Postpartum depression for partners

Postpartum Insomnia For Partners: Navigating Sleep Challenges During Pregnancy and Beyond

Sleep is a critical element of human existence that allows our bodies to replenish, recover, rest, and regenerate. Without it, our world would look like the tv show “The Walking Dead”, zombies everywhere! 

While some of us understand the importance of sleep, we may have taken it for granted when we enter the world of pregnancy and raising a newborn. The many factors involved that affect sleep can become overwhelming in partners/fathers resulting in postpartum insomnia. 

Postpartum insomnia is difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early, accompanied by daytime consequences or impairment following, experienced at least three nights per week throughout the pregnancy and post-pregnancy period. 

It becomes a serious reason for concern when these symptoms last longer than three months, as chronic insomnia can become more prevalent.

A lack of sleep is very common when it comes to pregnancy and raising a newborn. This normalization has created a stigma surrounding mental health in parents that they should “get used to never sleeping” or “sleep when the baby sleeps”. This is much easier said than done.

Sleep is paramount to our mental health, and when our daily lives become affected by lack of sleep, it is important to address this issue with your partner. Fathers have just as a responsible role in parenting as the mother does, and when their mental health is declining due to lack of sleep, this has a cascading effect on the mom and baby resulting in long-term consequences.

Struggles During Pregnancy

It should go without saying that the mother bears the heaviest burden throughout pregnancy. She is growing another human being inside her while managing everyday life to the best of her ability. Hormonal changes, mood swings, physical alterations, and more create a very challenging environment for the mother to feel like her normal self. 

The partner/father however should not be overlooked throughout pregnancy as it can be very difficult for them to be a part of through a variety of factors. Here we will explore these common struggles during pregnancy that can happen.

  • Anticipatory Anxiety: There is a lot of excitement and new emotions throughout pregnancy leading up to the birth that can create some feelings of anxiety. These anxious emotions can impact sleep as you may find it difficult to fall asleep always thinking of what to prepare for when the baby comes along.
  • Fear of the unknown: If this is your first child, then this factor can be magnified with the fear of the unknown. The world of pregnancy for most partners is unchartered waters that they may feel like they are tiptoeing through the entire time to not disrupt anything or cause harm.
  • Concerns about the health of the partner and the baby: It is easy to overthink everything during pregnancy and then find yourself in a black hole on Google searching for why the mother has hiccups. Pregnancy and birth require a lot of things to work properly to have a successful delivery, which can cause fathers to always be on heightened alert for any ailment that the mom or baby may be feeling, albeit a very minor one.
  • Sleep Disruptions: So many things can begin to interrupt sleep during pregnancy that never used to be an issue. Worrying about life, someone breaking into the house, or your partner’s comfort throughout the night could keep you up. 
  • Impact of partner’s physical discomfort: Seeing your partner go through a very radical transformative change with their body can put a lot of stress on a father. As someone who should be supportive and caring for the mother, a father can feel helpless with their partner’s physical discomfort is something they don’t have control over. 
  • Emotional toll of sleep disturbances: I feel the effects of not getting a good night’s sleep after a few nights. Most people may try to pass this off but it is important to be self-aware of your emotions when they become more irritable for example because you haven’t had good sleep lately. 
  • Role Transition: So now your identity is evolving into becoming a father, that’s amazing but can be very scary as well. It’s not like you have taken any training courses or had a job before that gave you experience in this. Fatherhood can seem like a big responsibility for some that make the period of pregnancy a little more stressful.
  • Shifting dynamics in the relationship: Your relationship with your partner may evolve throughout pregnancy which could cause some strain between the two of you. New responsibilities and preparation for life with a baby can sometimes create a rift between you and your partner, making pregnancy a little bit more challenging to work through.
  • Adjusting to the impending responsibilities: This may seem like an endless list for some fathers as they approach the due date. While running around like a madman trying to take care of any loose ends, a partner can feel completely overwhelmed with the impending responsibilities that they and the mother are going to have once the baby comes along.

Postpartum Insomnia: Causes and Triggers

Here we will break down the causes and triggers that are associated with postpartum insomnia.

Hormonal Changes

  • Impact on sleep patterns: The mother is certain to go through hormonal changes throughout pregnancy, however the father can too. These can hurt sleep changes as they create new feelings and emotions that may be difficult for the father to deal with.
  • Understanding hormonal fluctuations in fathers: Education on why a father may be feeling a certain way is important in understanding if hormonal changes could be the cause. Fathers may see a change in many hormones that individually affect certain emotions and feelings, so it is important to have some type of knowledge of this going into pregnancy.

