Eleven weeks ago an eight pound eleven baby boy bomb exploded into my life. Prior to detonation my husband and I had been warned that there was no way we could possibly imagine what it would be like to have a newborn. In fact I could imagine exactly what it was like; inexplicable crying, nappies and sleepless nights along with the horror of a post-partum body.
Turns out that I was correct on all counts, (my thighs, what has happened to my thighs?) but I did severely underestimate just how horrific sleep deprivation would be. At times I’ve felt sick I’ve been so tired. Bizarrely, there was a peg in the fridge the other day and last week it took me over twenty-four hours to decide whether to wash a load of baby clothes as colours or whites.
Sleep is extremely restorative, it’s when your body does most of it’s healing, and a lack of it can affect both your physical and emotional wellbeing. As a physiotherapist my clients often have issues with sleep which can be for a number of reasons.
‘My pain is worse at night’
Certain conditions are worse at night such as those involving nerve pain. Pain control is an important part of injury management. If you are taking painkillers and don’t feel they are helping then do please see your GP or pharmacist for advice. I see a lot of people who are in pain but who don’t like taking painkillers. This is totally an individual’s choice, but people often say, ‘I don’t want to mask the pain and do more damage’. This isn’t something to worry too much about. Most painkillers will just take the edge off, enabling you to function whilst still being aware of your limits.
‘I cannot find a comfortable position to sleep in’
This is very common when you are suffering from an injury. Make sure you ask your therapist for ideas on positioning and using pillows or cushions for support. Splints, braces or taping may also help.
‘I wake ….. times a night’
In my experience what often happens is that people get to sleep and then their body ‘sets’ in a certain position. I often recommend that people get into a routine before they go to bed. This may include pain relief, stretches, heat, ice and getting into a supportive position. You may still wake at night but if you can get a good few hours initially it may help you to feel better.
‘I’m just not sleeping well’
It’s not necessarily physical pain that can interfere with sleep. For example anxiety, stress and depression can also make sleep harder to come by. Treatments such as hypnotherapy and complementary therapies can help develop coping strategies and may include learning mindfulness and relaxation techniques. Some people find that regular exercise helps them to sleep better, however others find that exercise too close to bedtime makes them very awake. Sleep hygiene is a modern phrase that refers to cleaning up the space that you sleep in and includes thing like removing mobile phones and televisions from the bedroom.
If you are finding sleep difficult for any reason, and it’s not just a baby who thinks sleep is for weaklings, there is lots of advice and help available. If all else fails I’ll lend you Ewan the Dream Sheep. The white noise certainly sends my husband to sleep
Clare Hornby is a Physiotherapist and Pilates Instructor. Clare is currently on maternity leave but will be back in the summer (when she has caught up on some sleep!)
Read more about how Hypnotherapy can help with Insomnia in an article by Karla Howes