Everyone can sleep, but there are times in our lives when it is harder than others. As a new mum it's more important than ever to make sure you can sleep through the night. Dr Guy Meadows talks us through the problem many new mothers have when it comes to sleeping. Waking up for multiple night-time feeds can at first feel like a form of torture, especially if you've been used to getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep for most of your adult life. However, after a short while many new mums report tuning into their babies feeding patterns, whereby they awaken naturally just in time for the feed, only to then slip back to sleep when all is done. Unfortunately such a seamless transition is not always the case! Whilst it is quite natural for new mothers to report sleeping lightly or with one ear open, one of the main culprits keeping most new mums awake is their own minds. Left alone in the middle of the night, the thinking mind can begin to race and if left unchecked can fuel wakefulness. At best the thoughts can be mundane such as the plans for tomorrow or an annoying tune that just keeps playing over and over. At worst they become fixated on all of the worries in their life and effortlessly create catastrophic fantasies about how everything could go so badly wrong. If a few bad nights are experienced and over tiredness sets in, then it is very easy for the thinking mind to turn it attention to sleep itself. Suddenly a seed of doubt about our own ability to sleep takes hold and unhelpful thoughts begin to creep in such as "What if I I don't fall back to sleep after the feed?", "I know my baby will wake up soon" or "If I don't sleep soon I won't be able to cope tomorrow and will be a bad mum". All in all such worrisome thoughts can lead the body into a state of fight or flight, similar to if you were being chased by a lion, and obviously far from an ideal state for sleep. The natural reaction to such thoughts or the commonly accompanying emotion of anxiety or sensations of a racing heart is to try and block them out or lessen them in some way. Unfortunately such actions can be likened to struggling in quicksand, whereby the harder you struggle the deeper you sink. If allowed to continue such struggle can become habitual, whereby the brain begins to associate the night time or even feeding with wakefulness, rather than with sleepiness. In this state of hyper arousal we see the development of chronic insomnia. Dr Guy Meadows has been studying human physiology for 15 years of which 10 years has been devoted to sleep research and the prevention of sleep disorders. For more information about Guy and The Sleep School, please visit: www.thesleepschool.org
Alexandra Phillips

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