Chronic insomnia is the Worst. Thing. Ever.
Up until I became pregnant in 2012, I was a great sleeper. I could win sleep competitions if there was such a thing. Truly, part of my motivation for becoming a work-from-home writer and editor was so I could sleep as long as I wanted. I believe alarm clocks are evil and being abruptly awakened every day is unhealthy and leads to chronic stress.
Then I had a baby. Oh, boy (it was actually a girl).
During pregnancy, sleep became difficult but not terrible. Then my daughter was born, and I found myself in a whole new world of discomfort. Of course I expected the first few months to suck, but I was not prepared for chronic insomnia.
My daughter has been a great sleeper for nearly a year now - but I have not recovered quite as well. Nothing is worse than putting my child down for what I know will be 11 sound hours of deep sleep and then retreating to my bed only to toss and turn for hours.
There are only a few medications (herbal or pharmaceutical) that are available when you’re breastfeeding, so that has limited my options. And while I'm not yet sleeping “on my own," I've found a few things to help me get to sleep faster and fall back asleep if I wake up in the middle of the night.
- Stay away from electronics before bed: As a writer, it’s really easy to stay on the computer or phone all night long looking for stories to cover. But the blue lights in electronic devices do suppress melatonin production, which can make it difficult to drift off. I’ve noticed a significant benefit from staying away from devices and limiting my television time at least 3 hours before bed. Instead I cook, read, or do chores around the house. This also gets my brain active in a different way than the internet, which seems to help.
- Meditation: You don’t have to be a yogi or a monk to meditate. Even just a few minutes at night before bed seems to quiet my mind and help me relax and get ready to sleep. I do it right in my bed for just 5 minutes.
- Sleeping on flowers! This one is kind of crazy and came out of left field. I recently met the founder of Earth Wonderful, Rainer Wieland. He has created the most incredible sleep aid out of pure lavender flowers. It’s a small pad you put under your sheet. It is literally filled with hundreds of lavender flowers and the fragrance is incredible - like you’re sleeping in a lavender field. Lavender has naturally calming and soothing effects that can help you to fall asleep faster. Since using the pad, I’ve found that I sleep more soundly, have really vivid dreams and wake feeling much more rested than without it. You can find more about this incredible product here.
- Avoid evening workouts: This one kind of sucks, since it means scheduling my workouts during the early part of the day, but working out after dinner—even a yoga class—can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
- Herbs: Not only does chronic insomnia make it difficult to sleep, but it can also cause anxiety that can exacerbate the situation. I’ve experienced this on many nights: calm, tired and ready for bed until I crawl in and the “oh-no-I’ll-never-fall-asleep” chatter starts. Natural remedies such as herbs including valerian, passionflower, hops and lemon balm not only help me calm down before bed, but can also induce drowsiness and aid in sleeping.
Unfortunately, there are still some nights where the only thing that will work for me is a Benadryl. But these other methods for battling chronic insomnia have helped me get back to a somewhat normal sleep routine. Although, I hear that once you have a child, you never really sleep the same again. But being a mom is totally a dream come true, even if it's a half-awake sleep-deprived dream.
Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger
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