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Dealing With Insomnia – As a Mom

Having to take care of tiny people when you're dead tired is a new kind of torture

Close-up of alarm clock on night table
Close-up of alarm clock on night table

I’ve had terrible insomnia for a decade. But recently, I decided to deal with it. Which is REALLY HARD when you’re a mom.

Before I had kids, being awake all the time wasn’t such a big deal. (Oh, I THOUGHT it was bad. I just didn’t understand the true meaning of the word tired back then.)

After kids, it went from bad to worse. If I could fall asleep, someone was always waking me up just fifteen minutes after I drifted off.

I even tried Ambiem, but having to wake up and take care of a baby while drugged is brutal. I was so tired – on the medication – that my skin literally hurt… but I still couldn’t sleep because the baby needed me.

When you’re the mom, drugs aren’t always an easy fix for insomnia.
Because when you’re the mom, you come second.

And I actually love that. There’s nothing I love more than being a mom, and I felt like insomnia was stealing precious moments away from me and my children.

I was too tired to play with them, too tired to carry them around.

To make matters worse, I couldn’t rest when the babies slept during the day because I work from home, and that meant I had to WORK when the babies slept.

Something had to give, and I HAD to find a way to deal with the insomnia without medication – and without having hours at night to “practice” sleeping.

The first step was to recognize that it was truly a problem and perhaps I had to come first just this once

For me, that meant being proactive about the fact that the baby was still waking every hour at nearly a year old – even though I would rather have let her just grow out of it.

I weaned her, and let her dad take over at night time.

I am not a proponent of sleep training, and I had wanted to breastfeed for a full year. I believe when my babies cry for me I should show up for them… every. single. time.

But my exhaustion was stealing from our day to day lives; I was too tired to play, too tired to cook, too tired to function. And what’s worse was that during the weeks where I had been awake for sometimes two or three days in a row without getting ANY sleep, I wasn’t all that mentally stable either.

My anxiety would kick in, and then if I DID drift off at night, by some miracle, I would wake up in a frantic panic, and grab the baby and wake her up too.

She’d start crying and wake her brother.

Then we’d just all be awake and crying, and my poor husband would be left trying to deal with multiple unhappy tired people.

I had to switch my thinking up a bit – by putting myself first, and choosing to wean my baby early and let her dad take care of her at night, I was actually doing what was best for the whole family.

(And, to our pleasant surprise, once mom wasn’t around all night, baby girl went from 5-6 wakings to just 1-2 most nights.)

Of course, that alone didn’t fix ANY of my insomnia problems. It was just a big step in the right direction that allowed me the space I needed to TRY and get some sleep.

We also had to re-think our family’s schedule to help me cope with my insomia

We shifted bedtime for our two year old to LATE LATE.

Like 10 pm late.

Our friends, family, and even some people who just happen to see us out of the house in the evening, judge us pretty loudly about this.

But when our toddler goes to bed late, he sleeps in.

This means that if I finally fall asleep at 5 or 6 am, my kiddo is still sleeping for another 4 hours.

This simple change allowed me ROOM to fall asleep and stay asleep for a few hours in a row.

(Toddlers do need 10-12 hours of sleep, so this only works if the toddler does not have to get up to go to daycare!)

The next most important thing I did to deal with insomnia as a mom was to give up my vices

We all KNOW that caffeine, alcohol, blue lights and an unhealthy diet (to name a few) are habits that contribute to poor sleep.

But for some reason, as moms, we justify these things because we NEED them. We DESERVE them.

I mean – coffee and wine – aren’t these essentials of momhood these days? And scrolling Instagram or Facebook before bed – isn’t this how we wind down?

And let’s not even talk about diet. We’re busy, and we eat what we can eat when we can eat it.

But on my quest to deal with my insomnia, I decided I would do the hard things, and make the changes I needed to make.

I gave up – cold turkey – caffeine, alcohol, computers/phones in the evening. I also went 100% clean with my diet.

These changes made a HUGE difference. I started sleeping at least 4 hours per night.

As a mom, sometimes we NEED to put ourselves first.

Sometimes we NEED to shrug off social norms.

Sometimes we NEED to do the hard things we don’t want to do.

Thinking about this now, I suppose all these things can apply to a lot more than just insomnia.

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