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Insomnia/anxiety for months (breastfeeding mom)

July 2012

I have been experiencing bad insomnia and related anxiety about it for almost 4 months now. Sleep has always been a source of stress for me, for whatever reason. My 14 month old is finally a great sleeper and i'm having such a hard time. It's been pretty consistent now- I'll have trouble for a week or so, then it will go away for a few days, then come back, etc. I was on a pretty good stretch and then we took a trip to france which messed everything up. now i'm back with jetlag and the insomnia. i have no reserves left and basically feel like i'm losing my mind. i will be awake for hours on end, and sometimes the entire night. not particularly stressed about anything but sleep itself has become the stress. i did a kaiser class on CBT and though it was helpful, i'm having trouble breaking the cycle. i took ambien a few times but it really made me feel depressed. other sleep aids, including herbal, aren't recommended for breastfeeding moms. i read ''say goodnight to insomnia'', which many BPN folks recommend. tried acupuncture, helpful but getting expensive. i'm sick of myself and sick of this problem- and mostly just sick of being utterly exhausted and on the verge of breaking down many days of the week. i feel like i don't have the energy i want to give to my baby and i worry about sleep all the time. i know much of it is in my head but it's started to feel like a physiological reaction as well- get into bed, can't sleep. i know there's no magic cure, but i'm hoping for something to change! exhausted mama, but not because of baby!


I have SO been there. I feared goig to bed at night because I knew it would be torture going to sleep! And had no qualms about taking sleep meds or NyQuil to get to sleep (when I wasn't breastfeeding). I felt like I'd never be able to fa asleep like when I was young. The ONLY thing that truly helped is when I tried accupuncture. And I didn't even know if I believes in it but j was desperate. I also had anxiety issues. It didn't helped immediately, although I did fall asleep during my first session (and I never take naps). It took about two weeks and after about 5appts in that time. I saw dr frank Chung in rockridge. He's well known, gentle, and I've been sleeping well for over a year now and haven't had to take any medication whatsoever. And I don't even see him anymore because it's like he ''cured the problem''. So after about 10 sessions (at $95 each) I stopped but could have stopped sooner. I know that's expensive but sleep is so important to your well being. Good luck to you. Figure_skater
Hi, I really empathize with what you are going through having experienced the same symptoms you describe. My oldest will be 3 in September and he just weened a few weeks ago. I just wanted to mention one thing that I wish someone mentioned to me after the baby was born. During all my insomnia I did a lot of research and I think found something that would have been useful way before I got pregnant. And that's solid nutrition information. Have you considered whether you are getting the nutrition necessary to support the energy needed to recover from pregnancy, breast feed and being a new mom? I thought I knew what a healthy diet was and always prepard healthy meals, but didn't really pay attention to getting the minerals and fats our family needed, especially for a nursing mom and baby. Things like magnesium, calcium, vitamin A, D, K. I think these can make a huge difference...especially magnesium. Besides that, the schedule of taking care of a baby often means we put ourselves last, including eating and drinking! But for me, full time breast feeding was just as rigorous as carrying him for 9 months, if not more so. My advice before checking into medications is to look at nutrition. I found valuable information by looking up the Weston A. Price foundation and Real Food info. All the best, hope you gain relief soon! Been there done that
I am amazed at how common this is, especially with women post baby and especially as we get older. All of my friends have gone through this, including me. I have become a better sleeper over time (even through perimenopause). It really was bad after my second child. Mine was also coupled with anxiety that I could not explain. Even the insomnia was mystifying. I think the most important thing I did that has helped is this: no screen time after 10pm. No electronics in the bedroom, upstairs. Go to sleep at the same time every night (11pm). That hour from 10-11, I have the lights low, I do my bedtime routine, I read a chapter of something (but no more than a chapter). It's not perfect, but I think it's cleared up the problem nearly 90%. Before doing this, I was taking stuff for sleep. Now I don't do that or anti-anxiety meds. I'm convinced that screen time is a big player in the insomnia thing. anon
First of all just know that this will pass and you are not alone! It sounds a little like Postpartum Depression, something I knew nothing about until I experienced it, after the birth of my son. It can become a cycle, the worrying about not sleeping keeps you from sleeping and the more you want to sleep the more stressed you become. One thing that worked for me was listening to a relaxation tape, like a guided meditation. You can get them from the library or itunes or online podcast. Really it does not matter which one just as long as it does not bug you. It keeps you from laying there thinking about sleep and guides your mind and body to relax. I would find that I would become so relaxed I would end up falling asleep. I would play it softly when going to bed. You can try to take a warm bath and you may want to try ''Rescue Sleep'' (by Bach--homeopathy). Get out in the sunshine during the day, exercise (go for a walk etc). Talk to your friends/someone about how you feeling. Most importantly know that it will pass, your baby is getting everything he/she needs, take care of yourself. Try not to be hard on yourself and sleep will return! Been there...
This sounds like post partum depression. Most people think post partum depression is sadness and crying but insomnia and anxiety (and anger and brain fog) are often the main symtpoms women have. I really wish I had known this and taken better care of myself when my baby was small. I just thought i needed to man up! I didnt get any help and i really ''fell down the rabbit hole''. When my son was 16 months he started sleeping better - but i couldnt. By the time my son was 3.5 i was just a ragged, exhausted, painful shell of myself. Every minute of everyday i was hanging on by a thread and i regret daily not getting the insomnia solved sooner because i just wasnt present for my son. It breaks my heart and i wish i could go back and relive his baby time as rested happy mama revelling with joy in my sweet kiddo. Anyway- run! to your gynecologist and tell her how long you've been feeling like this and work to get some rest. Antidepressants help some (not me). You may need a new doc if your current one doesnt take this seriously.

Getting involved outside the home (job, garden, whatever) Sleep hygiene, thyroid medication, and a hysterectomy were what helped me (i had multiple reasons for the hysterectomy and im 46- so done having kids). Progesterone helped a friend but ultimately made me way worse. Keep trying till you get it solved. Wished i had known-- lola


I know it's been awhile since you had your child, but this could be post-partum depression/anxiety.

