Knock on wood…I’m sleeping again. Extra knock!!! If you know me, or have followed this blog, you probably know that my daughter was up 2-3 times a night routinely until about age two. (Hint – If you have a child that slept through the night before 18 months, make us all feel better and lie about it!)
Then magically one night with no special night light, stuffed animal, bedtime routine, lullaby, nighttime snack, essential oil…NOTHING DIFFERENT…she just slept and has for close to a year. (Naps are another story for another day).
Once my little one was sleeping soundly, you’d think I would have too. Wrong! Now I was the one taking an hour to fall asleep, waking up several times a night unable to fall asleep again, and getting up before the sunrise.
Turns out there is such as thing as postnatal insomnia and it’s often linked with postpartum depression, something I’m sure I suffered from as well during the worst of my sleep deprived months. But it did get better. My body finally relaxed a little when it realized I wouldn’t be woken from a deep sleep every few hours by my daughter’s cries. And, once I slept at little again, I regained (MOST OF) my sanity, my health, my motivation, my mojo…and everything was a OK. Until I stopped sleeping again several months later.
For the record, I will never pay back the sleep debt I mounted. Having a kid ages you. Not the pregnancy and act of giving birth – the sleep deprivation afterwards. I’ve got the dead brain cells and wrinkles to prove it too.
So just before Christmas, about 6 months after Maddie started sleeping like an adult, I was sleeping like a baby (the real ones, not the fake ones you read about in fairy tales, real ones don’t sleep), and this time I couldn’t blame her. She slept a blissful 11-12 hours straight each night. But quality shuteye for me became…well…a dream.
I was able to endure it for awhile. Hell, I’d survived on as little as four hours a night for months on end before. But after several months, it took its toll. I was constantly sick, grumpy, and lethargic. I lay staring at the ceiling every night and early morning, feeling more and more agitated and worried about how I would get through the next day. My mood, my work, my health, and my relationships suffered. I wan’t enjoying much of anything, I was just surviving.
So how did I get back on track (again knock, knock). I’m not going to give you the laundry list of things you can find elsewhere on the internet. But do look up insomnia, delayed sleep phase disorder, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome…etc…to see what may be causing your symptoms.
Here is what worked for me. I will start off saying that I already limited caffeine, alcohol, sugar, dairy, and gluten – all things that can impact sleep.
Detoxing my brain – I was recommended a book called One Spirit Medicine by a trusted health guru Jane Gee. Love her!! Check out her awesome store and products! It’s written by a medical anthropologist who faced with his own mortality, devised a way to heal his mind and body through diet, supplements, and shamanic healing practices. Now I’m pretty hippy-dippy I guess some would say, but the shaman stuff was a bit over my head. I did however stick with the diet and supplement portion of his protocol and I think it made a big difference. I did it two separate weeks. I experienced a healing crisis of sorts, with lots of acne and a cold, but that only reinforced to me that it did something. Shortly after, I felt better than I had in a long time, I could think clearly, and da dum dummmmm…was sleeping again. If I slip at all, I follow the diet for just a few days and it rights me again.
Limit night time calories – I started eating dinner and quit snacking at least three hours before bed. I’ll have a light snack now and again an hour or so before bed, but find that having an empty stomach before I go to bed means a better night’s rest. I also don’t wake up hungry and can work out no problem on empty too. If you do need something before bed, make it easy to digest. For me, complex carbs like root veggies or quinoa is the best choice, but just a cup or so.
Supplements – The more and more I read about sleep medication, and believe me I considered them, made me adamant not to go the Big Pharma route. But I did take a few more natural alternatives. First, when I was so overtired I couldn’t fall asleep, valerian root tincture or tea helped me fall asleep quickly. When I awoke several hours later, I used passionflower tincture to help put me back to sleep. I also find that when I’m training a lot (running, spinning, etc…) that I get leg cramps at night that wake me up. Magnesium helps tremendously to relax my muscles and help me sleep and sleep longer. Tart cherry juice is said to help with sleep too. I mixed it in to my magnesium drink and the combo seemed to be more powerful than each on it’s own.
Getting some shuteye. This one is like….duh. And of course the hardest to come by. But sleep really does beget sleep. I know this to be true with my daughter and it’s true for me too. If I could get just 2-3 nights of good sleep, the cycle would start to break and more restful nights would follow. Then just two nights of broken sleep, and I was back on the insomnia train.
Stop stressing the f*uck out about not sleeping. After complaining on a Facebook group for mommies about my lack of sleep, I got a ton of suggestions and took solace in the fact that I was very much not alone in this. I happened to be getting on a plane the next day and took the opportunity to read the book Say Goodbye to Insomnia, recommended by someone on the thread. It outlines a whole six-week process for getting better sleep. It only took me a four hour plane ride to read the whole thing. I didn’t follow the plan, but did internalize some of the messages and try out a few of the techniques the next several nights. Really the big take away for me was….you don’t need as much sleep as you need, so stop stressing. Once you stop stressing, you’ll sleep better. And stopped stressing, and I started sleeping.
So I’m not a doctor, sleep therapist or medical professional of ANY kind. I’m just giving you my experience to hopefully help someone else. Sleep tight everyone!