Why Is Postpartum Anxiety Worse At Night & What You Can Do About It

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depressed and anxious woman lying down

Postpartum anxiety is very real. About 6 percent of pregnant women and 10 percent of postpartum women experience anxiety.

And moms aren't the only ones. Dads experience it, too.

But why is postpartum anxiety worse at night? And what can you do about it?

RELATED: 3 Ways New Moms Can Deal With Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

Postpartum anxiety tends to get worse at night.

If your baby hasn't started sleeping through the night, then you may be thinking, "When will my baby go to sleep?" or, "How long will my baby sleep before I'm woken up again?"

This can keep you in a hyperaroused state, making it difficult to quiet your mind so you can fall asleep.

But let's say that your baby is sleeping from at least midnight until 5 or 6 a.m. Your house is quiet now. The day is no longer available to distract you from what's making you anxious.

The fact that the house is quiet at night really simplifies why postpartum anxiety is worse at night.

And, in reality, you may struggle to distract yourself from the thoughts that come along with postpartum anxiety during the daylight hours.

That's because postpartum anxiety is different from anxiety that's not related to childbirth.

First, postpartum anxiety is one of the most common presentations of postpartum depression. And postpartum depression is an agitated depression that can make falling asleep or staying asleep difficult.

Also, the postpartum panic response can cause moms to wake up unexpectedly in the middle of the night.

So, what can you do if you're experiencing postpartum anxiety?

1. Make sure you're hydrated and getting enough nutrition.

This may seem either silly or obvious, but a day with a baby can get away from you real quick. Before you know it, all you have had is maybe one glass of water and a granola bar.

Getting enough food and water throughout the day has a positive impact on your mental health and can make it easier for you to keep your fight or flight response at bay.

2. Practice breathing techniques.

The Relaxation Response is a good place to start.

When you're feeling anxious, you stop breathing properly, which actually increases the physical symptoms of anxiety.

Practicing this breathing technique at least once a day can positively impact how you feel all day, making it easier for your body and mind to slow down so you can fall asleep.

3. Understand what anxiety really is.

Anxiety is all about the future and usually asks the question, "What if?"

"What if something happens to my baby or me?"

These thoughts are scary, but remember: You aren't in the future — you're in the here and now. Jumping on the anxiety train of thought deceives you into thinking that if you can plan for "what if," then you can control it.

But 99 percent of the time, that "what if" scenario never happens. It surely doesn't prepare you for anything. It only makes you miserable in the present moment.

RELATED: How To Deal With Postpartum Depression As A Single Mom (From Moms Who’ve Been There)

4. Use a grounding technique.

A grounding technique is something that mindfully brings your attention to the present.

One good grounding technique is to use your five senses to bring you back into the present moment. Ask yourself, "What do I taste, hear, smell, feel, and see?"

Describe out loud the answer to each of the senses. This can help you notice that you and your baby are safe.

You can even find things around you to smell, taste, etc. that make you feel good, like the taste of ice cream, the smell of your baby, or how soft your baby feels next to your skin.

5. Don't keep your thoughts to yourself.

It might be scary to share your thoughts and internal experience with someone for fear of judgment or misunderstanding. But keeping it to yourself will only make you feel worse

Saying out loud what you're scared of diminishes its power, therefore minimizing the intensity of your anxiety.

Talk to your partner. Remember, you're both in this parenting thing together. Chances are, your partner is experiencing some anxiety, as well.

If you're not ready to share with your partner, then maybe a trusted friend or a family member.

If you don't yet feel emotionally safe with your partner, a friend, or family member, then find a therapist who specializes in perinatal mood and anxiety experiences.

Feeling emotionally safe is critical to navigating postpartum anxiety.

These suggestions are just your starting point. One may seem more reasonable for you to start than the other. And after you start it, you may find you don't like it.

Everyone is different in what works best for them. And the intensity of postpartum anxiety can be mild, moderate, or severe.

If these suggestions don't work for you, don't be afraid to ask for help. You don't have to suffer and you don't have to go through this alone.

RELATED: The Difference Between 'Baby Blues' And Postpartum Depression And Psychosis

Jacqueline V. Cohen is a Licensed Professional Counselor, an ADHD Certified Clinical Specialist Provider, and a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist who works with courageous women and mothers that want to live authentically. You can connect with her by email or to learn more about her practice and specialties, visit her website.

This article was originally published at Therapy Mama®. Reprinted with permission from the author.