I had this VERY severely after I had my daughter and didn't sleep for days. I was near a breakdown and went to an outpatient program where I saw a psychiatrist who prescribed me some medication for sleeping. My daughter was 7 weeks old. She is now 2.5 and I am still breastfeeding her.

Here are some things I learned:

1. It is more important that I get sleep and take care of myself than to be concerned about ''chemicals'' or drugs in my milk as long as a doctor agrees that the concern/risk is minimal. It also helps to be informed. I purchased ''Medications and Mother's Milk'' by Thomas? Hale and did a lot of research on the medications I was taking because I took a LOT.

2. You MUST take medication for sleeping to break the cycle. Take it as long as you need. You are not failing if you do so. I am still on sleep medications. In the beginning I was very concerned about getting off them as quickly as possible, but the anxiety prevented me from being able to do this.

3. Stress, lack of sleep, anything that interferes with your sleep cycle can trigger the anxiety/insomnia and make it worse. Since you just got back from France, that seems like a clear stress and interference in sleep patterns that would throw you off.

4. Psychiatrists are the BEST people to see for insomnia and sleep problems, especially if they are willing to listen to your concerns and provide alternatives in addition to prescriptions. Also, when they give you clear information about whether or not your concerns are valid and why. He/she will also tell you what to do if, say, one night you have no problem, but the next night you take the medication and then anxious, or whatever your cycle is.

My advice to you: See a psychiatrist. Take medication to sleep (I take Klonopin) as long as you need to get back on track. You will eventually get there and, when you do, you can taper off. Do NOT beat yourself up about taking medication. This is something PHYSICAL not something you can control. Sometimes our bodies need some assistance to get back on track and we need relief in order to function properly and be good mothers. Wishing you good sleep!


It sounds like you may have post-partum hyperthyroidism. Many women have thyroid issues for the first time during and right after pregnancy. After the birth of both of my sons, my thyroid went into overdrive. With the first, when I didn't know what was happening, I couldn't sleep, was incredibly anxious, would have bouts of stomach 'nerves' and was generally in terrible shape. Turned out that my TSH levels were hundreds of times above normal. Please go to your doctor and have them check your TSH and T4.

New mom suffering terrible insomnia

March 2010

I am looking for advice on how to cope with/cure insomnia. I've never really had a problem with insomnia before but have been struggling with it a lot since my son was born. He now sleeps through the night but I do NOT. It's gotten worse and worse, I think mostly because I am now so ridiculously anxious about my inability to fall asleep or fall back to sleep when I inevitably wake up 2-3 times a night. I've had a number of nights lately where I get only a few hours sleep and that was with the help of melatonin or benadryl which are no longer doing the trick. My doc just prescribed trazodone at a low dosage and it definitely helps but also upsets my stomach and leaves me incredibly drowsy for hours the next day so it does not seem like a great solution. I'd also like to wean myself off sleeping drugs if possible. I am open to things like cognitive behavioral therapy though I am also a bit skeptical that it will be effective (at least right away as I'm pretty up in my head about it at this point and so on edge that I seem incapable of falling asleep without drugs.) Any recommendations on drugs, therapists or sleep specialists you've had good experiences with?! Please be as specific as you can. Thanks in advance! Eve


Sorry to hear about your insomnia!

I always had a hard time falling asleep, and my 16 year old daughter has terrible insomnia, so here are some other ideas based on a long search for help:

There are other, different medications/herbs you can take. We've tried melatonin, Valerian root, clonodine, Ambien -- with essentially no success or with unacceptable side effects (daytime fogginess).

There are sleep/relaxation CDs you can listen to. I have one called Delta Sleep System which I bought for my daughter -- you can have it for free -- just email me your address and I'll send it. My daughter didn't like the sound, but it might work for you. (Trying to avoid spam, my email is ircom1 at yahoo dot com). You might also try meditation/guided visualization to help you relax after you've woken up.

A book you might read that I found extremely helpful is ''The Insomnia Answer'' by Paul Glovinsky. Clear, useful, practical, empowering, and solutions-oriented.

For my daughter, who has a ''busy'' mind and a lot of daily stress, we ended up going to the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic. We are finally beginning to see some progress! They did a comprehensive intake (on sleep habits, issues that affect sleep, how lack of sleep impacts daily functioning, etc.). We saw an MD initially, but then shifted to one of their psychologists when it became clear that her issues were related to her ''sleep habits'', hormone balance, and patterns rather than any physical issue like sleep apnea. They will tailor a sleep strategy designed to deal with your particular issue. It's not a one size fits all solution when it comes to finding sleep so I won't go into what strategies worked for her. The MD was the one who suggested the Insomnia Answer and their methodology is very similar. But having a professional help identify the issues and suggest solutions--especially after a long and fruitless search--has been wonderful! More progress in two months than in two years.

Finally, I think insomnia is common with new moms because you are in a hyper-vigilant state about your little one. Hard to relax when you're always on guard! So a final thought: can you switch roles with your partner so you feel like you have certain ''nights off'' from your self-imposed guard duty? I don't mean getting up, since your baby is sleeping, I mean ''letting go'' of the sense of responsibility that may be keeping you in a state of ''alert''. Just a thought! Sleeping Easier


Hi, I could have written your post. I never had insomnia or depression before I had kids, but after first, I experienced this but it subsided within a couple of months. For my second, it was way worse. I was not sleeping and I eventually was diagnosed with PPD. I, of course, did not believe it, so it took me an entire year to finally go to therapy and get on anti-anxiety meds. Both helped tremendously. I just thought depression meant you were sad and weepy. I wasn't. In fact, I felt like I was very rational--except at night and I couldn't sleep. I think it became a viscous cycle: the less I slept, the more anxious and difficult I got. I also started drinking. I was always a social drinker, but never like that. The second my husband came in the door, I'd open up the wine. So, I got therapy, got on Celexa and stopped drinking (almost totally). Big difference. I was on the Celexa for about 8 months and have been off now for years. I still suffer from occasional insomnia that is directly stress-related and now, if I feel stressed I take a Xanax on occasion. Again, I was one of those people who was never depressed or anxious but now, that's changed. I think it's a combination of having babies, the economy (job loss and house underwater and all that), recent illnesses in the family, etc. etc.

