UP ALL NIGHT: Mama Insomnia Debunked

Sleep trained your baby, and finding yourself slightly jealous of his epic sleep habits? Waking up tired AF, hitting a massive wall at 5pm, and staying up way past your bedtime? Putting your lil’ ones to bed with grand plans of following in their footsteps, only to be up ’til the wee hours of the morning, over-thinking life altering scenarios that will probably never occur, scrolling IG accounts in Australia, or reading up on insomnia while sobbing in the bathroom?

Welcome to my life.

I’ve never really been a deep sleeper (unlike the guy next to me in bed who can legitimately sleep through a nuclear war), but after I had the child, it was one big slippery slope headed downhill…. and fast.

As everyone knows, sleep deprivation is synonymous with a newborn, and is probably the hardest adjustment a new parent faces. What happens, though, after baby starts winning at the sleep cycle game and you’re failing to follow suit?  

Listen, I’ve done my due diligence in sleep training, and although my son usually clocks in a good 11 hours a night, I max out at about 5 uninterrupted hours or spurts of 2 hours at a time. Taking forever to fall asleep and frequently waking have become my biggest battles to date and something I often consider a personal curse. Plus, at least once a month, I have a few days of complete insomnia. Read: Zero sleep.

Add to this that I am a brutal napper. The only time I ever nap in the day is by accident (ie: on the play mat for 15 seconds) or on a car/plane ride out of sheer exhaustion.  When I do actually get the opportunity to rest at home, it’s just too much pressure and it makes me anxious; therefore having the opposite effect.

I have tried it ALL – sleepy tea, sleep sprays, melatonin, magnesium, calcium, Tylenol PM, NyQuil, Benadryl, yoga, meditation, book reading, baths, no screen time, extra red wine, marijuana (shhh), sex (that only works for men)… you NAME it, I’ve tried it. Including that one time I put a sachet of dried lavender under my pillow only to have it stolen and ripped apart by my cat – Fail. Although sometimes these things may work, those times are few and far between.

So what gives?! What’s a girl to do? Is it hormones? A side effect of motherhood? Will I ever sleep like a man – seriously, why do women get shafted? Will I ever get 8 FULL uninterrupted hours? CAN SOMEONE COME SLEEP TRAIN ME?!!!

I decided to put my sleepless nights to good use and do some research, because like most women, I need to know the reason behind everything.  And because I know I am not alone, here’s what I’ve come up with to help YOU to understand why the fuck you’re up all night. (I’ve also discovered some supposed remedies that might actually give you a shot at catching those illusive Zzz’s.) *Disclaimer: Please keep in mind, I am in no way a trained medical professional and this is merely a compilation of info I’ve found and/or conjured up myself, so if you think you may be suffering from a serious sleep disorder, you’re better off going to see someone who specializes in that field and not someone who thinks a cocktail of Benadryl and Chianti may work.

Vigue USVogue US, 2005

Hormones:  Yes, sleep deprivation affects hormone levels, and hormonal changes (pregnancy, menstrual cycles) wreak havoc on sleep. This is just a bullshit cycle that will repeat itself over and over and over until …..you’re a man. Damn you, estrogen. That seems to be one of the main reasons as to WHY women get the shit end of the stick; the kicker being that countless studies show we, in fact, need more sleep then men. 

Pregnancy: Well that’s a no-brainer. Your hormones are out of whack, you have to pee every 15 minutes, you’re uncomfortable in basically every position, every part of your body is tender and your unborn child throws raging parties in your belly the moment you hit the sack. The only tip here: Ride it out. It’ll be over soon, and you’ll be sleep deprived in a whole new way.

Menstrual Cycle: Turns out there’s something called Premenstrual Syndrome, and I’m almost positive I have it. Basically, it is a disruption in sleep every 28 days or so, along with all the other crap you feel when your period is coming on. Again, those damn hormones. One solution? Birth control, as it can regulate that PMS drama, but it may also turn you into a crazy bitch. Approach with caution and choose wisely. (I speak from experience, because I am sure my husband was THIS CLOSE to leaving me when I was on them).

