SEVERE Post Partum Insomnia Help

Updated on March 30, 2012
E.G. asks from Mc Lean, VA
8 answers

I had my son almost 3 years ago and right after he was born I had extreme insomnia to the point where I would get 3 hours of sleep on my good nights and 0-2 hours most other nights. I had never had insomnia issues before. I didn't feel depressed. I would get these "hypnic jerks" where as I was drifting off to sleep something in my head or body would jump and startle me awake. This would go on constantly, all night long. If I did manage to get to sleep, I would wake up an hour later and not be able to get back to sleep. I was a mess, tried many different medications unsuccessfully and finally just had to wait it out. I have just barely gotten back to somewhat normal sleep this past year. That first year was complete hell for me, and I am terrified of it occurring again, but I want another child in the future SO badly and it is making me so depressed because I feel I cannot risk it because I might experience the same thing again. Has anyone out there had a related insomnia experience and found something that helped them? Did anyone have it better the second time around? Any meds that helped? I tried ambien, klonopin, lunesta (got me maybe 4 hours, but didn't work after a few nights), trazodone, remeron, seroquel (BAD side effects). I never tried an SSRI, but everything I read said that it can give insomnia so I was scared to take those, and I didn't feel depressed. I just wanted sleep! Anyone have success with SSRI's in relations to JUST sleep? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks

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So What Happened?

Thank you all so much for your responses. You have given me some hope =) Sunny D. how long did you have sleep problems after your first baby? You had those hypnic jerks too? I thought I was a lunatic because no doctors had heard of them and I hadn't heard of anyone else ever experiencing those. I think the reason I'm so worried is because it went on soooo long. Luckily I had a supportive husband who fed the baby at night and slept with him in the other room, but unfortunately it still did not let me sleep.

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answers from Dallas on

Wow, you just explained my exact insomnia episodes after my first child. I didn't try as many drugs, only one and the side effects alone made me stop. I too was nervous I'd have the same thing happen, but I've gone on to have two more kids and I've NEVER had that insomnia again. In fact, it's usually my hubby slapping me to get me to wake up cause the baby is crying:)

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answers from Seattle on

Most important part first:

1) ANYTHING that can 'cause' insomnia as a side effect can ALSO cause cause sleep or excessive sleep. It depends on how your brain processes it.

2) Ignore the 'names' of drugs / classes except for your prior reactions to them. Neurochemistry doesn't care what a medication is "supposed" to do. Everyone's neurochem is different. That's why nearly all side effects listed include the OPPOSITE reaction AND AND AND why meds are prescribed 'offlabel'. A drug company has no incentive to label the best antidepressant ever as an antidepressant if they already have a best seller. If, instead, it also works as antianxiety, they'll label it where they aren't making much money. After 5-10 years of "round 2 human trials" (the first 5-10 years when it's on the market after being approved)... it will be used mostly as an antidepressant, because that's where it shines. And the "antipsychotic" that is a stellar antianxiety drug will get used as an antianxiety drug. And the ADHD med will be used for Anorexia, and the seizure med for a mood stabalizer, etc. IGNORE WHAT IT SAYS IT'S "FOR". What matters is how YOUR BRAIN/ BODY REACTS TO IT.

3) I know the fear, when you can't sleep, of doing anything that might make sleep even more elusive. It's hard to get over, but it's WORTH IT to find what actually works with your system. I reason "I'd be up anyway" and "I can do 24 hours standing on my head" AND have someone else with me the first 3 days of any new med. That's the key part, right there. As long as someone will stay with me, to make sure I don't go loca... I'm able to get past my fear.


I'm ADHD, so my brain -off the bat- processes meds differently than most people. Stimulants have a habit of knocking me out, and many depressants have a habit of 'wiring' me. It's not a 'true' paralell. Some stimulants will keep me up for days, and some depressants will knock me on my tush. But as a general rule... a stimulant is going to make be very chill, and a depressant will have me table dancing.

SSRIs and SOME Benzos (like Xanax) both knock me on my tush. Not much else does outside of anesthesia drugs and schedule 1 stimulants.

Benedryl will SOMETIMES. Not if I'm doign a true insomnia run, but just the ADHD-not-set-to-a-24-hour-day thing (My body is really on a 36 hour clock, instead of a 24 hours clock, so I have to/choose to reset it from time to time). I can 'reset' my clock for a month or three by taking benedryl 30 minutes before bed for a week, and often do. Benedryl doesn't even begin to touch true insomnia for me, however. It just makes me twitchy. Very little is worse than being awake and twitchy. Oy. It's so ANNOYING. But I digress.

The ones you listed above? Ha. I could list off what most of those do to me.. actually... I will:

Clonopin, Lorazapam, and other benzo's don't knock me out, but I'm also not able to sleep. Awake, awake, awake... just not freaked out about being awake (you know how anxiety tends to skyrocket when you can't sleep? That goes bye bye, but the sleep doesn't come).

Trazadone = Happiest tired but AWAKE person on the planet. I can't sleep on it. Also can't think. I'm just a happy zombie who is EXHAUSTED and wants desperately to sleep an can't. Even worse than before I took it. It's awful.

Seraquel and other 'mood stabalizers' or 'antipsychotics' in general push me into psychotic manias. It's how ADHD folk are often mislabeled as Bipolar. Antipsychotics CAUSE psychosis in ADHD folk. Bad juju.

Ambien and Lunesta create waking night terrors. I can't sleep, but am half in dreamland OR I'm paralized but awake. Very scary.

But antidepressants? Out like a light. Xanax? I barely have time to get from the kitchen to my bed.

