Postpartum insomnia can occur after a person gives birth, resulting in episodes of interrupted sleep or the inability to stay asleep.

Researchers say physiological and psychological changes during and after pregnancy may contribute to insomnia. A recent study in Spain involving 486 females being assessed for insomnia around pregnancy found that over 33% experienced significant insomnia symptoms.

Symptoms may persist for months and symptoms even years. Treatment may include lifestyle measures, therapy, or medications.

This article discusses postpartum insomnia in more detail, exploring symptoms, causes, and treatment options. It also suggests when a person may consider seeing a doctor.

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Postpartum insomnia is a condition in which a person has difficulty falling asleep after giving birth. The Office on Women’s Health describes insomnia as the inability to sleep three times per week for 3 months.

According to a 2020 review, insomnia is a common sleep problem. It may affect individuals who are pregnant but also those who have just given birth.

A recent study estimates that 50% of those who are pregnant and have insomnia continue experiencing sleep problems for 2 years after giving birth. This may increase their chance of feeling tired and having anxiety and depression.

Learn more about insomnia here.

Individuals with insomnia may be unable to fall asleep or stay asleep, as the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) explains. Research indicates that this may lead to other symptoms:

  • Anxiety and depression: The authors of a 2020 review of medical literature associate perinatal insomnia with mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. The perinatal period is when an individual becomes pregnant up to a year after giving birth. One review in this article found that women with sleep problems were more likely to develop postpartum depression.
  • Obsessive thoughts: One article notes that those with mid-pregnancy insomnia have a higher chance of experiencing postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms.
  • Irritability and concentration problems: Persons with poor sleep patterns may find it difficult to concentrate during work or to remember important things. They may also experience daytime sleepiness.
  • Stress: At 1 month postpartum, some individuals may have poor sleep patterns and feel stressed.

How long can it last?

Postpartum insomnia varies from person to person, but it may last for years.

A study published in 2017 found that new mothers slept for only 6 hours at night and less than 1 hour during the day 2 months after childbirth.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) recommends that people see their doctor if they have been experiencing interrupted sleep for months or if their tiredness is making it difficult to concentrate on work.

Sometimes, long-term insomnia may increase a person’s risk of developing heart problems and obesity.

Healthcare professionals may provide a treatment plan or advice on how to treat insomnia and prevent any serious health problems from developing.

Learn more about the symptoms of insomnia here.

The NHLBI mentions the factors that may lead to sleep problems. These include:

  • stress
  • changes to a sleep schedule
  • reduced physical activity
  • drinking caffeinated beverages

According to one study, postpartum mood disorders may also be risk factors for postpartum insomnia.

Restless leg syndrome may develop during pregnancy and after childbirth. It refers to the uncontrollable urge that a person may have to move their legs while sleeping. It can lead to insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

The following treatment options and remedies may be helpful for those with postpartum insomnia:


The authors of a 2020 review explain that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be effective for treating postpartum insomnia. It helps individuals identify the causes of their sleep disturbances and then learn how to cope.

For example, therapists may suggest relaxing or using stress management techniques.

Learn more about CBT here.

Self-care tips

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) provides some tips that may help improve a person’s sleep patterns:

  • sleeping and waking up around the same time
  • avoiding drinking alcohol before going to bed
  • exercising
  • avoiding eating large portions before bedtime

Learn more insomnia self-care tips here.


Prescription and over-the-counter medications may help treat insomnia, and healthcare professionals may prescribe them for long-term or short-term use. These include:

  • Benzodiazepine receptors agonists: These act as a sedative and include zolpidem, zaleplon, or eszopiclone. Rare allergic reactions may occur.
  • Benzodiazepines: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved benzodiazepines to treat insomnia, panic disorder, and epilepsy, among others. Side effects may include confusion and dizziness, but a person may take them if other treatments do not work.
  • Melatonin supplements: These are available without a prescription and may help with sleep onset. However, they are not regulated by the FDA.

Tiredness tips for new parents

  • Sleep when the baby sleeps.
  • Don’t feel afraid to ask for support.
  • Understand the baby’s sleep patterns.
  • Aim to exercise.
  • Try to manage stress.
  • Learn the signs of postnatal depression.
Was this helpful?

It may not always be possible to prevent insomnia. However, people may adapt to new habits to improve their sleep patterns. For example, they may:

  • avoid using electrical devices in their bedroom
  • dim the lights before bedtime
  • napping for only up to 30 minutes

They may also consult a sleep specialist if home remedies have not worked.

Postpartum insomnia occurs when a person has difficulty falling asleep after giving birth. It may affect people with mental health symptoms such as stress or reduced physical activity.

Healthcare professionals may recommend attending therapy or prescribing medications.

Individuals may also consider maintaining a regular sleep schedule and avoiding caffeinated beverages before bedtime.