When I reflect on the postpartum/newborn days after bringing home my first baby from the hospital, I often only recall lots of snuggly nursing sessions, those tiny baby coos, and of course, the lack of sleep. One thing I tend to suppress is hormone-induced anxiety. But sometimes it pops up, and I remember bits and pieces of the paralyzing worries and sleep anxiety I had that first week at home in little lightning strike style flashbacks.
One memory that jumps out was this illogical fear that I would fall down the stairs while carrying the baby and that it would seriously injure or even kill him. It terrified me so much that I would insist on my husband “spotting” me whenever I carried the baby down in the morning. I wouldn’t go back up the stairs until he came home at night. Reflecting on that now, I think it was a mix of baby blues, hormones, and good old fashioned first-time mom fears. But even as a veteran mama, I still sometimes experience anxiousness and worries. However, now they are sans postpartum hormones, so they are much more logical and sensible stresses.
One thing I noticed that was becoming a trend was that my anxiety generally was making its appearance at night. When the house was quiet, my brain got loud, and the racing thoughts were consuming me. I talked to my doctor, and we decided that because these episodes were concentrated to bedtime only, that a sleep aid could be beneficial. I do not do well on these types of medications, so I declined and began researching natural ways to cope with my sleep anxiety and mama worries. After weeks of trial and error, some restless nights, and ALL of the coffee… I developed a strategy that began working for me. And the angel choir sang, it rained rose petals, and there were champagne fountains! I was sincerely so grateful to get some peaceful rest finally! Ha!
I’m no sleep therapist or anxiety expert. If you feel that you may be suffering from more than the average mama worries or are experiencing panic attacks or depression, I encourage you to seek counsel with your doctor to discuss your specific concerns. There are so many helpful medications that aid in putting anxiety and panic disorders to bed (pun intended) that a conversation with your doctor is a great place to start. For those who feel they may benefit from a more natural approach to sleep anxiety, it’s my sincere hope that you find the following suggestions helpful.
1. Assess Your Bedroom
Is it cool enough? Dark enough? Quiet enough? Is the bed comfortable? Is your room a mess? Your bedroom should be a sacred place. Keep it tidy, cozy, and conducive to sleep. If your room is a mess, it’s going to add to the ever-growing to-do list running through your mind. So assessing the bedroom is the perfect place to start achieving anxiety-free sleep.
2. Sleep Sounds
Everyone has their preferences, but for me sleeping in complete silence does not work. I have a lot of trouble trying to quiet my mind and center my thoughts on my own, and this is when the worries creep in and take over. Before I know it, I check the clock, and it’s 2 am. I haven’t slept a wink because I’m thinking about my agenda, trying to remember what questions to ask at tomorrow’s pediatrician appointment, and wondering if I locked my car. Seriously, I could go all night like this, so I have to have something playing to focus on.
I have tried sound machines and several audio meditations and have since found my absolute favorite. Michael Sealy’s guided meditation for detachment from overthinking works like a charm, and it’s completely free! I put on my headphones and eye mask, get comfortable, and press play. I’m usually out within minutes.
This is a great way to involve your partner and to get more centered and connected to your body while detaching from your worrying thoughts. Touch is excellent therapy, and can be the best way to loosen up those muscles from carrying kids all day! Trust me on this, ask your partner or husband for a massage at the end of a long day… I can almost promise they’ll happily oblige!
Just remember, that mom-ing ain’t easy! I try to give myself a lot of grace at the end of every day. I pat myself on the back for my victories, and I release my mistakes. Tomorrow is truly a new day. Ultimately, we are all doing the best we can to navigate motherhood. Losing sleep due to anxiety or worrying doesn’t do any of us any favors. So deep breaths, mama; we got this.