So, if I were you, I'd see a therapist and talk to your doctor about seeing if you can get on anti-anxiety meds for a temporary time. I hated the idea of doing it, but once I did, it was so life-changing. In fact, I miss taking celexa because I felt so great on it. I just experienced weight gain with it so had to stop it. (Not everyone has that side effect, however, and it was worth it to get back to normal). Good luck. anon


Valerian root helped me with your exact problem after my kids were born. It's very stinky. They say you can make a tea out of it, but I just poured the capsule in a glass of juice and downed it. It's not a sleeping pill, its a natural root and people have been using it forever. All it did for me was sort of empty my mind of worries so i could fall asleep. If my kids cried or needed something in the middle of the night I could easily wake up and then easily fall back asleep again. been there
Two other anti-depressants to try in low doses: Doxepin or Amitriplylin. Good luck. Anon
I really empathize. I have had insomnia since I was a kid, and after my 1st daughter was born it was awful. You don't mention how old your child is - I guess regardless he/she is sleeping through the night.

Some specific things that helped me were:

1) decreased stimulation as the evening set in; so after dinner I stopped talking on the phone, having visitors, even watching tv. I'd read a book and then get in bed (after getting the baby all ready, etc);

2) had a similar routine every night - as in #1 - and got into bed fairly early, no later than 10pm;

3) sometimes writing in a journal when awake and lying in bed really helped me, esp when I was particularly anxious, I'd just write it all down;

4) covering the clock so I couldn't see what time it was;

5) eliminating noise with earplugs and make it as dark as possible;

6) stopping ALL caffeine - even chocolate (I did this for 9 mo after my daughter was born but I think it was mostly psychological);

7) I took Valerian which helped; I didn't take it every night but it always helped. I worried about it impacting my breast milk but it all seemed to turn out OK; I hated the way Benadryl made me feel and it didn't usually work for me.

good luck. I have totally been there, it is so difficult! Oh and I also tried acupuncture, which I think helped (but also that could've been psychological too!) insomnomaniac


Boy do you I feel you. My friends and family have been *shocked* to see me dealing w/ insomnia... I've always been the sure sleeper in the crowd. It's been a long slog to get back to semi-normal. That said... since it DOES feel like it's steadily improved, I'll pass on some thoughts.

First, I assume that you've already tried all the sleep hygiene, exercise, going off caffeine, etc. etc. etc. You'll probably get a lot of people recommending that. In my case, I tried all that and was still in a world of yuck. I also tried cognitive therapy and found it marginally helpful, but not fundamentally so.

Also, assume your doc has checked your thyroid. If not, it's an easy test and could potentially help. Last, if you notice that it's cyclical with your periods (worst right around your period), it's possible that a birth-control pill could help stabilize your hormones, at least a little.

What HAS helped:

Do what you need to do to stop a bad insomnia bout from spawning secondary anxiety. As you know, once you're panicked about not sleeping, nothing will help (benadryl, etc.). I'm not sure I know anyone who wouldn't become psychotic after going several nights without sleep. These are the cases the meds are made for; be they anxiety meds or sleep meds or whatever. To prevent a spiral.

Unless your docs find some magic cause (mine didn't), time is probably the cure. So your only job is to survive until things return to normal with your sanity in tact and without becoming addicted to meds. I was pretty uptight about using med, so I was super cautious about what I'd take when. For example, I had an anxiety med that I'd take (half dose) on only the very worst nights. I also had a short-acting sleep med (sonata) that I could take on nights where it was clear I wasn't going to fall back to sleep but there was still enough hours left to care about.

If I took meds one night, I'd tough it out the next night. I'd seize on the times that things were going semi-decently to have a nice med-free streak. Or where I'd only use benadryl or whatever.

It's not glamorous or even very desirable. But in my case, I found that I had to let myself do what was needed to keep it together while time worked its (very slow) magic.

I still don't know what really caused my insomnia. I'm just glad that it seems to be waning, but it's taken 18 months to get here. Chris


Kid sleeps through the night, but I can't anymore

Jan 2010

My daughter did not truly start sleeping through the night until she was around one-and-a-half, and only started sleeping past the hour of 6am recently (she is now going on three). I have no idea if that makes me especially blessed or burdened - mostly I'm just grateful to have gotten to this stage. The problem is that these past few years of interrupted sleep and early wakings have wreaked havoc on my own sleeping patterns. I used to sleep soundly through the night. Now I wake up frequently, even though it's no longer from my daughter's crying. I never go into a deep sleep. It's like my radar is still on at the same acute level it was during that first year-and-a-half. And even though 7am once seemed brutally early to me, I now would consider it a luxury if I could just sleep in til that glorious hour along with my daughter.

I only sleep deeply when I take an over-the-counter sleeping pill (diphenhydramine HCL). I'm worried that I'm developing a dependency on the stuff, even though it's not supposed to be habit-forming. So I'm trying to wean myself off of it and am back to sleeping poorly. I've done a lot of reading about sleep disorders, but all the literature seems to be addressed to insomniacs: my problem is not falling asleep, but staying asleep. None of the literature seems to address the specific sleep issues faced by parents in the wake of prolonged sleep deprivation. I'd be grateful to hear about others' experiences and strategies for sleep re-normalization. Will I ever sleep through the night again?


I struggled with this after having both of my children. I could take prescription sleep aids and I'd still only get 4-5 hours of sleep, and it didn't feel like great sleep given it was induced.

I eventually got over it after about a year with my daughter, but there was no way I was doing that again when I had my son - I was just so tired! And obviously being tired affects everything you do - I was crabby, couldn't concentrate at work, too tired to work out/etc.

