Sleep Deprivation and Postpartum Stress Disorders

Contributing Blog Post by Brenna Hutton, RN, BSN

You’re a new parent filled with the wonder, awe, and nostalgia of having a tiny human of your very own. Your world has flipped upside down, and suddenly revolves around this new little life. You know you would do anything for them!

But between feeding every three hours, rocking them to sleep, and the incessant crying during the night, you enter into a new reality. That of sleeplessness. Getting four to five hours of sleep every night becomes the new norm, and your coffee bill goes up without consideration.

With sleep going out the window, so does your routine. You can no longer wake up at 7am, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and peacefully have a moment of zen. Instead you are awakened at 4 or 5am by this tiny, beautiful human who has no idea what a “morning voice” is.

When quality sleep and a routine are chucked out of your reality, chaos naturally ensues. Some mask this chaos by donning the hat of flexibility, and somehow navigate the early years of parenthood with superhuman grace. But those of us without superhuman ability, may find ourselves experiencing stress at a level never previously experienced.

What does your stress look like?

You might be experiencing symptoms you never have before. Suddenly you find yourself listless and depressed all the time. The world feels weighty and even the smallest task feels enormous and impossible to accomplish.

Maybe your mental health feels more fragile than ever before. You snap out at your spouse when you really don’t mean too, or get impatient in the check out line over the smallest thing. Life feels dark and ominous more than sunny and uplifting, and you feel torn by this. You have a new baby that you love more than life itself, so shouldn’t life be exciting and full of wonder?

Let me pull up a chair and take your hand.

My friend, these feelings are normal, and it doesn’t mean you are a failure. It doesn’t mean you are a bad human, or a bad parent. It simply means that your body is going through a lot of new changes and stressors all at once. Your reserves are depleted, and your body is crying out for help.

We are all different, and we will all react to stress differently. For some this postpartum stress will be in the form of postpartum depression. For others, their pregnancy may have been unplanned or the birth experience was traumatic, and they might experience postpartum PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

For some, a tendency towards anxiety might turn into constant anxiety postpartum. This can feel incapacitating when even a drive to the grocery store feels like too much to handle.

Whichever boat you’re in, you are not alone, and there’s nothing wrong with you.

As a new parent your focus is on caring for your newborn, but you can’t forget to care for yourself. The importance of self care is preached a lot in our culture, but there cannot be a more important time for it than in the postpartum months.

Self care is necessary, and it’s not cliche. It probably feels overwhelming to know where to start, or who to got to for help, so here are a few ideas for you to start with.

  • Never hesitate to ask for help. If you feel unstable inside and especially vulnerable, call someone you trust to reach out to and talk with. Visit the resources page on this website to find some hotlines you can call as well.
  • Ask a family member or friend to help watch your baby, even if its one hour a week. This can give you time to take a relaxing bath, run an errand, or take a nap.
  • Take advantage of the time your baby sleeps during the day, and take a nap then too. Your nighttime sleep is often interrupted, so snagging an extra few hours during the day can help you catch up.
  • Find the sleep routine that works best for your baby. Every baby is different, and what works for your friend’s baby might not work for your baby. Don’t hesitate to try something new.

While many things can contribute to postpartum stress disorders, it’s kind of a given that lack of sleep is often a huge culprit. To most parents it often feels impossible to get adequate sleep. And to top things off, this can make you so wired and exhausted that you can’t even fall asleep at the end of the day.

Each of us has different contributing factors making our situation difficult, but we can all agree that having support in our lives can make all the difference. Whether this is our own mother or a best friend, having someone there to have our back at our low points can really turn over a bad day.

But some of you might be struggling to find that support. You’re trying your very best to develop a good routine for your baby and get enough rest for yourself, but it just isn’t working. Exhaustion piles up on more exhaustion. You feel alone and disheartened. I just want to let you know that there are resources available for you.

If you feel like the sleep routine of your newborn or child is the biggest culprit to your exhaustion and stress, New Family Sleep Solutions can step in and be just the support system you need. The variety of sleep programs offered can meet the needs of your unique situation. Jaime has the experience and qualifications to step in and fill the gap for you.

Whatever your struggle is currently, we’re cheering you on in this new adventure of parenthood!

Brenna Hutton is a registered nurse and healthcare writer, specializing in women’s health, lifestyle and nutrition, and mental health. Her passion is to educate and empower women through all the seasons of life.

Follow along with Brenna and her journey in empowering women at www.brennahutton.com

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