Anxiety and Sleep…

We’ve all heard comments about resting up while pregnant because once baby gets here you won’t be sleeping, right?

Anyone else annoyed by this statement?

The most annoying part is that they don’t tell you any tips for getting more sleep right now.

Chances are if you are already dealing with anxiety it’s keeping you up at night NOW. And it could even be masquerading as concern for baby.

When I was pregnant with my oldest I woke up multiple times a night to check that I was still pregnant, heck I even would move around and do things to make sure baby was still moving in there too!

Poor kid,

And poor me.

But it’s not that uncommon for women to wake up worried about something or another about baby while they are pregnant.

And if you are postpartum there is the dreaded SIDS which can freak out even the most experienced of Mammas.

My oldest is 4 years old and I still wake up at night wanting to make sure he is still breathing… WHY?

And the more tiered I get the worse it is….

But the truth is that if you are dealing with anxiety, chances are you are also dealing with a lack of sleep. There are even studies on it, and it has been found that most people suffering from a mental dysfunction (like anxiety or depression) also have a lack of quality sleep.

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep Deprivation is devestating when your mind is in a good head space. Exhaustion just makes anythign going off kilter that much worse.

I used to think that if I kept myself awake long enough I would write the most amazing things to entertain people and provide value. Turns out when I write from an exhausted standpoint it does no one any good and the “funny” I think I am is not even there.

It’s like being drunk, you think things are great but you can’t see clearly. Your judgement is impared, and quite likely you smell of something…

According to WebMD the following are common effects of not getting enough sleep.

Lack of Sleep Causes Accidents

At home, at work, on the road, and where ever else you may be. Not getting enough sleep can mean not seeing a hazzard or falling asleep when you need to be paying attention and having some kind of acciendt.

It makes you Dumber

Think about it, if you can’t concentrate enough to stay awake easily chances are those big problems won’t be solved either. It takes more brain power to do things when you don’t get enough sleep.

Kills your sex drive

Ever wonder why we don’t want sex right after giving birth? I mean besides the fact that we just had a baby and our hormones are all wonky and our body doesn’t feel like ours any more?

Most new Moms don’t sleep very well in the first few weeks. Even if every thing else is going well but you aren’t sleeping chances are hubby aint getting any.

Insomnia loves depression

While not all insomniacs are depressed, insomnia does tend to be one of the first signs of depression. And if you are constantly sleep deprived your risk of depression goes up by noticable numbers.

Not as much research has been done on the link to anxiety, but it’s not a far gone conclusion to say if depression is more likely so is anxiety.

Sleep Deprivation makes you Forgetful

Just like with the ability to think clearly, your memory takes a hit too. Our brains LOVE to get all the data that they can, and when our processor is slow from lack of sleep it just can’t pull up the files it needs to remember it all.

Lack of Sleep increases Health Problems

From gaining weight to increased chances of heart attacks, not getting enough zzzzz’s is a physical health concern. Most of the issues I saw listed on WebMD’s site are linked to the heart.

So lets be clear, if you are pregnant, your body is working harder to provide your baby with everything it needs to grow. Some of the things your body does is increase blood volume, and dump some fund hormones into your system that cause your heart to work more.

Now stop an already over worked body from sleeping… if you feel like you are going nuts there is likely a reason! Your body could be screaming for a break.

In the postpartum time (12 months after birth at least) your body is trying to recover from the stress of growing a human. And it takes time to come back to a new normal.

Add in the constant wake ups to feed baby, change a diaper, and other stuff that goes with the adjustment to being a parent and chances are the healing process will take longer because our sleep is getting cut short.

How to Treat Sleeplessness

It’s important to note that not all options for handling sleeplessness will work for everyone. It can take time to find your personal solution. And this is NOT a comprehensive list, you should talk to your doctor or therapist to make your personalized plan.

Treat the Underlying Cause

Sleeplessness can be caused by a host of physical medical issues, like heart disease, chronic pain, thyroid issues, etc. (this is not a comprehensive list) Your doctor will likely treat the underlying condition first.

Get to a Therapist

Things like anxiety and insomnia likely come to mind when looking at mental health concerns connected to sleeplessness and they can.

But it can also be something like racing thoughts, financial issues, politics, social media, or some other influence.

Some of these are not things that can be solved overnight, but if you put a plan in place on how they will be handled chances are your brain will calm down enough to let you sleep better.

There is also a type of therapy called Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or CBT which can help with symptoms of anxiety and has been proven to improve sleep and the time it takes to fall asleep.

