My feed

to access all these features

This is a space for anyone looking for support, tips on helping your baby sleep or just for a chat with fellow wide-awakers to get you through the night feeds. Sponsored by MAM.

The Wide Awake Club

My experience of postnatal insomnia - reassurance

1 reply

22Robin · 26/09/2023 16:24

I wanted to share my story here to hopefully provide some reassurance with anyone battling with postnatal insomnia.

I will start by saying that if you are stuggling with insomnia postnatally, it really deserves the attention of a postnatal psychiatrist. You can hopefully access this help through the perinatal mental health team in your area (I am based in the UK).

When my son was 3 months old, I stopped sleeping. At first I went a few nights with about 2-3 hours sleep and it snowballed from there into 3 months of night after night of no sleep at all to just a few hours here and there. I have never suffered from previous mental health issues or poor sleep so this problem really seemed to appear from nowhere for me. I had had a traumatic birth experience, ending in C-section and a very high (hypomanic) experience after delivery and had been understandably stressed with adapting to life with a newborn but I had been feeling well in myself and was enjoying life. That's why the insomnia came as a bit of a mystery and as a shock. My heart goes out to you if you are experiencing this because it is really scary and takes away so much joy. It was awful to not have slept for 2 days and pick my baby up out of the crib knowing that I hadn't slept for that long and had another full day of care in front of me.

The longer the insomina went on, the worse my mental health became. I really think the insomnia was a result of a chemical imbalance in my brain because my body was entirely without its normal circadian rhythm and I was doing everything I could; excercise, supplements, early morning light walks, no caffeine etc to help my body get back into balance. All on top of looking after baby.

Help eventually arrived with the input of the perinatal mental health team in my area. With a lengthy period of experimentation they helped me with medication that got me sleeping again. I won't bore you with details of the period of experimentation but eventually a low dose of Olanzapine (2.5mg) and Mirtazapine (15mg) helped to restore my sleep cycle. These medications were both used off label to help with sleep due to their sedative side effects. To start with I believe I was put on far too high a dose of these meds and they made me feel very depressed and lacking in motivation - but at the lower doses they have helped me no end. Having my sleep return has given me confidence again and much needed rest. I hate having to rely on medication for sleep but I really felt I got to the point where I needed psychiatric intervention. Something had gone very wrong with my nervous system to be that sleepless. Whether it was hormonal, mental health related (depression, anxiety or mood disorder) or trauma related I will never know but it could have been a mixture of all of the above.

The few people I have come into contact with who have experienced postnatal insomnia have all been helped by a form of mental health medication. One woman was helped by Sertraline (this happened to make my symptoms worse), or another by Lexapro (which I never tried). I share this because there may be a combination for you out there that can really help with your insomnia.

My son is now 16 months old and the combination of Olanzapine and Mirtazapine has been working well for me for 6 months. I'm still upset to be having to take these medications and I do fear that they will wear off in their effectiveness but I have also been reassured by my GP that this is unlikely to happen. It is also hard to ween off these medications and I fear that my insomnia will lie beneath these meds. Still, in the absence of thorough research and understanding out there of postnatal insomnia, I needed to try something for my son's sake. People need to take meds for all sorts of health conditions and if I need to stay on these meds for life, then I will.

I hope if you are going through this awful condition, you may find this story of help. I would say that the orgiginal help I was offered through my GP was not helpful. They advised I read 'The Effortless Sleep Method' - which is not tailored to the experience of postnatal insomnia.

OP posts:
Baboutheocelot · 26/09/2023 16:31

This has been a really interesting post. I also stopped sleeping when my first child was born but I did have terrible anxiety and depression. I was given zopiclone on a very short term basis and it helped me get back in to a normal sleep rhythm. This was prescribed by a psychiatrist working at the mother and baby unit I was referred to.
Im glad you were able to sleep again, please don’t feel bad about taking medication, you need it to function and take care of your child.
I would say to anyone experiencing post natal insomnia to seek help as soon as possible, please don’t suffer in silence.

Please create an account

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.