It’s Not The Baby’s Fault That I Can’t Sleep


This baby is a good sleeper but I'm not

This baby is a good sleeper but I’m not

It’s 2:30 in the morning and I’m wide awake.

A post on sleep was not in the line-up for this week’s blogging but here I am in a pitch black 50 degree house and all the other topics I had planned to write about (weird but normal in postpartum women, how Cheri Huber stuck a gun in her stomach and pulled the trigger before she found Zen Buddhism, more on the philosophy behind going diaper free) feel irrelevant right now.

I remember my father having insomnia. From my room I would hear him go downstairs in the middle of the night and turn on the TV. His sister, my aunt, suffers from insomnia too. She wakes up several times a night to use the bathroom and often can’t go back to sleep. But my mom is a champion sleeper. So I guess insomnia only partly runs in the family.

The conventional thinking about insomnia is not to do what I am doing right now. You’re not supposed to look at the clock (I always do), turn lights on (how else can I see the clock?), conquer the dinner dishes (why not wash them since I can’t sleep anyway?), finish a work project (how bout that cloth diaper article I’m writing for Mothering? Or the new assignment for Fit Pregnancy?), or do anything that will wake your mind up when you can’t sleep.

All of that is considered bad sleep hygiene.

My name is Jennifer and I have bad sleep hygiene.

I woke up to nurse Leone. Then I changed her diaper (she did not want to pee in the chamber pot). She sucked on my pinky finger for a few minutes and went right back to sleep.

Listening to her breathing, I lay in bed quietly trying not to panic about being awake.

Me: Oh my god, I’ll never function tomorrow if I don’t go back to sleep… It’s bad for your health not to sleep…

Myself: Count your breaths, stop thinking about sleep.

Me: Why is the printer still on the fritz? Why hasn’t that new part for it come? First thing I’ll have to save that letter to Scot and the new contract to the jump drive and go the copy store to print them…

Myself: One, two, three–

Me (interrupting): I wonder if James remembered to take out the recycling? I’d better go check…

Myself: Four, five, six–

Me (interrupting): The FlyLady has a good idea about the 27-item blitz to declutter. Maybe I should try that right now. The shoe drawer is full of stuff we could get rid of…

Clearly it was time to get out of bed and wash the dishes.

What kind of challenges–if any–do you have with sleep? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

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18 thoughts on “It’s Not The Baby’s Fault That I Can’t Sleep”

  1. My kids cause the majority of my sleep problems but I’ve never been a “good” sleeper and it has been for as long as I can remember. I also have bad sleep hygiene. I have a few things I don’t do before bed (don’t pay bills) but no matter what, I have a ton of stressors that help me stay awake when I don’t want to be. When I wake up, I try very hard not to turn on lights or get up. However, I can’t just lay there because my mind is going a million miles an hour and it feels wasteful to just lay there instead of getting all these things that are stressing me out in the first place done. Maybe that’s the problem.. my mind is always racing and I’m the type that worries about the bills, and how we’ll pay them and you never know what’s going to happen in a few months and it’s cold in here i wonder if the kids are under their covers let me go check.. yada yada yada
    .-= Claudine´s last blog ..I Got Your Christmas Letter =-.

  2. I am a champion sleeper – unless I’m awakened in the night. I have no trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep but if something wakes me up, I toss and turn for an hour, trying to sleep. I do try to have “good sleep hygiene” but like you sometimes I just get up and do something.

  3. If I go to sleep at the same time every day, usually I can get to sleep fairly easily, but I have suffered from sleep deprivation in the past, especially while I was caring for my elderly mother, and she lost her sense of time, waking me up several times a night, an experience much worse than being awakened by children. Have you tried herb tea conducive to rest? Warm bath? Warm milk? Getting outdoor exercise? Figuring out what’s bothering you and writing it down on a piece of paper with the intention of dealing with it tomorrow? Lying quietly in bed and acting as if you don’t care if you get to sleep? Sometimes that works. Pretend getting to sleep doesn’t matter and that you are simply going to relax your body. Counting sheep? Taking some Valerian, although you had better first check about Leone’s also drinking it in your milk?
    .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..What

  4. I’m usually good at getting to sleep at night, but if something wakes me up early, I’m stuck. No more sleep for me if I wake up within a couple hours of my normal waking time. My man doesn’t mind those days as he often has freshly baked bread waiting for him when he wakes up.
    .-= Frugal Kiwi´s last blog ..Cast Iron Family Ties =-.