Postpartum Insomnia: Apparently it’s common, not necessarily linked to postpartum depression, but may lead to it in some cases.  It can impact moms on edge and unable to relax, worrying they won’t hear the cries of their little ones – even if babes are sleeping soundly. This is also exacerbated by waking at every little peep babies make (they do make a lot of fucking peeps when they sleep). My tip: Buy a monitor, keep the screen off and sound on, and stick some light earplugs in your ears – if they wail you’ll hear it, if they squeak you won’t even notice.

Over Active Brain: Ah welcome to the burden of the lady brain. It is suggested that because women tend to be more in tune with their feelings and generally more sensitive, it inevitably has us contemplating and worrying over situations a lot more then our male counterparts. What I find works for me is taking those obsessive thoughts and directing them onto a different, slightly lighter focus – Like mentally planning out my birthday party (outfit included) and imagining the guests arrive… *Cue drowsiness*

Free Time: FINALLY. After an entire day of running more errands than Wintour’s assistant, you put baby to bed and settle on the couch to rest. Except you don’t because you’re SO damn excited about this abundance of uninterrupted time, that you use it to be the woman you wish you had time to be during the day.  You blog (currently), wash your hair, pin your favourite home décor ideas, and clip your damn toenails. This is all good, so long as you make sleep a priority. My suggestion: Set a cap time for everything. Mine is 10:30pm.  I stop everything I’m doing and get into bed to, at least, give my body a fighting chance at relaxing.

tumblr_mxm1glHGil1rrnekqo1_1280.jpgKate Moss, Vogue Italia, 1995

Some other things you can try (worth a shot):

 – Lower your overall caffeine intake (SORRY). It’s recommended to attempt the impossible and have ONE – I repeat –ONE coffee a day, preferably before noon so the caffeine has time to escape your body by bedtime.

– Don’t exercise an hour or two before bed. If you want to be a total keener, don’t exercise at all. #YOLO I will add here, that many say exercise HELPS with overall quality of sleep, but I’m guessing they mean earlier in the day because no one needs that kind of adrenaline at night. Unless you’re on Broadway or something.

– Turn off ALL screens at least an hour before bed. We already know this from countless articles, and as much as your thumbs may be twitching to check IG one last time, it may be worth the FOMO to get some rest. I leave my laptop and phone charging in another room so that blinking red light doesn’t torment me. 

– Just like you did for your babe, try creating a bedtime routine for YOU. This will take some commitment, because most days you’ll be too damn lazy for follow through, but – again, might as well take a stab at it. Run a bath, drink some tea (or warm milk with honey), read a book and try to keep the same bedtime, and wake time. 

– I’ve recently been told about the magical powers of Turmeric, which I can barely wait to try. In powder form, capsule form, or prepared as a tea, this natural ingredient has been said to greatly improve sleep for those with insomnia and sleeping disorders. If you really want to induce sleep, TRY THIS RECIPE before bed. (via David Wolfe).

– Help your brain shut down peacefully every night by removing all the ramblings from your day. I find a really good book can totally have the ability to transport you from mom brain to another planet and may just do the trick. Go for the good-old-fashioned paper kind so you’re not straining your eyes with a bright screen. Dunno what you want to read? I always just scan the Must Read Sections in magazines. IE: www.vogue.com/culture/books

– I’ve read that noise machines & apps work for some, but I personally find them irritating. I’m including this though, because if it aids in getting you some sleep then you have my blessing!  A friend once recommended an app called CALM and although it didn’t help me sleep, it worked great in helping me wind down. It’s based around deep breathing and meditation, so it likely may help some of you pass the F out.

– Put your partner in charge of standing guard at night, so you can rest easy knowing if the baby cries, SOMEONE ELSE will hear it. I make sure to place the monitor righhhhht on baby daddy’s nightstand, close to his ear. Speaking of partners, if yours is snoring up a storm, just get the hell out. You’d be surprised how well your own sleep sanctuary may work, even if it’s just the couch downstairs. *If you happen to have a guest room, EU-EFFEN-REKA, my friend. Use it.

