Pregnancy insomnia, anxiety and me

Gosh i'm tired. Unsurprising when I realise that for the last 10 weeks I have not slept for more than 90 minutes at a time, and never once had more than 6.5 hours sleep in any one night. Honestly.

What is most astonishing though is the body's ability to keep going, despite this huge defecit of (quality) sleep. Yes I feel tired but i'm still working full time and just about holding the business and my relationships together... I think.

This is unfortunately not an altogether new state for me, as I had the exact same thing when pregnant with Etta, although that was in fact far worse due to the heady mix of anxiety and insomnia. I would find myself pacing the house or sat in a chair repeatly pressing the "emergency meditation" button on my Headspace app whilst my body fully convulsed through all the adrenaline that it deemed necessary for 3am and zero rational threat.

Over these 8 or so weeks during my first pregnancy I genuinely thought I was losing my marbles. During the day I was, in the most part, able to rationalise why my anxiety and resulting insomnia were totally unfounded, but as soon as night began to fall I'd be unable to relax whilst my irrational, subconsious mind took hold and i'd be reduced to a shaking mess asking my husband to help me - but of course he couldn't. And god forbid I had a blocked nose or anything that inhibited my breathing, as those would be the nights where I would emerge in the daylike, zombie-like having had not one wink of sleep.

It got so debilatating that I was signed off work for a week as I was too anxious to get on the underground, and when I had made it into work I found myself having to leave meetings as the pressure on my chest got too much, instead finding myself outside on the pavement on the phone to the midwife begging them to do something.

Their only solution was anti-depressants, given that most medicinal options are of course out of the window when pregnant. So whilst I am fully appreciative of the benefits of anti-depressants I was also insistent that they weren't what I felt needed for my particular condition. Instead I opted for hypnotherapy.

Whilst not a regular user of alternative therapies I am also not a sceptic, and as anyone who has felt desperate before knows you'll try anything once. So off I trotted, anxious as hell about the whole appointment, but lo and behold within 2 sessions I'd started to feel the weight lift and before I knew it I was back to feeling in control and sleeping as well as I could expect when 30 weeks pregnant. 

Interestingly the trigger for my anxiety during my first pregnancy was the sense of a loss of control: the not knowing how my baby would impact my life, my career, my relationships, and for someone who is somewhat of a control freak and who likes to get sh*t done this was enough to send me spiralling, ironically, out of control.

Second time round I know what I'm getting into, for the most part, however rather ironically again the fear of my anxiety returning caused the anxiety to return - doh. I have however able to nip it in the bud more quickly through some more, tailored hypnotherapy sessions, so my day to day (and nightly anxiety) is now at a far lower level, however the hangover from it all is a 90 minute sleep cycle and continued obsession with how well I can breathe at night.

As soon as I started talking about my anxiety within our social channels I've been inundated by messages from other pregnant (and not pregnant) ladies who are all suffering too. It's incredible how strong the mind is, let alone the undeniable impact of pregnancy hormones on our body and mind, and it's just so so tough to break a cycle of thought once it's begun. 

What helps me at 2 and 3 and 4am as I look out of the window for signs that it's not just me awake, is the knowledge that i'm not alone, however dark my street might be. That and that it's only a temporary situation.

What doesn't help me though is all the people who tell me it's my body's way of preparing for having a newborn, as i sure as hell don't need 20 weeks of crap sleep to prep for that, it's not a choice!

So to anyone suffering I can highly recommend meditation (headspace and the Calm app are both brill), getting up and doing something if you've been lying awake for more than 20 minutes, and always coming back to the fact that you're most certainly not alone. So try to embrace it, catch up on some guilty pleasure TV with a hot herbal tea and feel free to drop me a message to say hi... i'll be up.

Comments

Jennifer Fuller

Hearing from you guys just literally made me feel so much better after having my first night of no sleep and severe high anxiety the past 2 days, it feels so debilitating and I’m 30 wks so I’m seeing a psychologist for the first time tomorrow and then my obstetrician after that, I’m hoping they give me a safe sleeping tablet but I’d love to hear from you guys just with any reassurance or further tips.

Jennifer Fuller

What a relief to read this!!!!
Of course I am deeply sorry someone else has had to endure this quite frankly terrifying and exhausting situation, but it also a comfort to me as I wade through a boggy situation in which I felt I was totally alone.
I’m 22weeks pregnant. 3weeks ago I had an overnight episode of extreme anxiety. I didn’t sleep a wink for 3days/nights. I couldn’t eat, drink, speak. All I did was panic, shake, vomit and sob. I was anxious about EVERYTHING and nothing all at the same time. I like yourself could rationalise during daylight hours but as soon as the sun began to set it would send me into a pit of dispair! Uncannily, I too was obsessed with my breathing overnight, blocked noses, how the air felt when passing through my nasal passages and my goodness the complete hysteria caused if I couldn’t complete a yawn or take a satisfying deep breath!!!
I visited the doctors twice and was also referred to a specialist perinatal consultant. They prescribed me a short course of diazepam and a sleeping tablet but said this was short term only and that I needed to consider psychiatric medication. Though, like you, I know they’re helpful for some, but I felt them not right. She extended my sleeping meds and I have since settled a lot. Like you I still only sleep in short blocks even with a sleeping tablet. I’m fine with this as long as I’m calm when I wake and can get back to sleep! It’s been the hardest most petrifying situation I’ve ever been in. I’m still on the road to recovery and today my meds have been swapped for an anti hystamine safe for pregnancy which will hopefully make me drowsy and enable some sleep. The fear of that level of anxiety/fear and insomnia returning is a fight in itself. I too am using headspace!
Thanks so much for this post! I now feel slightly less completely nuts!!! I hope for me and anyone else struggling like this that things ease and all of us continue forwards with a calmer more healthy pregnancy!

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