It's not that I'm 'depressed', It's that my brain, when I inhibit the serotonin from being absorbed as it usually does, flicks the 'sleep' button in my brain. That's really common for ADHD folk (but not universal). It's part of why so many ADHD folk take antidepressants. It's NOT that we're depressed :) It's just that they let us sleep.

I take neither regularly, but if I end up in a major insomnia jag I can and have taken either xanax or prozac and squash it like a bug. My insomnia will run for days (36 hours without batting an eye, and 4-5 days if I'm really unlucky), and a true jag lasts for several months. It's a PTSD side effect that crops up now and again with me. Every fall I get insomnia, some years are worse than others. Most years I don't need anything, every couple years though... I take half a xanax and go to sleep for a few weeks... and I'm done. I should "probably" take it during milder years, to shrink it from 3-4 months to 3-4 weeks... but I don't. It just doesn't occur to me until after the fact. Oh, yeah.... Drats.

Benzos v SSRIs

The great thing about Benzos is that they work right away
The great thing about SSRIs is that they aren't addictive so can be used long term.

In general, benzos are Rx'd for short term use, and SSRIs for long term use.


The above are JUST MY side effects. SSRI's just to sleep. Yep. Works great. The only problem is that they take time to work. Certain benzos work as well, but are instantaneous, so I prefer them. I don't need them longterm, so it's a nonissue. If I had insomnia long term, I'd stick with SSRI's.

The only way to find out what will work with YOUR system, is to try.

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answers from New York on

Yes!!! I COULD NOT SLEEP after my first. We even hired a night nurse and I'd take a sleeping pill and it'd help for just a few hours. So two things - one is I have taken zoloft in my life and it does help with sleep for me. It relieves anxiety overall. But for specific times, my mother recommended lorezepram and it's fantastic. Adivan or Ativan is another name or the official name. I have some friends like me who use it occassionally and it's the only thing that helps my husband when he's super stressed. I doubt you should breast feed with it and it's habit forming etc so it's not to be taken lightly but it's great. It just relaxes your mind. Otherwise, have you tried Benedryl? Works great for me. You also may just be more relaxed w/ your 2nd baby... I certainly was.


answers from Boca Raton on

Ughhhh I feel you... Not with the baby issue, but with the sleep :( :( I have had sleeping issues for the past 3 years! Insomnia stinks!!!! I have tried SOOOO many things and my body reacts SO WEIRD TO MEDICINE!!!!!!!!!!! I have tried everything you have tried, plus some.... All "sleeping pills" do the opposite to me.. My mind will race and I can't sleep at all.... Trazodone and seroquel did the same thing... Xanax is the only thing that helps. I HATE that I'm on it (ONLY for sleep, I could NEVER take it during the day or I would be a zombie), but it's either that or no sleep :( They put me on zoloft also and it has helped A LOT with my mood... Naturally, when your body is so sleep deprived you get more depressed. I wasn't a depressed person AT ALL!!!!!!!! I had a really stressful situation happen to me 3 years ago, and insomnia kicked in..... I'm still looking for my miracle solution...
Good luck!



answers from Washington DC on

Maybe if your insurance will cover it try a sleep doctor they have them that specialize in it and they will do a sleep test. My PCM keeps telling me he is a sleep specialist and has solicited my insurance to do a test on me, I'm skeptical and I've been putting off the test when I do go in and have it done I'll let you know how it goes, but check it out for yourself...



answers from Seattle on

I am so sorry. I thought I was sleep deprived sometimes getting 3-4 hours a night but you had it way way way worse!! Oh my gosh, I don't know how you survived - seriously. Unfortunately I don't have direct experience with exactly what you experienced but I just wondered if maybe setting up an Angel Care monitor for your next baby might help. Do you think you were jerking yourself up because you were nervous about the baby not breathing (like the first poster mentioned)? Maybe having the Angel care monitor might help alleviate your worries? If you don't know what it is, basically it's a monitor that sits under the crib mattress and detects movements from the baby. If it doesn't detect a movement for a few seconds then it sounds an alarm. I used it for my first child and found it pretty helpful. I am so sorry and I really hope you don't have to go through this a second time.



answers from Texarkana on

The very same thing happened to me i wasnt able to sleep for months after my son was born and i would have sleep jerks all night and my son slept in the bassinet next to me to where i could hear him breathing and i swear everytime he moved and didnt even make a noise if his breathing pattern changed i would instantly wake up, i felt like i was never fully asleep for the first 9 mths of him being born. But for some reason i could take naps for 2 hrs at a time without moving during the day.... My husband finally got so tired of me being awake one night he told me to go get on the couch lol and it worked!!!!! i was able to sleep just fine on the couch for sum reason. my personal thoughts is that i was so scared about having a baby and him not breathing are something that it was preventing me from falling into a deep sleep but once i was in a different room then him i was able to sleep. im honestly not sure but whatever it was it worked itself out once i put him in his on room . just recently we had our 2nd child and the same thing started happening again but im trying my best to sleep as much as possible even if it takes me sleeping on the couch every other night.... dunno if this helps are not but it might be just ur nerves i hope you can get sum rest soon tho i know how awful it is



answers from Washington DC on

so sorry to hear what you're going through. you're not alone. i've been struggling for insomnia for years. started with setting my body's clock to wake at 4 a.m. to work out, then go sit at a desk for nine hours. now that i've had two kids my body responds the same way. for me, two advil pm's, a flexiril (for back pain) and a low dose of valium is the perfect solution. i get enough rest to function during the days without any meds. but i rely on them every night which is scary. hugs to you, i hope you find a solution that works for you. it's NO fun to be that sleep deprived every day, and the lack of sleep affects everything you do. i wish you luck. :)

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