What Happens When You Cant Sleep Even When Baby Can

cbt

It all started so positively. Baby slept well at night from the start. As other mothers complained about their babies waking up every two hours, I thanked my lucky stars that I was still getting around
six hours of sleep a night. And then, after two months, everything went wrong. Not with the baby he had his blips, but overall things were looking good, the end of night feeds seemed just around the corner. No, the problem was with me – I couldnt sleep.

Trying to go back to sleep at 3am after a feed became impossible. I even started waking up at 1am and staying awake from then on, getting around two hours sleep a night or less, even when my husband took over the night feeds. After establishing that it wasnt postnatal depression, the GP dismissed it as sleep deprivation and said it was to be expected with a young baby. He prescribed me sleeping pills but I couldnt breastfeed on them so I only took them for a few days.

Despite it affecting around one in three people at some point in their lives, insomnia is a frequently misunderstood condition. It is not just about poor sleeping; its an anxiety disorder, where negative thoughts prevent us from sleeping even when there is a comfortable, quiet environment in which to do so. It can have a severe impact on our health, contributing to depression, diabetes and weight gain.

And with so much differing advice on how to raise our children these days, its hardly a surprise that what some mums have dubbed  – insomnia afflicting new
mothers – is on the rise.

Mumsomnia is increasingly prevalent, although parents-to-be are rarely warned about it. We are nervous of our cherubs every move. You can learn to be consciously aware even when unconscious, and that is what causes us to have sleep issues,”
Cognitive behavioural therapy can be used to treat insomnia and works by challenging our thinking patterns and trying to change our response to them. Would it work for me?.

I booked a course with  a CBT clinic in London. We
talk about my thinking patterns. In my case, the problem is that I cant stop thinking abou sleep itself. I am epileptic and although my condition is under control, sleep deprivation can trigger seizures, so I spend a lot of time worrying about how little sleep I might get, even when things are going well. A lot of it is about control. I spend nights thinking, If I can figure out a way to get to sleep right now, I will get ‘x amount of hours”. But if I dont fall asleep right away, my anxiety increases. I have to learn to relinquish control.

CBT offers several practical tools to help me – never looking at the time at night, for example, and a number of breathing exercises.
The therapist  adds that I should think of them simply as
relaxation exercises rather than an immediate fix, and eventually they start to help. It is all about disengaging from negative thoughts, which quite physically wake up your
system.

After just one session I find it easier to get back to sleep after waking up, and after four sessions, I am having just one bad night a fortnight, instead of several each week. Even the bad ones mean a couple of hours spent tossing and turning rather than being awake for most of the night.

For a while, ‘mumsomnia was robbing me of my sanity and ruining any enjoyment of my baby. CBT has given both back to me.

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