of the room while you’re sleeping or napping. I lucked out with my roommates, who were so sympathetic to my quest for sleep. One of them even gave me a massage before bed–and it helped! I slept much better that night.
  • Which brings me to this helpful hint–go grab a massage or make use of any other pampering the conference has to offer! Maybe a little relaxation is just what you need!
My roommates

Best roommates ever (but we’re missing one in this pic).

 

Some Advice about Anxiety

  • To curb anxiety, whether related to insomnia or not, I advise making sure you don’t skip meals and that you snack every few hours. It was easy to snack throughout BlogHer. The exhibit hall alone offered more snacks than one could eat in an entire week! I’m still working my way through all the granola bars I was given.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Take a nap in the middle of the day if your nighttime schedule looks intense. It is less pathetic to take a nap at 1:00 than it is to head to bed at 9:00, believe me.
  • And keep handy this list. Mine is bookmarked on my phone. When I’m feeling tense or anxious, I try to work my way through the list until I feel better.
  • Take it easy on yourself–travel is stressful for most of us and this can manifest itself in many ways! Some of us have irritable stomachs, others of us have anxiety. It is most likely that nobody is judging you as harshly as you’re judging yourself, the same way you wouldn’t hold someone’s travel-induced stomach ache against them!

Have you ever been away from home and struggling with anxiety or insomnia? How did you cope?