Insomnia Is the Curse of Mothers: My Cure for Sleeplessness

Self on 11.16.11
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Photo: Conny Liegl / Creative Commons

I've always been a rotten sleeper. I'm high-strung, anxious. I don't manage my mind well. I especially don't control my thoughts well at 3AM when I'm stressing over yet another lousy night's sleep. Everything is harder when I'm tired. The house gets a little messier. The choice to eat healthy foods gets compromised. In short, my whole routine goes to crap.

Now that I've joined the sorority of motherhood, I'm not alone.

The New York Times reports:

One of the cruel jokes of motherhood is that the sleeplessness of pregnancy, followed by the sleeplessness generated by an infant (a period in which a staggering - truly - 84 percent of women experience insomnia), is not followed by a makeup period of rest. It is merely the setup for what can become a permanent modus operandi.

The Times article details the obsessive and incessant ruminations of mothers, which I will spare you, citing:

In the 'Women and Sleep' study, 80 percent of women reported being just too stressed or worried to turn out the proverbial lights.

A major point of the Times piece is that mothers are now turning to sleeping pills to shut off their brains and get some shut eye.

I've gone this route and tried OTC sleep meds, but upon discussing the questionable results with my doctor, I learned that the problem with this "solution" is that over-the-counter sleep medications don't allow you to reach a deep, restful sleep, hence the side effects such as memory problems. (What's the point then, really?) OTC sleep aids are also addictive, requiring increased dosages over time, plus rebound insomnia once you stop taking them.

So I tried Ambien, which made me feel higher than a kite, and then caused (drumroll please) more insomnia. That's because a possible side effect of Ambien is insomnia. Don't get me started on THAT.

But seriously, sleep meds aside, the Times article subtly puts the power to solve this insomnia epidemic into our own hands:

One of the great untruths of modern parenthood is that children...are largely to blame for mothers' lack of sleep...But here is the reality: it is the mothers who keep themselves awake.

"There's no release valve to let things fall by the wayside during the day, and that's creeping into women's nights," Dr. Sharkey said. "So they're waking up in the middle of the night with a million things running through their heads: things that may not be earth shattering, but it's real stuff and it causes serious sleep deprivation."

So what's a sleepless mom to do? A sleepless mom finds tools to help her manage stress in a healthy way, hopefully a way that avoids chemicals that could put her at risk for various dependencies which can mask underlying issues. That's a whole 'nother series of articles that I feel it's my duty to write, to help myself and to help anyone else suffering through these same issues. Those are the kinds of articles that I try to publish frequently here at Parentables.

My Cure for Sleeplessness

I'll tell you what I did last night. First, the background. Both my sister and a good friend of mine turned me on to Glenn Harrold, a self-help author and hypnotherapist. My sister listens to one of his tracks to help her fall asleep. Another friend lent me a Glenn Harrold CD called Learn How to Think Positively, which has been helping me let go of anxiety and become more productive in the process.

Well, as it turns out, his CD also helped me turn off my brain while I listened to his soothing voice, allowing me to fall asleep last night without a struggle.

Then, when I woke up with my usual bout of anxiety at 1:45AM last night, I tried tossing and turning for a while on my own before listening to the CD again to help me get back to sleep. I plan on leaving headphones plugged into my CD player so that I don't have to fish around in the most likely case that I need help again.

Since the CD I have isn't designed for sleep, I'm going to search for another CD that is designed to help me fall asleep. I'm officially declaring Glenn Harrold my personal "mommy's little helper."

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