Parents: Nighttime Anxiety & What You Can Do To Feel Less Anxious


Sleep or lack of sleep can be so challenging.  Add onto that a new little one and new routines and schedules and it’s not surprising that we can easily become overwhelmed and anxious.  Not only are new parents getting less sleep but the sleep they are getting tends to be fragmented.  Even when baby is sleeping it can be hard to rest our minds and bodies as we worry when the next wake up will be.  Are you feeling anxious about the sleep you may get each night or how many wake ups you may face? You aren’t alone, studies have shows that sleep (or lack of it) plays a role in postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA).  Our article here on postpartum sleep support gives some tips for getting sleep back on track in those first few postpartum months. 

There are many factors that can affect those anxious feelings when it comes to sleep and the sleep we will be getting. One of factors that may affect women in those first few months to the year after postpartum are hormones. Women’s hormone levels change during pregnancy and in those postpartum months.  Often even before coming into parenthood we may be lacking sleep due to those hormone changes and difficulty getting comfortable for sleep. If hormones may be playing a role in your sleep and feelings around it, read more here for some tips. 

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So, what can we do when those anxious feelings and thoughts creep in and threaten to affect that sleep that is already so fragmented?  There are steps we can take to look at all areas of our sleep and set us up for success

Have Realistic Expectations

I know it’s so hard but really understanding what is typical and normal for your little one’s sleep can help set up those realistic expectations. Understanding that you are not alone, and you are all adjusting to a new schedule and routine.  It’s normal to worry about what sleep will look like in those evenings but it can help to have a plan.  That may be asking grandparents to help during the day so you can sleep or taking turns and deciding on who may take the beginning part of the evening and who will take the second half.

Try to schedule in those naps and times for sleep, prioritize what needs to be done or ask for help with other tasks so that when baby sleeps you can sleep. Having a plan for what sleep will look like or that we can get sleep sometime in the evening can often help those anxious feelings.  By getting the sleep in and being better rested, it will help our mindset and keeping that anxiety at bay.  If you feel like having support around sleep or those expectations for your little one feel free to reach out to us or read more here.

 Prioritize Bedtime and Bedtime Routine 

Start earlier, have some wind down activities in the evening that allow you to relax and get into that sleep mode.  Take a bath or try some yoga/meditation.  We are looking for activities here that can help us channel some of that anxiety and bring us calm., Journaling is another great activity for our bedtime or wind down routine. Jotting down all those racing thoughts, making a list of priorities to tackle, or even highlighting those great things you’ve done in the last few days to a week can be a great release. 

Set Up That Sleep Environment for Success 

Our sleep environment can have a positive impact on the sleep we get and how that sleep happens. Sometimes some simple changes can help us to fall asleep and back to sleep faster for those night night waking.  Some simple tips are using white noise or soothing sounds to help settle us to sleep, limit any distractions in the bedroom, often when we walk into a bedroom that is messy or full of clutter it can be overwhelming and take the focus away from sleep.  We want that room to be relaxing and soothing to enter and bedroom.  Room darkening blinds and drapes can help for those early mornings and nap times when we are trying to catch up on that little extra sleep.

Limit tech in the bedroom by creating a family docking station to keep that tech out of the bedroom.  Tech use can increase our exposure to blue light and decrease that melatonin production making sleep more challenging.  By limiting tech it also allows for more opportunities to wind down and use some of the other relaxation techniques we shared. Find more tips for that sleep environment through this post here where we chat about using your senses to create that perfect sleep environment.  

Seek Support 

If you’ve made some of the changes above and still find you are struggling with anxious feelings that are making your sleep and day to day tasks challenging,  it may be time to seek support. Working with a counsellor, psychologist or social worker who specializes in post partum support, anxiety and depression can help to further give you the tools and strategies needed.  Often your family doctor may be able to make some referrals or recommendations or there are often community resources specific to postpartum care. 

Sleep Consultant Jolan Holmes
Sleep Consultant Jolan Holmes
Jolan Holmes, B.A., E.C.E, R.C.C. and Certified Sleep Consultant lives in Anmore, BC with her husband and two beautiful boys. She has over 20 years experience supporting families and children with developmental, behavioural and mental health needs, as well as working specifically with little ones with sensory processing challenges and Autism. Jolan was certified as a Sleep Consultant through the Family Sleep Institute and trained as a Good Night Sleep Educator.

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