This time, I went the acupuncture route. And also cupping (that's where they use these glass cups on your back and it creates big pock marks - which are temporary). It was THE best thing to get me sleeping again, without drugs. The acupuncture helped, but not like the cupping. With acupuncture, I'd sleep well for a couple of nights, but then go back to restless sleep. After just one time with the cupping, I slept like a baby. Went back maybe a month later to do it again, and once more when I went through another period of sleeplessness, but that was it. I generally sleep GREAT now, rarely use the OTC drugs (I use unisom on rare occasion if I just know I'm too wired to sleep).

So just a suggestion to try the acupuncture/cupping route. Anything is better than taking drugs. My acupuncturist also did the cupping - I'm sure many of them do. Laura


You will! You will! I know I had this, i assume most of us do. I literally went 7 years without sleeping through the night even once. This was because of having child after child, but still. I'd be up for hours even after the last kiddo was in her own bed!! Know what i did? I started a 6 am exercise class! Eeewww, I hated it at first. But it served many rewards, the biggest being a break from the kids and more energy. But, also, I was crashing at 9 pm, and waking to the dreadful alarm at 5:30. In some ways not as nice as cuddling with a nurser, but in some ways REAL nice! Anyway, I suggest it, waking as early as needed to exercise HARD before your partner leaves (now I'm totally assuming you have the same life as I do! That's silly, but just adjust accordingly), key thing to wake early and work out hard, You're body will quickly adjust and knocking you out naturally! Good luck free at last
This is a subject near and dear to my heart! I too continued waking up very easily and having trouble falling back to sleep well after my baby was consistently sleeping through the night. I found Benadryl to be helpful but am also uncomfortable taking medicine consistently over such a long period of time. (It's been a year and some months for me.)

re: insomnia, I think there are different kinds. Falling asleep insomnia and staying asleep insomnia. *apparently* the most successful long-term way of treating both kinds w/out sleeping pills is cognitive therapy, which as far as I can tell is your basic sleep hygiene stuff (not staying in bed awake more than 1/2 hr, consistent bed time, not spending too much overall time in bed, etc). I tried a website where you fill out a chart every night (time to bed, time awake, time out of bed, etc.) and then get suggestions from a ''real person'' once a week. It was marginally helpful. http://www.cbtforinsomnia.com/

fwiw, in my case--surprisingly--the thing that has helped the most was going on the birth-control pill. I think my hormones had gotten thrown by childbirth/breastfeeding/weaning and having them regulated made sleep more stable. Sadly, the pill also made me hormonal, so we're still experimenting with the dose.

I know thyroid is often a culprit... It's a simple test, if you haven't done it already. (Mine was normal.) Don't know about you, but I just kept having the feeling that my nighttime ''idle'' was just running a bit fast.

That said, I still don't have this thing licked. I was hoping time would be the best help, but as more time passes, I wonder. I'll watch the replies you get with curiosity. Glad you wrote in with the Q! Chris


I had the exact same thing happen to me. try this book - it's what finally cured my insomnia - and I tried lots of different things. Say Good Night To Insomnia by Gregg D. Jacobs sleeping much better
Exercise, exercise, exercise!! If you are PHYSICALLY tired, you'll sleep. Also, drink a couple of glasses of water before bed. You'll wake up to pee around 1 a.m. and it is easier to get back to sleep then, and sleep the rest of the night, than it is if you wake to pee at 4.
This happened to me too. I think I was so used to being awake and awakened, I was always ''on.'' So when I woke up in the night and couldn't sleep, I would go sleep with my kids. Then I slept fine. After awhile, I could sleep through the night again. Zzzzz
First of all, I am so sorry- not sleeping is the worst and can really make you crazy. This happened to me too. I realized that I needed help when I would wake up everytime the neighbor turned on their kitchen light. I basically had to train myself to sleep again, and this included taking Ambien. I had to take it every night for about 3 1/2 weeks, then half the dose for another week or so, until I felt that I could slowly wean myself off. Your doctor will be able to prescribe a plan for you. I also had to go on the insomniac's diet- no caffeine after noon, no chocolate before bedtime (ie dessert,) and working out in the mornings, not evenings. It really helped, and it took about 3 months before I could really get to sleep on my own. Now I may take a sleeping pill once or twice every year- my prescription has expired. I do not have dependency issues, however, which if a problem for you would need to be more closely watched. Good Luck
I could have written your post EXACTLY!!! I have 2 kids, 27 months old and 8 months old, and they both sleep soundly almost all the time until 6:30 or 7 a.m. But my sleeping pattern became a total mess, especially during the early months of baby #1, and I thought it would never improve. I have tried a lot of things, including going to the UCSF Sleep Disorders clinic (nothing helpful come of that), going on a course of sleeping pills for a few weeks (helped in the moment, but didn't break the bad habits, as doctors had hoped), etc. etc. Ultimately, the only thing that seems to have helped is a combination of (1) getting regular exercise, (2) getting to bed ridiculously early, and (3) doing biofeedback. I was not very hopeful about the biofeedback because I don't generally buy into that sort of thing, but I have to say that it really really has helped tremendously. My sleeping patterns still aren't great, but it's SO much better. I am still a light sleeper, but instead of waking up around 25-30 times a night (no exaggeration), I now wake up probably 2-3. It is a HUGE improvement. The guy that helped was Robert Avenson. I don't have his contact info in front of me, but you can find him online easily. His office is in Albany on San Pablo. Ugh! I feel for you! Good luck!! Tamara

Not sleeping well since baby was born

May 2008

I have a great one-year old baby who's been sleeping beautifully past 3-4 months. Unfortunately, although I never had any sleep issues before I had her, I cannot seem to bounce back. The best I can do is to sleep 6 hours, then wake up for 15 min and go back to sleep. If something happens, like friend's Birthday party, and I go to bed late, I get 4 hours of sleep at night for days. I still use the monitor, but it's only to hear her when she's up for the day. I think I'm pretty good about not picking up her sleeping noises, and she's a fairly quiet sleeper anyways. Do you have any advice? tiered mom


Hi, I have always been a light sleeper but, after my daughter was born (over 5 years ago) I had great difficulty staying asleep. Since I had difficulty trying to breast feed, which exacerbated my post-partum depression, I went to see a psychiatrist who prescribed Ativan (anti-anxiety) for a few months, which worked great.

