My own journey with sleep issues: from childhood to motherhood

In my daily work with parents I often encounter questions regarding mothers’ sleep outside of the normal sleep issues that are caused by children’s sleep/wake patterns and cycles. Often mothers find themselves lying awake at night even when the whole house sleeps.

What I would like to share is that I have been in a similar situation and I can say that fixing my severe sleep problems has been the hardest journey I have ever been through, that including giving birth in the UK during the pandemic. There is not one size fits all sleep solution but what is for sure true is that you should go dig deeper, deeper, deeper until you find the roots of the problem.

I have been experiencing sleep issues ever since I can remember: inability to fall asleep at night, waking up to eat (yes some kids and people do that), inability to fall back asleep after random night wakings, irregular sleep patterns, severe pregnancy sleep issues and terrible insomnias accompanying my new motherhood journey. What is to be done, when do you need to act, what is to be ignored as the more you think about it the more it worsens?

Looking back, I do not consider I have ever slept enough, I remember chronic tiredness without the ability of describing what I feel. I would call it unwell or not in the mood but looking back, sleeping 7 hours per night at 7 years of age was clearly not enough. Through my work now, I always coach my clients to teach their children how to identify and describe their feelings of tiredness, exhaustion, drowsiness or sleepiness. There are so many synonyms for sleep, I could write another separate article. Whatever you call it, make sure your children understand as soon as their brain allows, what it means to be tired and need to rest.

As years passed by I became a young adult, I started to show more and more interest in this topic and I started researching articles, books or any other infos on the topic. For many years I felt misled by the enormous amount of information out there and I can truly empathize with those feeling this is a lost cause. IT IS NOT! But some people, like me, cannot get out of this alone! I can only hope you will not spend as much money as I did on finding out what is actually going on that you cannot sleep although everything seems to be going really well!

Through this text I would like to share with you my experience regarding fixing adult sleep issues that have no connection with a child keeping you awake. I often help parents and children sleep better as a family and once children start sleeping through the night, mothers get back to me saying their own sleep issues have not gone away: What is to be done? I am not fully qualified to tell you what is to be done in this scenario but I can tell you what I have been doing through all these years, finally being able to “sleep through the night” and wake up rested.

  • Seek a good therapist and take it from there! Childhood issues, teenage issues, career worries, miscarriages, you name it. There is something out there and someone with the proper skills will help you resurface it, deal with it with your conscious mind and go back to sweet, sweet well-deserved sleep. Maybe try hypnosis as well. I did and it worked for me!
  • If you have a child (very likely since you are on this blog), seek a therapist with children of his/her own. The perspective is sooo much different. Have you ever received this advice “Just take a week-end off, go to a retreat, leave children with grandparents”. I also received this infuriating but well intended solution. Neeeeeext!!!!!!!!!! I switched to a therapist who had children of her own and it made all the difference in the world: applicable support, concrete advice, spot-on hints and wake-up calls. This is not universally true but in my opinion, a tired mother will bond way better with a mother/ father therapist who can, with the permission of the client, share from his or her own experience as well, as a parent, not just a psychologist.
  • Consider going to a medical doctor who has specialized in adult sleep issues. There are various types with different names and backgrounds according to the country you reside in: somnologists, neurologists, medical sleep advisors, etc. More opinions mean more perspectives, the only perspective you should dismiss is “Do not worry, it will pass”. If it worries you, find out what it is, sleep is crucial for a healthy personal and family life. There are also old-fashioned doctors so maybe think twice before taking real sleeping pills and please do seek a second or third medical opinion!
  • Read as much as you can on this topic, but be careful what you read! There is a lot of nonsense, podcasts and self-proclaimed authors who have not spent a minute in a science lab so as well-intended as they are, they cannot replace guided self introspection, a healthy lifestyle and proper medical or skilled therapeutic advice.
  • Take a look around your bedroom and make sure it is meant for sleep, not for everyday activities, work, play with kids and watching TV. Once I have changed the area meant for me to sleep in, I have observed tremendous differences. As obvious as it seems, we tend to overlook or dismiss certain details: do a bunch of cables, a smartphone and a laptop on the nightstand sound familiar?
  • Do not feel tempted to believe that various plant infused pillow sprays, poshy essential oil diffusers or expensive anxiety releasing & sleep inducing shower gels or creams will help much. The sleep industry is a very questionable area if it indeed promotes products that cure or alleviate insomnia. I am "guilty" of trying many of these products but also of going deep into the science behind them. You will be shocked to see that very often there isn't even a remote logical or scientific connection.
  • Eating healthy, outdoor work-outs and yoga are amazing ways to improve sleep when the causes are not deeply ingrained in some real worries, traumas or life-long fears. A healthy lifestyle is a non debatable aid for better sleep but for me, as for many others, this did not do the full trick until I sought deeper into the realms of my brain. I will soon qualify as a yoga teacher so I really practice what I preach but real sleep issues often need a bit more additional support on top of regular and daily asanas or meditation sessions.
  • Keep your eyes open and do not dismiss by default any solution that might seem a bit “off topic”. Try acupuncture, sleep massage, mindfulness apps, putting plants in your bedroom, tea ceremonies, cocoa ceremonies, women’s circles, floor beds, relaxing books with bedtime visualizations, gong baths, yoga nidra, laughing yoga, you name it. What is actually important is the mindset we have when entering a new habit. If you believe that something from the above suggestions can help, chances are it will help: A BIT! You still need to do the work and put all the pieces of the puzzle together.

To conclude, if you wish to deepen your knowledge regarding adults’ sleep, these are the resources I appreciate and find to be useful, efficient and more important than anything scientifically based:

• Sleep foundation

• The Matt Walker Podcast

• Yoga for better sleep by Mark Stephens

• Altered Traits: Science reveals how meditation changes your mind, brain and body, by Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson

• How to do the work by Dr. Nicole LePera

I would like this article to be just an encouragement for you to believe me and yourself that not sleeping is not normal, should not be accepted as normal and somewhere, somehow there is a solution for you as well. Just take a leap of faith and let other professionals help you, through private coaching, books, podcasts, medical appointments or whatever will be applicable and efficient in your situation.

Sleeping well is an investment in our health and overall mood so I believe it is one of the most important gifts for our children and ourselves. Please make non-negotiable resting times throughout the day and night a rule of your house

photo with Diana

I am the proud mother of a little boy called Toni and I used to google various tips and tricks about sleeping just like you are doing right now.

I qualified as a child sleep consultant after graduating the Family Sleep Institute in the USA which is one of the most well known and respected programs of its kind. I can provide you with a safe and non judgmental space where we will tackle your child’s sleeping issues and get you back on track as a family.

Are you ready to make positive changes to your family’s sleep and wellbeing? Take a look at my sleep packages and let's give it a try together!

butterfly illustration

Other Helpful Articles