Sleeping

Lying in the bed in the middle of the night knowing I have to sleep but not being able to. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as that.

Everyone knows that sleep is very important for your health but it’s one of those things that you don’t really think about. Oh yeah, yeah, I have to sleep. But it doesn’t become a priority until you start to consciously realize how little sleep you’re actually getting.

When you’re pregnant people tell you to sleep now while you can, once the baby gets here you won’t sleep again. With my first child I slept a lot more once he was born than I did when I was pregnant. For the last part of my pregnancy I was waking up at least once an hour and I was so uncomfortable. Once he was born, he slept for about three hours at a time, so I was really lucky and got some quality sleep.

My husband and I talked about sleep before our second child was born. We knew we probably wouldn’t get as lucky with this child. We didn’t want to assume we would have two good sleepers on our hands. Our second child isn’t a bad sleeper but he’s not as good as our first was. So, we are waking up quite often through the night with our second.

At first, my husband was giving a bottle and I was pumping milk at the same time. Because breastfeeding a newborn is such a challenge for me, we chose to bottle feed our children at night. I produced more than enough milk to make this possible an it was convenient because it meant I could get some more sleep through the night. It felt a lot more difficult with the second child than it did with the first child. I now realize that because I was struggling mentally and the lack of sleep made it even worse.

Now our second child is about 12 weeks old. he seems to wake up every three hours at night. I know this is pretty good but I can’t help comparing him to our first child who was sleeping for eight hours at a time by this point. Every time I compare them I feel guilty because I know every child is different.

I don’t pump milk at night anymore, so I get the chance to sleep from about 10:30 till four or five before it’s my turn to feed him. That should be a good chunk of sleep, but the problem is I often can’t get to sleep, or I constantly wake up during that time. It makes everything so much harder to deal with.

Even without dealing with depression and anxiety not getting enough sleep makes me irritable.  I’m sure it’s the same for most people. I struggle to wake up in the mornings. I often have to force my eyes open and roll out of bed.

Why is sleep so important?

There are lots of reasons to get more sleep but the one I’m most interested in is the link between lack of sleep and mood disorders like depression.

According to my Fitbit I’m getting between five and nine hours per night and my average is six hours. But, even on the nights that I get nine hours I don’t feel very rested. the quality of my sleep isn’t there. I have always been okay if I get a few hours of good quality sleep but I’m not getting good quality sleep.

The lack of quality sleep seems to be common among people with postpartum depression. There’s even some suggestion that babies whose mothers have postpartum depression will have more disrupted sleep patterns as well. This could explain why my second child does not sleep as well as my first child did but who knows? These kinds of studies can be inaccurate because there are so many variables to consider. But it gives me something to think about.

I’m currently transitioning my 12-week-old into my three-year-old’s room. The baby has outgrown his bassinet, so we don’t have much of a choice at this stage. I’m interested to see if him sleeping in a different room than I am whether he will start to sleep better (spoiler alert: there is no difference in his sleep). I’ve noticed that often I will wake up and he will wake up a few minutes after I’ve woken. I wonder if this will continue when we’re separated by a wall (spoiler alert: it does but less often).

There definitely seems to be a relationship between poor sleep quality and depression but studies are still unclear as to exactly what that relationship is. Insomnia and other sleep issues were originally thought to be a symptom of depression, but it seems to the relationship maybe more complicated than that. Insomnia may contribute to someone developing depression.

We know that getting better sleep makes us feel better. I suppose that’s enough for now, although I’d love to know exactly why.

How do you sleep when you have a new baby?

When I had my consultation with a psychiatrist to diagnose me with postpartum depression, she listed some things I could do to help. One of those things was sleep but she just skipped that point because why put pressure on yourself to do something that’s very difficult with a newborn? Whether you have postpartum depression or not, most of the time people with newborns do not get good sleep. If you’re lucky your child will start sleeping better after a few months but many parents I know have children who still struggle to sleep even after a few years. This is something that’s mostly beyond our control. You can’t force someone to sleep, at least not in a way that’s safe.

There are things that you can do to help your quality of sleep. For me I know that I sleep better if I follow an exact routine at bedtime.

  1. Shower
  2. Moisturize
  3. Brush my teeth
  4. Take out my contact lenses
  5. Write in my Journal

Generally, if I do these things in that order I’ll feel more ready for sleep. That doesn’t mean I’ll fall asleep easily though. I also use white noise and have a fan on me at night. It’s a lot of effort to for me to try and get a good quality sleep. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a great relationship with sleep in my life before this point either, so I don’t know if that contributed to me getting postpartum depression. But, I feel that it’s never too late to improve things in your life and if I take this as a chance to improve, things will get better.

4 thoughts on “Sleeping

  1. So well spoken Mary and I so agree with you about how sleep affects our whole being and it certainly doesn’t help with depression.
    I also think sleep deprivation can lead to depression.
    I really hope that it’s helpful for you to be able to write about how you are going.
    Love you darling 💜💛

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  2. My love across the 🌎 to you dear Mary. You are so loved by so many. How wise of you to write of your oh-so-difficult experience.

    You are a problem-solver by nature Mary – and when PND hits hard that ability seems to melt away – this is especially challenging for high achievers such as yourself.

    You have instinctively reached out to help others – and this is so noble and kind of you. Pandemic isolation has impacted so many who are vulnerable, and I am so sure you share your pain with so many new Mums. I recall when I was pregnant that the state of the world or other children was overwhelmingly worrisome to me. I think hormones influence this far reaching care thinking – it is a protective survival instinct that kicks in. Have faith that in time these changing levels will slowly settle – be kind to yourself – it is a physical response though it now feels so confusing.

    They say depression is best addressed by accepting the sadness and not so much wishing it gone but slowly embracing – someone to love (you are so blessed in this way), something to do (your blog is such a great idea), something to look forward to (there WILL be a bright sunny day, where you will hear the birds truly again, where you will sit in a beautiful space and sigh “ah, there it is, joy!”).

    Meanwhile – keep writing from your heart my love. ❤️

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  3. So lovely to read Mary. I work with your mum and we often have these interesting conversations, I’m happy to hear you openly sharing your experiences and what helps and doesn’t help. As of recent I have asked myself some of these same things. We have four children and our fourth who is 5 still can wake multiple times a night. It ways heavy on a marriage, on quality sleep and even just hard on your body to adjust to bed shuffling. I suffer terribly with wry neck so changing to and from beds sometimes leaves me in a lot of physical pain. It’s mentally challenging when you know what the next day has to bring as a mother and all you want is just quality sleep but know it’s not going to come. I have been asking myself lately is my mood effecting my sleep or is my sleep effecting my mood. The two I know are so highly correlated. I try hard to have good sleep hygiene like you. I have found mediation very helpful in calming my mind. Letting go of the day and my worries and being present in my body so that it can prepare for rest. It is imperative to maintain and prioritise your health and sleep. Although we are far apart and it can be a struggle know that mothers like myself are holding your hand with our energy. xx Jade

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