When I stopped taking it I was unable to sleep well and my doctor prescribed a series of sleeping pills for me. I sleep more soundly (but will still wake up to the sound of noise) and for longer periods and feel more rested and able to function. I've tried at least 8 different sleeping meds and combinations of prescriptions but Lunesta seems to have helped best. I would highly recommend seeing someone about your sleep problems and I'm happy to discuss things that I've tried if you'd like to email me. Good Luck! Jessica


There are many natural remedies, which you may have already tried, but if not, I'd say check them out. All of the following are over the counter and have been helpful for me: A good quality Calcium/Magnesium supplement before bed (I like the gel caps). 5HTP (300 mg) about 1/2 hour before bed. Also, there are herbal tinctures that work well for me (Passion Flower or Calif. Poppy) or an Herb Pharm remedy (Nerve Tonic...may have a new name). hope you find something that works well for you. happy sleeping.

Insomnia and panic attacks since my son was born

April 2008

Since my son was born, 3 months ago, I developed panic attacks at night (palpitation, shortness of breath, tense neck and stomach), resulting in severe and chronic insomnia.

First it was due to the fact that my son was waking up every 1-2 hours for feeding, and often wouldnt go to sleep in between, which made me tense as I laid in bed, alarmed at any sound he would make which ususally would end in a cry.. after 2 weeks of that I started dreading the night, knowing it would not bring on rest.

Now my son sleeps in a separate bed in a separate room with my husband, and he sleeps through the night.

I on the other hand am having problems falling asleep or staying asleep, many nights I only get 2-3 hours a night, which makes me desperate and beyond fatigued. I'm looking for support, insight, and words of encouragement. Thanks so much, Rufus


Hang in there. We had a similar sleeping arrangement for many months, with the baby and my hubbie in one room, me in the other. I had a horrible time falling asleep, dreading the baby waking up. I desperately wanted to co-sleep, but couldn't. I'm just a lousy sleeper. (After trying everything else we could think of, we did cry-it-out at about 6 months, and though it sucked, it has been the best thing we ever did for all of us.)

It will get better and you will sleep normally again. I invested in some good ear plugs that helped me sleep while I knew my husband was able to hear the baby. hang in there


I could have written your message about 2 years ago. At about 3 months my baby started sleeping more and I totally stopped. I was having anxiety about everything (and nothing). The anxiety led to insomnia which led to depression. It took me a while to realize it because I had never experienced depression before. I ended up going on meds for anxiety and depression. I did quit breastfeeding - not that I had to, but I had many other issues with breastfeeding. It took a few weeks to get the right dosage and was a few months until I felt ''normal'' again. I'm sure you will get advice that doesn't include meds, but it really worked for me. I'm now expecting again and feel good about the fact that the meds will help if I need them again. Good luck! anon
I experienced severe postpartum depression and anxiety, so I really feel for you. The good news is it's very treatable. I highly recommend calling Dr. Shoshana Bennett, a psychologist who is in San Ramon but will do phone sessions. She is a national expert on postpartum mood disorders, and a very effective therapist who helps you get better very quickly. I also went on medication, which helped a lot. I can recommend Dr. Monika Eisenbud in Berkeley as a very compassionate psychiatrist who specializes in postpartum issues, too. Dr. Bennett has written excellent books on the subject, which are also very practical and helpful. been there
This sounds very similar to my experience. I could not sleep after my first child was born, and was a wreck. Even with someone else caring for my baby so I could sleep, I couldn't sleep. Turns out this was a symptom of postpartum depression and I continued to spiral down for the first three months until I got help. Please go see your OB and ask about this! You should be able to sleep. anon
I'm sorry to hear about what you're going through. If it helps at all, and you don't already know, you're certainly not alone. As many as 1 in 4 women experience problems with their moods postpartum.

I understand that you're only looking for support and encouragement - and that might help some - but you might also consider talking to a professional. Left untreated, the symptoms of postpartum mood disorders often worsen. There are a number of "treatment" options, but the important thing is that your panic attacks CAN be treated effectively.

I suggest that you speak to a mental health provider who specializes in helping women with postpartum mood disorders. I would recommend speaking with Lee Safran, MFT. You can reach her at 510-496-6096. You might also consider attending one of the support groups at Perinatal Psychotherapy Services (http://www.perinatalpsychotherapy.com/). I wish you well.


I really feel for you. I had this type of situation when my son was about 4 mos old and it became very serious, very fast. It took about 3 mos for me to get reasonably on top of the situation, and another 3-4 for me to really have consistent good sleep. I advise you to seek professional help immediately. You arent being a great mom or spouse under these circumstances, and you can really get in trouble with this much anxiety/insomnia.

I ended up being referred to a psychiatrist, because I had to have some kind of medication to help, but I couldnt take most drugs because I was nursing. I saw her for about 6 mos and I took Xanax in very low doses for a while, then stopped. You likely have an anxiety disorder, and a doctor will probably recommend you consider antidepressants - a couple do not ''transfer'' to breastmilk. I wish that I had also been referred to a CBT specialist in sleep disorders - I hear these are even better for treatment (tho you may need drugs to help at first). I wanted to get into a sleep clinic, but the waiting list was months. I also found a few books very helpful - especially one written by a guy from the Mayo Clinic, and William Demant's book. There are many ''good sleep habits'' that will help a bit.