  5. Gosh Melanie (aka Frugal Kiwi), I think I wish I were married to you!

    Thanks for the suggestions Alexandra. I have tried all those things at different points. I don’t like valerian (not sure if it is safe for breastfeeding moms) but I do find that a cup of rooibos tea is a great comfort. I get exercise almost every day — Leone and I have been walking at least 2.5 miles — and it definitely helps (though not last night).

    Thanks Claudine and Brette for sharing your experiences as well.
    .-= Jennifer Margulis´s last blog ..Tips For Traveling with a Potty Trainer =-.

  6. Jennifer, I’ve been there and it’s so rough!! It’s hard enough falling asleep, but when baby girl was waking in the night, she’d happily fall asleep next to me and I’d still be up! I’ve had insomnia since 8 years and I have terrible sleep hygiene. Usually I don’t fall back asleep until I’m at my wits end and have had a minor panic attack:)

    Melanie, I should definitely become more productive like you!
    .-= Almost Slowfood´s last blog ..Super Easy Dinner: Pork Chops with Apples and Sage =-.

  7. I go through periods of sleeping really well and soundly and sleeping fitfully and with lots of trouble falling back to sleep after I (often) wake to pee. Sometimes I use a trick that anesthesiologists use when they give sedation – I count backwards by seven. Try it – unless you’re a total math whiz and can do it automatically, it may help you drift off. Another thing I try really hard to do (but it usually backfires) is to force my mind OFF of sleep. Other times, I’ll turn on the radio and find a talk show , put it on very low, so I have to strain to listen. That becomes too hard, and invariably I’ll fall back to sleep.

    I do know how lousy I feel if I don’t get my sleep, so I totally sympathize with you – and wish you sweet dreams!

  8. I am right there with you, sister! I am usually a good sleeper, but sometime after having a new baby I am pretty much guaranteed a 2+ week bout of insomnia. I chalk it up to shifting hormones and a “mama bear” instinct kicking in and causing anxiety. It hasn’t been too bad (yet) this time around but when William was a baby there were a few nights when I was running around my house at 3 AM convinced there were intruders breaking in, or worried that a train was going to derail and hit our house–you name it, I worried about it.

  9. PS. Sheryl’s suggestion is what works for me right now. I turn on the TV, low, and gradually fall back to sleep because I’m trying to hear, rather than listening to my own thoughts. It works with a radio, as well.
    .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..What

  10. Ok, since Alexandra said it I’m going to pipe in. I know they say “no TV” but it works for me. I TIVO old sitcoms. Ones I’ve seen a hundred times. This way, it’s funny, light, (no nightmares) and because I already know punchlines I’m not really concentrating that hard. I put a sleeptimer on the TV (usually an hour) and almost never see it shut off at night.
    .-= Claudine´s last blog ..I Got Your Christmas Letter =-.

  11. In some ways, I’ve gotta wonder if those last few fitful months of pregnancy sleep–you know when you can’t find a comfortable position and the moment you do you just have to get up to go potty anyway–maybe that’s somehow the preparation for when the baby arrives and you have to get up at all hours to feed her. My sister is fond of saying it takes nine months of pregnancy to have a baby, it takes nine months to get your body back, maybe the same is true of good sleeping…
    .-= ReadyMom´s last blog ..Crispy, Chewy, Yeasted Waffles =-.

  12. I’ve been suffering “bad sleep hygiene” for years (maybe 7?). Once a (female) gynecologist told me it’s a common problem for women as they move into their late 30s and 40s. Wondering if it’s true for most people.

  13. I had this after my daughter was born. I mean, I have insomnia all the time, but I had it really bad then. I think it’s some sort of protective, post partum thing. Like you never go into a deep sleep so you will wake instantly if an animal comes into your cave and tries to eat your baby. Doesn’t do us much good today, but that has to be the origin. I used to walk around a lot in the night. Tossing and turning tends to keep me awake, so I just pace in the hallway or do laps through the rooms of the house. Then once I’m bored, I go back to bed.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..She

  14. Oh, dear, Jennifer. As if you don’t have enough stressors (a lot of them the good kind, though, I know) in your life. . . Sending you good sleepy vibes!

  15. Insomnia sucks. I have this problem with outlasting my sleep instinct – like I’ve got *just one more thing to do* and the I’ll go to bed. Then I hit my second wind and I’m up all night.

    I need to learn to be more disciplined about sleep, like I am with my diet (yeah, right…)
    .-= Stephanie – Wasabimon´s last blog ..Zo

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