New York Times: An assistant professor of neurology and psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Shelby Harris reviews how to heal from the sleep problems that parents often experience.
Shelby Harris: A lot of the parents that I work with will say to me, “Even though my baby started sleeping through the night, I stopped sleeping.” A lot of moms — some dads, but mostly moms — almost become hard-wired to listening for what I call “sleep threats.” For example, if their kid is going to cry or come and get them. Even after the threat is gone, they continue to have trouble with sleep because they’re so conditioned to listening.
With these patients we’ll do cognitive behavioral therapy (C.B.T.) for insomnia: Part of that therapy involves challenging thoughts like, “Well, if I do go to sleep, something could happen,” and looking at the actual evidence of what does happen when you’re asleep. How often are bad things happening?
It’s really about using C.B.T. to train your body to get deeper sleep, and to not have long awakenings in the middle of the night. A lot of people wake up in the middle of the night and then they’re just on their phone.
I’m a big fan of practicing meditation during the day. Even if you do it for two minutes, you get better at it, and it can help you in the middle of the night. You can learn to recognize when your brain is getting puppy-dog active, and be able to focus in the moment.