Postnatal insomnia: “I felt out of control and wired but also so tired”

Lucy Crotty left her one-bed flat in London for a house in Kent while heavily pregnant. But the stress of raising a toddler and a newborn in a building site led to postnatal insomnia. Here’s what it felt like, and how she recovered…

Lucy lives in Kent with her husband and two children (aged three and one).

We used to live in Islington in a one-bedroom flat. We’d wheel our daughter’s cot out into the lounge each night to try and sleep separately. But we quickly realised that this wasn’t sustainable. And then BAM! I fell pregnant again.

At first we were really relaxed, we had seven months to do something about it. But then it became ever more apparent that time was not on our side. Brexit happened, our buyer pulled out of the flat and we watched the whole chain disintegrate.

I was 36 weeks pregnant at this time, house-hunting in 34c heat (it was a heatwave), with no real understanding of where our home would be. Plus I was feeling very ‘nesty’. Luckily, we found our house and moved in.

But the builders arrived literally two days later, as the house needed a lot of work done. And so I found myself looking after a toddler and a newborn in a building site.

I have always been a light sleeper, often playing things over in my mind, such as how someone at work felt about something I said or how I had performed on a project. I guess you could say I’m a natural over-thinker. But I found that due to life circumstances, I developed chronic postnatal insomnia.

This insomnia would creep in at around 2/3am and I’d feel a rush of adrenaline surging through me. I would sit bolt upright, full of manic energy that would have me categorising my shoe collection, feeling like I could hear my newborn (despite him sleeping through early on – I know, typical!) and creating TV scripts or films in my mind.

It was like a terrible feeling of being really out of control and wired, coupled with the feeling of being so tired that my brain throbbed and I began to look very, very puffy.

It got to the point that I would fall asleep while the kids played next to me (baby in a Sleepyhead, lounge door closed so the toddler couldn’t escape). By 9am I would feel like I was going to collapse and I could barely string a sentence together in the evening.

Something had to change.

Friends and family would recommend lavender oil on my pillow, hot baths, mindfulness. But I knew that what I needed a break from 24/7 childcare, the house and to have some time to myself. So I applied self-care and we took advantage of a fantastic local childminder/pre-school two days a week.

My partner and I alternated lie-ins at the weekend and we tried to give each other an afternoon ‘off’ where I would meet with friends, go for brunch, the cinema – whatever it was just to have some time to myself or together.

The effects were almost instant and I can now regularly sleep from 10-6.30am and most importantly, have deep restorative sleep too.

So in summary, self-care is incredibly important and if you can’t afford childcare then try and meet a like-minded mum through playgroups or apps to make it feel like everything is not just on you.

Motherhood and adulting can be so isolating, competitive and serious. Taking some time out to get a new perspective on it all can be game-changing.

Did you experience postnatal insomnia?

Image credit: bed photo from Designspiration