What is Momsomnia? Oprah’s Sleep Doctor Has a Cure

Kudos to you: You’ve made it through the first several months as a new mom. Better yet, your sweet little babe is now sleeping soundly in the crib…and in a separate room, too. (Seriously, we bow down.) But there’s a problem you can see crystal clear on the baby monitor: He’s lying there blissfully asleep, you’re not.

What is Momsomnia?

“momsomnia,” according to Michael Breus, psychologist and sleep doctor to the stars (including Oprah) is the idea that since your body is now accustomed to the middle-of-the-night wakeups, feedings and more, you’re actually anxiously waiting there ready for them and becoming even more sleep deprived in the process.

The good news: You can take steps to correct it. We asked Dr. Breus for some tried-and-true methods to put an end to this common new parent sleep pitfall.

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baby monitor

1. Re-think How You’re Using Your Baby Monitor

If you had a healthy delivery and your baby is thriving—and, bonus, sleeping in the other room—it’s A-OK to switch the screen off on the baby monitor and leave just the sound on. This way, you won’t be bothered by the blue light all night (a known sleep disrupter), but you’ll still have audio that alerts you to any middle-of-the-night wakeups, at which point, you can quickly react and turn on a visual if you need one.

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woman asleep in bed

2. Don’t Go To Bed Too Early

It may seem like a great way to carve out ample time for plentiful rest, but per Dr. Breus and the National Sleep Foundation, a healthy sustainable sleep routine is about getting enough sleep and about sleeping at the right times, too. He explains: “Your sleep is governed by two different and co-existing forces: your internal sleep drive (which takes its cues from how long it’s been since you last slept) and your body clock (which is regulated by circadian rhythms). If you go to bed before your body clock is ready—even if you’re tired and feeling the drive to sleep—this can lead you to wake very early and not be able to return to sleep.” The work-around if you’re dealing with momsomnia? Focus more on getting back to a sleep routine (i.e. a regular bedtime and wake time that you adhere to) versus sleeping when the baby sleeps.

alarm clock

3. Zero In On Setting The *right* Bedtime

So, you shouldn’t go to bed too early, but what time should you hit the hay? Dr. Breus explains that there’s a simple formula for calculating this: First of all, identify your normal wake time. Now, count backward seven and a half hours. That’s your bedtime (as in the time you should be in bed, lights out and relaxing toward sleep) and getting it right should help symptoms of insomnia start to level out.

mom awake baby asleep

4. As Simple As It Sounds, Make Sleep A Priority

It sounds silly, but moms have such a hard time acknowledging how much they need to rest. (There’s the laundry! And the cleaning! And tomorrow’s logistics to think through!) Dr. Breus is clear that you need to prioritize sleep—and consistency—in order to train your body to nod off on cue. The more you can ritualize your routine, the more success you’ll have with nipping anxious—and momsomnia-based—sleeplessness in the bud.

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...