Medication

Many people find help with their anxiety and the resulting lack of sleep through medication. There are a variety of options so talk to your doctor about what might be right for you if this is a route you want to try.

Just keep in mind it can take a while to find the right medication and the right dosage.

Excersize

Excersize is great for your health in so many ways. One of the ways that people use it is to make them sleep better.

A good work out that gets you moving and challenges your body does a couple things for you.

1 – it puts you into the moment
One of the biggest challenges with anxiety is that it focuses on the future and all the bad that could happen. Working out (and pushing your limits with out over doing it) brings you back into your body.

2 – It can help you sleep deeper
Your body does a host of good things to help recover after a workout. And when you do manage to fall asleep, chances are it will be a deeper more rebuilding type one. And the effect can last for a couple days after the work out.

Check your Diet

Ok, the myth that coffee keeps everyone awake is getting old. I know some people who drink it and it knocks them out cold… no I’m not joking.

But what we are looking for here are things like coffee, and sugar, or even harder to digest items and when you are eating them.

For example, I know I can not have processed sugar after 6pm if I want to go to bed and sleep at a good time. It just stays in my system too long.

The other thing to watch here is your thought patterns after eating. It wasn’t until I started a thought journal in my food log that I realized when I ate things like chocolate bars I ended up thinking myself into a tizzy that could last 3 hours… and left me too tiered to sleep.

Meditate late in the Day

Meditation is a tool some people use to calm their mind. If racing thoughts are a problem for you chances are regular practice of this could help you sleep better.

It’s not going to be an instant success for most though. And you may have to try some different options. I like guided meditations that walk you through breathing techniques and mentally going through all your body parts.

My husband is more of a moving meditation guy who likes to break out the Tai Chi and do controlled deliberate moves between predetermined postures.

There are more types of meditation out there than I realized before I started looking into it for my own use so make sure if you try this to try a couple different ways. It’s not all sitting in a dark room staring at a candle with out any thoughts in your head.

Grounding

Grounding is a practice of connecting with the earth. Often we will automatically ground ourselves when we walk in nature. But we can also use visualizing techniques as well.

I recommend standing or sitting still, and visualizing yourself and the earth. Then from your pelvis see in your mind’s eye a cord, tree root, or elevator run straight out of you into the earth and connect with the centre of the earth. Once you’ve felt the connection cut the cord and open your eyes.

That’s a simplified version of grounding but I think you get the basics.

Deep Breathing

I use this with most of my other anxiety and sleep care plans. Deep breathing triggers a relaxation mode in our brains and bodies.

I find it easiest to sit up tall, and focus on breathing into my belly. However during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth this can actually cause more pressure in your abdomen and may make recovery longer.

So instead try breathing into the rib band of your bra. Focus on the space right below your arm pit and try to breathe in there. This is a technique that my pelvic floor physiotherapist taught me and it actually helps to create more space and decompress your core.

Note Pad and Pen…

Our to-do lists can keep us up all night yes? And most especially while pregnant and thinking about everything we want done before baby arrives.

I got in the habbit of keeping a note pad a pen by the bed probly a decade or so before my first pregnancy because I knew that the second I put my head down I was going to think of SOMETHING that I needed to make sure got done.

The reason our brains keep buzzing with our to-do list is because it is worried we will forget something important so it keeps reminding us until we do something that ensures we won’t forget.

So if your brain is buzzing, write it down.

Turn off Electronics

We all need some down time from our phones, computers and tablets. As much as they connect us to the world, they also stress us out with all the dings and whistles and notifications in general.

So turn off your electronics, or at least put them in do not distrub mode to ensure you are not getting a constant stream of notifications.

And while you are at it turn off any unnecessary notifications, and set time limits on your social media apps and other things that can contribute to anxiety.

If you need to know something, someone will make sure they reach you.

Check out how our phones affect our mental health for more ideas on handling cell phones.

Make Sleep Cozzy

Cozy is the place to be, the more comfortable you are physically the more likely you will get a good sleep.

Now with a growing baby bump getting physically comfortable might seem like a hard thing to do. And with the frequent pee breaks chances are you’ve already had at least one night where you got comfortable only to need to get up and pee right away… am I right?

Having a set up that supports your changing body and gives you the best chance of a good rest is still important. So think about getting some soft sheets, a good pregnancy pillow (yes they are worth it) and a comforter that you love.

It’s also a good idea to have the room temperature slightly lower than normal so under the covers feels more sleepy.