– Some sleep aids I’ve tried and still go back to include Bach Rescue Remedy Sleep Spray (All Natural) and Melatonin 10mg. There are also tons of other over the counter sleep aids like Nytol, Simply Sleep and a slew of others that the internet will find for you: http://www.nosleeplessnights.com/best-over-the-counter-sleep-aids/ (Just be aware these aren’t exactly kosher for breast feeding mamas).

– Who knew my mom wasn’t lying when she said bananas help you sleep?!  According to Dr Oz (I’ll take it) there are a bunch of foods that will help with more restful nights. Might as well throw them in as an evening snack (especially since popcorn made the list). http://www.doctoroz.com/article/foods-help-you-snooze

– GO SHOPPING. Yes, you can use this dilemma to justify some light weight PJ’s and pricey linen sheets as they’re said to make for more of a comfortable sleep when you’re bundled in things that take moisture away from your skin. (Do yourself a favour and check out these guys – literal dreams coming true: www.inbedstore.com)

– Keep your room temperature comfortable; i.e. slightly on the cool side. The magic number here seems to be 19 degrees celsius. There is, apparently, a direct relationship between body temperature and insomnia because during the course of the day your body temperature rises and falls. If your room is too hot, it may interfere with that natural dip and make you restless. 

So, now that you understand and know that there’s really only so much you can do without overdosing and sleeping forever, try your best to approach sleep in a positive and calm way (stressing about not sleeping really only makes it worse) all whilst sticking to some form of a bedtime routine and rotating those sleep aids like a DJ Easy-Z, and hopefully there will be some sleep in your future. 

If not, message me – I’ll be up.

Side Note: If you have any magical tactics that worked for you, feel free to drop them in the comment box because I’m willing to try it all and we really need to share the wealth of information here ladies.

Also, how great is this journal?!! Complete with thought provoking quotes from fellow night owls… could work in a therapeutic way?! (Get it on www.amazon.ca)

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On that note, night night Rebels.

xx A

Connect @aleksjassem on Twitter & Instagram

Cover Photo via Vogue Paris


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Jess_D_B says:

    Ok – I know that screen time before bed affects your ability to fall asleep, but during my sleepless nights, the ONLY thing that I have found to help me is ASMR videos on youtube. I throw on some headphones, turn on one of my favourite videos (usually by ‘GentleWhispering’), and BAM – I’m out like a light in about 5 minutes. It also helps keep my brain from racing along like it does when I’m trying to force myself to sleep. I zone out. I know it seems like a strange phenomenon to most people, but ASMR videos help a lot of people with sleep issues. Try it!

  2. Aleksandra says:

    Thank you for the suggestion!!! Will definitely add it to the bag of tricks 🙂

  3. Pauliina says:

    I tackled my sleeping problems with homeopathy. The combination remedy that I use is ordered from Germany but I found that Hyland’s Calms Forte to be the same. I wish that you will get some help, insomnia is pure hell.

    1. Aleksandra says:

      Hi Pauliina – sorry for the late reply, and thank you for your suggestion! I recently found acupuncture to work!
      x A

  4. Danielle says:

    Loved reading your real and honest story. I’m a mother to 2 children less than a year a part and have had insomnia for a little over a year now. I’ve tried everything you could think of and most products would work for 2 weeks and that’s it. I feel your struggle every night. I usually fall asleep until after midnight, but that’s with taking a sleep medication. It has been a big stressor in my life,affecting my relationships with family, friends. I also try so hard to keep my children sheltered from it but I know that once they get older, they will begin to see that I’m struggling and don’t have enough energy for them. It terrifies me. I also can’t plan anything anymore. Every activity I do with my children is based on how well I slept the night before.

    1. Aleksandra says:

      Hi Danielle! Ugh… the struggle is real!! What has recently helped me since then, is acupuncture and Chinese herbs. I go 1-2 times a week and have been able to fall asleep without any meds and a lot faster than before, along with fewer wake ups in the night. Will be writing more on this later… .but definitely worth a shot!
      x A

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