Many factors contributed to my postpartum psychosis. But the overwhelming cause was sleep deprivation. It wasn’t until I went through menopause that I realized – it’s not just the new baby and the wee hour feedings – hormonal changes also play a role in sleep disruption. These occur in the perinatal period as well as during menopause. I struggled with sleep issues during perimenopause until an OB recommended a ceiling fan, and I learned that for me, white noise was a magic sleep potion.
I read every story I can from mom’s who have struggled with postpartum depression or other perinatal mood disorders, and a common thread is lack of sleep. Research shows that disruptions in biological rhythms during the perinatal period increase the risk for postpartum mood worsening in healthy pregnant as well as in pregnant women with a history of mood disorders. Sleep interventions represent a potential low-cost, non-pharmacological prevention and treatment strategy for postpartum mental illness.
There are a wide range of treatment options for sleep disruption. I always prefer to start with a natural method. The Book “Good Night” by Michael Breus, Ph.D. offers a great discussion of the topic. Here are my favorite sleep hygiene tips:
- Wear light pajamas and use light bedding
- Keep the room cool – ideally between 65 and 72 F.
- Use a fan for both white noise and air circulation
- Limit caffeine during the day
- Avoid alcohol and smoking
- Avoid vigorous exercise in the 4 hours before bedtime
- Do light stretching, yoga, or a relaxation exercise before bedtime
- Use a white noise machine
A ceiling fan is great, but cool air can aggravate neck stiffness. I have been very pleased with the HoMedics® Sound Spa sound machine, which retails for about $20 at Bed Bath and Beyond. It offers a wide range of noises, a volume control, and a timer. I manually turn it on at night and leave it on until I wake up in the morning.
There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep to combat mood disorders. Let me know what works for you.