I really advise you to get on the phone and ask your OB for ideas and a referral, because you would be surprised how fast you can collapse if not sleeping with anxiety - a close friend of mine ended up being hospitalized! She had to stop breastfeeding, went on serious meds for a year. Thats what made me take action fast, and I'm glad I did. Feel free to contact me offline with questions. sw


Say Goodnight to insomnia by Gregg Jacobs is the best insomnia treatment I found (accupunctune didn't help me). I have needed to reread it when the insomnia reoccurs but it is the best treatment out there in my opinion. Particularily chapter 5 on the whole area of ''negative sleep thoughts''.
I'm really sorry about your insomnia, and also about your anxiety. Both are pretty normal for the post-partum phase as your whole being readjusts to nurturing your glorious baby. I wrote some suggestions to another Advice Wanted post, ''Difficulty to stay asleep at night'', so look there too. But some other advice: try to deal with your anxiety while you are awake. In the long run, that will help you while you sleep, too. And don't be afraid to ask for help--from your doctor, a therapist, even someone at the pharmacy who can direct you to soothing teas or other sleep aids.

I get the Andrew Weil news letter, and it just recently had a list of six ways to sleep better. Here they are:

   1. Establish a consistent bedtime routine, and try to go to
bed at the same time every night.
   2. Get plenty of exercise during the day. The more energy you
expend during the day, the sleepier you will feel at bedtime.
   3. Reduce or eliminate your intake of caffeine, stimulants and
alcohol. Even when consumed early in the day, these can affect sleep.
   4. Avoid large meals late in the evening.
   5. Learn and practice a relaxation technique regularly:
Breathing exercises, meditation and yoga are good examples.
   6. Don't obsess about not sleeping. Instead, remind yourself
that while sleeplessness is troublesome, it isn't life-threatening. 
sleeping better now
Oh you poor thing! I had the same insomnia-exactly. I thought it would correct itself the longer my new baby slept through the night. I waited til she was 5 months.I went to my Dr. and she put me on Ambien. I could fall asleep on it but I would wake up after 3 hours or so. Then I tried Ambien CR (controlled release), it's really expensive but totally worth the investment for your sanity. Also, they offer a free 7 day trial so you can try it first (ambiencr.com). Make an appointment now! It is even safe for breastfeeding. My life is so much better now. Good luck! jen
First of all, I am sorry you are going through this. I struggled with postpartum anxiety after my daughter was born 2.5 years ago and it was the hardest thing I had ever faced. I didn't sleep at all for 5 nights straight immediately following the birth of my daughter. It was terrifying and I had many of the symptoms you mentioned as well as tingling in my arms, legs and hands and a feeling of adrenaline pumping through my veins. After not sleeping for 5 nights and feeling desperate, my husband took me to the ER where I was prescribed Ativan. I was told not to breastfeed while taking it (and my milk never really came in because of the anxiety and lack of sleep) and I was really struggling to try to breastfeed but wasn't functioning so realized that I needed to use formula and take care of myself.

Fortunately, the Ativan worked for me and I started sleeping and went to see a psychiatrist (at Kaiser Oakland) the next day who was great and diagnosed me with postpartum anxiety and prescribed Celexa which is an anti-depressant and good for anxiety. Within a month my sleeping was back to normal, my symptoms were gone and I was functioning and caring for my daughter. It was a very scary time and without professional help I wouldn't have recovered so quickly--or at all.

You need to seek out a psychiatrist--one who specializes in women's/reproductive psychiatry would be ideal. There are meds that are safe for breastfeeding--both antidepressants and sleeping meds-- so don't let that be a reason not to seek help. Your baby needs a healthy, functioning Mama and you won't be if you do not get help.

You may also want to seek out a cognitive behavioral therapist who can help you with your anxiety/fears. CBT helps people to think differently and challenge their worry thoughts which leads to less anxiety/fear. It is best used in conjunction with anti-anxiety meds for moderate to severe cases. I am a social worker and have done alot of research on the topic of anxiety since struggling with it myself.

I wish you the best and hope that you get the help you need as soon as possible. You, your baby and partner deserve for you to be well. been there


My insomnia has gotten worse since my son was born

Oct 2007

Throughout my adult life, I have experienced occasional insomnia. But since my son was born, 15 mos ago, I have really struggled with it. I have had all types on insomnia: sleep onset, waking up in the middle of the night and early rising. I had pretty bad postpartum depression/anxiety was started on an anti-depressant. This did the trick for a while and I began to sleep better. After a couple of months though , the insomnia returned. It seems to cycle this way. I sleep great for six or eight weeks and then I sleep terribly again. During these times, I rely heavily on Ambien prescribed by my psychiatrist. It works great to put me to sleep but it also gives me bizarre and scary thoughts plus I get depressed after a night or two. I am looking for advice from insomniacs who have been able to overcome it. I feel I need a full nights sleep or I really cannot function. I have tried exercise, calicum, & behavior modification. I kicked my husband out of bed months ago (he even respinds to our kids at night!). I go to sleep at the same time every night. I have good sleep hygeine (sleep with a fan on, earplugs in). I do not drink or eat before bed. I had a check up and my thyroid was fine. I am looking for a permanent solution to this. I do not want to lay awake at night fretting about not sleeping anymore. I do not want to rely on drugs anymore. Does anyone have any suggestions?? I'll read, spend money, see specialists, stand on my head if I have to. I just want to be a normal sleeper again. Poor Sleeper Who Loves Sleep


I just wanted to sympathize and say I am in a similar boat. I, too, go through these cycles of insomnia. I'll be fine for 4-5 weeks, then bad for one. I do most of the ''right'' things as well: earplugs, dinner at 6:30, etc. Sometimes, when I get desperate and don't want to pop another pill, I just commit to lightening up on the food that night, e.g., eating a snacky small thing (if I'm not hungry that evening, of course). It's amazing how effectively the low energy puts you out. Anyway, the insomniac cycle I just chalk up to my age, which is late thirties. Occasional zombie
Hello: Firstly, I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on tv. I did however, spend some time last weekend with my friend who's getting married in 17 days and she had been taking melatonin (non-narcotic, over the counter supplement) to help her sleep. She was having difficulty sleeping because of wedding stress, and to prevent the bridezilla from emerging, it was imperative for her to get good sleep. She took it before to help with jet lag when she traveled to Europe and had no side effects, so she's taking it again to help with her insomnia. She doesn't take a whole pill, she takes about a quarter of a pill and that seems to do the trick for her. Please check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking this supplement even though it's non prescriptive. Good luck. maiski
I have similar sleep issues. Here is what helps me. Cut out all caffine - This can be hard I found that even a cup of coffee in the morning can affect how I sleep that night. I have also just learned that if I wake up in the middle of the night if I am awake for more than 5 minute I start to read rather than just laying there. If I lay there I will be there for hours and and still need to read to go back to sleep. So I just start reading right away and can usually go back to sleep within an hour. Good luck. anon
Gee I can relate. I've had insomnia all my life. When I was on anti-depressants a few years ago, I fell asleep every night. Unfortunately, the anti-depressants had too many side effects to justify continue taking them so I went off them and the insomnia returned.