Anxiety and Stress

  • Persistent worries about parenting: While life before pregnancy could have enough stressors to keep one up at night, the postpartum period is a breeding ground for this. Fathers can question a lot of their abilities especially when it comes to parenting. This can create an emotional toll affecting your sleep patterns negatively.
  • Financial and work-related stressors: Bringing in a new human being to your life will incur some extra expenses that may cause some financial strain. This can create a feeling of having to work harder to make up for that, potentially taking away from your sleep schedule or time at home with family.

Sleep Environment

  • Changes in sleep environment due to the newborn: Your sleep environment will change no matter what when you bring a newborn home with you from the hospital. How much it changes is dependent on your child and how well they can sleep through the night. Regardless, the multiple feedings at night will take a toll on your sleeping schedule which is why it is important to share responsibilities with the mother.
  • Difficulty adapting to new sleeping arrangements: It can take some time to fall into a healthy sleep schedule with the newborn at home. This trial and error can lead to sleep insomnia in partners as they are navigating in an area they may never have been to before. 

Impact on Mental Health

I can personally say that my mental health takes a hit when my sleep is thrown off for several nights in a row. Irritability and frustration are the first symptoms I experience when I do not get enough sleep. 

While this may not apply to everyone, there is certain to be a negative impact on mental health when sleep starts to diminish. If not addressed or taken care of promptly, it can affect your relationship.

You may feel guilty about the way you feel and not communicate properly with your partner about your sleep issues. This is normal as a father should feel like the rock and support system in the relationship. 

However, it is OK to be vulnerable and express your concern for what you are going through with your partner. This does not make you any less of a person and if anything shows your desire to get better.

Not being open with your feelings can lead to longer-term consequences such as postpartum depression. Insomnia is one of the top causes of postpartum depression, which is why it is critical to address your sleep patterns when they start to negatively affect your daily life 

Coping Strategies During Postpartum Insomnia

It can be very challenging in the beginning stages of raising a newborn to develop a consistent sleep routine. Sometimes it is just throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. However, it is important to have a loose and flexible approach when working on establishing a sleep routine.

Your baby is growing and evolving a lot throughout its early stages, which can impact your sleep schedule. One week the baby might sleep fantastically, whereas the next they are up every hour. Having this open-minded approach to working around these changes will allow you to fall into a sleep routine more easily. 

Try and set the same time every night for you to go to bed. Your body will slowly get used to this and over time will fall into a healthier routine rather than sporadic hours in the night that you are getting to bed.

If you are having trouble with this after three months or are seeing a significant impact on your health, then it is time to seek professional help possibly through a therapist that could provide some form of relief. 

Some self-care practices such as meditation and breathing techniques can be very effective in preparing yourself for sleep. These practices can help calm anxiety, lower stress, and level your energy out to get a better night’s sleep.

Professional Support and Intervention

As mentioned earlier, if you feel like your health has taken a significant decline due to sleep insomnia, it is time for you to seek professional help. A trained medical professional can help in different ways depending on your situation. 

They could provide alternative routines for getting better sleep, medication, or cognitive behavioral therapy to help process your emotions.

Finding the courage to seek professional help can be hard for many people though. The stigma surrounding mental health keeps a lot of sufferers in silence because they may not want to feel like they are crazy or have a problem. 

This couldn’t be farther from the truth as stepping up and taking matters into your own hands through seeking professional help shows you care about yourself and your family and you want to break free of this story and become the best version of yourself.

Preventive Measures During Pregnancy

While there is no real-life experience for first-time fathers to understand how sleep changes during and after pregnancy, there are resources that they can use to better prepare themselves. 

Education through classes, books, and online organizations can help paint a clearer picture of what to expect when the baby comes along. Having a better understanding of this can make the transition smoother when it comes to taking the night shift for feeding for example.

Anticipating these sleep disruptions is important as well in having an open-minded flexible perspective on the changes you will encounter with a newborn. Life will not be the same, and the more you can prepare for that with a positive approach, the better position you will put yourself in.

Some ways to build resilience and coping skills to help with sleep insomnia could be through limiting stimulants (caffeine) throughout the day, no screen time before bed, using your bed for sleep only, and exercising regularly. 

These are just a few pieces of advice but sometimes it just takes trying something new to see how it can help with your sleeping.

Conclusion

Sleep insomnia is something that should not be overlooked or disregarded. As mentioned multiple times throughout this article, sleep is imperative for our mental health and without it, our cognitive abilities, emotions, and overall well-being will suffer because of it. 

It is important to seek help if this has been going on for three or more months or if you feel that your health is significantly declining. 

Having an honest communication line with your partners is very important in feeling comfortable with seeking help. Your partner should understand your concerns and together you can create a game plan for working through this.

If you feel like you need additional help and want to live a compelling future filled with confidence, gratitude, and love for your family then I encourage you to take 30 minutes and schedule a connection call with me. YOU ARE NOT ALONE, and this story does not define who you are and with help, you will get through this!

Addison Caproni

Enjoy a life of love, gratitude and confidence with your family

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