I've learned to live with my insomnia by talking about what causes it in therapy. That helps sometimes. When it's late at night and I have unpleasant emotions by knowing what they are from therapy and doing some deep breathing, it's easier for me to fall asleep.

My best advice is not to stay in bed when you can't fall asleep. Get up and watch some tv or read until you feel sleepy even if it's five minutes before you have to get up. I have gone to work many times without sleeping at all. It's a miserable day but at least the following night I fall asleep pretty easily. One thing I've learned is not to take naps during the day when I can't sleep. That way I maintain a somewhat regular cycle. Knows what it's like


I feel your pain. I have struggled with insomnia on and off since childhood. I had a lot of trouble sleeping after my first child was born and fretted about it horribly. It sounds as though you are doing all of the right things (I assume eliminating caffeine too?). Have you considered contacting Stanford's sleep center? They are supposedly really great and comprehensive. Might be worth a try. I know that's not so helpful, but you do seem pretty on top of all of the regular interventions. I know for me, going to bed at the same time every night made a HUGE difference. Anyway good luck. Bad sleeper too

Now that baby is sleeping more, I'm not

Sept 2006

Has anyone had problems returning to a normal sleep schedule post- post-partum? It's 5 AM and I've been up since 3 for the third time this week -- it seems that now my daughter's sleeping for longer stretches, I am incapable of getting the good night's sleep I so desperately need. I wake up at the least little noise (mom-dar) and that's it. I'm awake. My brain isn't racing, I just can't fall back asleep. I get regular exercise (a 4 mile round-trip walk (half of it uphill), or a soccer game, or swimming), I don't drink caffeine, I don't eat preservatives because they make my girl gassy, I drink plenty of water. It seems that there might be a metabolic component -- I'm often overheated or hungry when I finally figure out how to fix the problem. This is making me crazy -- I'm either so tired that I'm a total zombie and don't feel safe doing things like driving, or worse, I'm tired enough to be really emotionally unstable. My poor husband. Any advice or understanding of the source of this insomnia? sleepy, grumpy, and dopey


I could have written your post when my boy was five months old, too! Perhaps it's part of the process, that after waking in order to take care of an infant, the body gets wired to be awake. And I know how frustrating it is to lie awake while everyone else is sleeping, and how dreadful it is to be so tired all the time. Yes, this too shall pass. It doesn't help much to hear that, but it's true. In a few months you will learn how to sleep longer and deeper. (tho, and I hate to say it, I have never slept as soundly after children as I did before children). For the time being, perhaps you could learn some yoga techniques or other relaxation techniques to practice when you wake. I also found help with homeopathy. And one big thing: try not to focus on the frustation of being awake! There's nothing worse for an insomniac! For me, that was the one sure-fire was to keep me awake. Perhaps you could try to reassure yourself, ''I am not sleeping now, but I will be soon.'' I still use that reassurance when I can't sleep, and it still helps. You are not sleeping well now, but you will be soon. better now.
Like the previous respondent, I hope that your sleep normalizes soon. That being said, in my case, it did not. Insomnia is NOT to be taken lightly. Yes, yoga can help. Herbs can help. In my case, they did not. In hindsight, I should have sought out help sooner. Yes, the fact that the baby was waking a ton helped the insomnia develop, but there were other factors. Not to jump to conclusions, but insomnia is a key symptom of postpartum depression and/or postpartum anxiety. Just be sure not to ignore that possibility. It never hurts to see a psychologist or psychiatrist just to take care of yourself. Good luck Recovering insomniac
I saw your message and just had to respond. For me, insomnia was the first sign of post-partum depression/anxiety after the births of each of my two children. After my first child, it hit when she was 4.5 months old, whereas after my second child, it hit at 3.5 months and was much more severe. Like you describe, I became unable to sleep after being woken, sensitive to the tiniest noise. It was as if I was shot through with adrenaline at the tiniest disturbance, including the phone, baby crying, just anything. Insomnia was horrible for me, by far the most disturbing symptom of what turned into generalized anxiety and depression. For me, I tried all kinds of yoga and walking and herbs and acupuncture, but nothing really worked until I started taking a low dose of anti-depressant. The first time around Paxil helped. It was nearly immediate, like a light-switch went on in my head. The next time around, unfortunately, Paxil made me worse and it took a while to find a drug that did the trick (I ended up with Remeron for the sleep/anxiety, plus a little Zoloft). I guess what I'm saying is that you should probably get checked out by a doctor, preferrably a psychiatrist, and if like me other things don't work to restore you to normal, try to be open to drugs. Otherwise it's hard to enjoy your baby, or anything else in your life. Yes, it might mean stopping nursing or worrying about your milk, but it's hard to say which is worse for a baby - a depressed anxious mother or formula/slightly drugged breast milk. Good luck, Formerly Sleepless In Berkeley

Sleep issues ever since my son was born

Feb 2004

Ever since my son was born almost three years ago I've had sleep issues -- anxiety, I think, about not being about to fall back to sleep, being exhausted the next day, etc (my son is a very early riser, and most days I'm up around 5:30 am). It takes me about an hour or more to get back to sleep when I'm awakened at night. Now that I'm expecting another baby I'm getting really worried. My son goes to preschool now so I can catch up on missed sleep during the day, but with a new baby I won't have this luxury. I tried to learn self-hypnosis for sleep a couple of years ago, but it didn't help enough. Now I'm wondering if anyone has a suggestion for some kind of relaxation tape I could listen to in the middle of the night, which would help me learn to fall back to sleep more easily. Perhaps something that I listen to a few times and then hopefully internalize. I'm just dreading how tired I'm going to be if I can't return to sleep easily after those every-three-hours nighttime feedings...Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Already Tired


I can relate to your sleep anxiety, as I have suffered terrible insomnia post-partum. My son's over a year old, and my sleep has improved a lot, but there is always anxiety, and some nights are really rough. Some years down the road, we'd like to have another baby, but my biggest fear is around the sleep, so I can imagine your worry. As for relaxation music/ sounds, I burned a couple of cd's from my acupuncturist. They are basically Chinese music with some mellowing elements (but not too new-agey). I won't say they are a panacea, but they have been really soothing. I use one of them all the time to help my son fall asleep. Let me know if you'd like more info on them or want to burn them! allison
I also had the same problem - I could fall asleep but could not stay asleep. Here are the things that really helped me:

1. Thinking about the last dream that I had. Or even a dream that I had a few days before. It put my mind back into that sleep state.

2. Counting backwards from 100 in 3's.

The anxiety about not sleeping really added to the insomnia. If you can find a way to give up on stressing on that issue, I'm sure it will help.

There is a very good web page called Talk About Sleep. They have many books and CDs on insomnia and relation tapes and I can often find information there that is different than the standards. ( A very std thing that helped me also was to get the clock out of the room or turn it around so you can't see it.) Hope this helps. Been There


Any certified clinical hypnotherapist can make tapes that are specifically for you. I recommend Dr. Francis Dreher. He is excellent. He is in Kensington at Colusa Circle. 528 3738. Sydney

Can't sleep since child was born

May 2002

Ever since the birth of my baby 13 months ago, I've experienced very poor sleep - I have insomnia, hold my breath during periods of the night, and wake up often (my daughter is sleeping through the night so she is not the source of the problem). I am looking for recommendations for treatment from people who have had success treating similar sleep disorders and now can sleep deeply and restfully. I am open to acupuncture, homeopathy - etc. Any recommendations would be appreciated! sleepless in berkeley


I highly recommend yoga to help with sleeplessness. I too have had my sleep disrupted on and off for almost two years by a wonderful daughter with recurring sleep issues, but I always sleep really deeply after a good yoga class. -- Ilana
Dear sleepless Mom: I have had acute insomnia and now chronic sleep problems for the last 3 years, since my 3.5 years old was 4 months old. Over the years, after trying about 50 different approaches to deal with my sleep disorder, it has improved to a manageable level (about 5-6 hours of sleep a night). I was even able to get a second child, and survived it! I feel that there is not one cause to my insomnia, nor is there one solution to the problem...In addition to sleeping pills that help me fall asleep on most nights, I have tried (or am trying) meditation, stress management, massages, accupuncture, homeopathy, and therapy...they all have contributed to incremental improvements, but none have proved to be a magic bullet (including the sleeping pills who often don't help either!). There are lots of good ressources in the East bay, some of which I have tried...
I had this problem when my son was younger, too. It was terrible! He finally started sleeing through the night, but the slightest noise would wake me up and I'd stay up. After many weeks of exhaustion, I found a few things that helped. Perhaps the greatest help was to rearrange the house, so that our bedroom was closer to the baby's bedroom. The physical proximity did wonders to relieve a sort of low- level anxiety that contributed to my sleeplessness. Being closer meant I wasn't constantly on alert, straining to hear what was happening in his room. We did not go for family bed, because we found that none of us--especially the baby--slept well that way. However other parents might recommend that you try it, and you might as well see if it helps.

Some other things that helped me were vigorous but relaxing exercise during the day (in other words, exercise that isn't just pushing the stroller), acupuncture, yoga and breathing exercises targeted to help with sleep, and occasionally using Hyland's brand homeopathic sleep aids, Calms Forte or Insomnia. The main thing that helped, however, was time. When my son was was around 15-16 months old, I realized I was sleeping better. I hope this helps. Sweet dreams. Carolyn


I had trouble sleeping for months after my baby began sleeping through the night. I found accupuncture helped for a few days following treatment. After months of sleeplessness my doctor finally recommended a short round of Paxil at a low dose. I was still nursing and so hesitant, but finally tried it as we began the weaning process and my sleep was restored. I stopped after 3 months and remained able to sleep well. Good luck
I had insomnia for about 1.5 years after my son was born. I woke up at the slightest sound and woke up every two to three hours and would take up to two hours to get back to sleep. I used to sleep like a rock before the birth but since, my body and mind were deteriorating. My stubborness about not taking made me suffer longer than necessary, I believe. My husband, who teaches medicine, studied the literature on insomnia for a talk he was giving at his hospital for Residents and Staff Physicians. He informed me that my insomnia was very dangerous and that continuation of insomnia for years could permanently damage my body in many ways according to the literature. I went to one of his talks on insomnia which convinced me that I had to quickly take action. I fear becoming dependent on any or masking my physical ailments with . He suggested I take Benedryl which has very little side effects for most people. A more ''natural'' od I heard of was to take Valerian tablets. I've recently have been studying herbal remedies and most of the books out there have the same or overlapping suggestions for a particular ailment. My sister said Benedryl made her feel ''out of it'' the next day. My insomina was remedied after about two months of taking benedryl and wearing ear plugs. I now only wear earplugs to sleep and need no medications. The literature says to stay on the healthy sleep pattern for several months before tapering off. Your body needs to set the new pattern. If I had to do it over again, I'd try the ear plugs first, then add the herbal remedies if that didn't work. Lastly, I'd try the benedryl and other prescription . But don't take too long to make a plan about insomnia; apparently there are some women who after childbirth never resolve insomnia and their body/mind become chronically ill. Best wishes for regaining your health and spirit. SJ
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