Care and feeding of nightmares
September 25, 2019 12:56 PM   Subscribe

I have a six month old, a full time job, and recurring nightmares that are ruining my sleep and leaving me barely able to function. What can I do to stop the nightmares?

My mother died after a horrific illness. My sister and I cared for my mother in her final weeks. It was... awful, awful, awful. I dream about it basically every night and, as a result, I'm really not sleeping. My daughter is a fantastic sleeper, but she still nurses at night, and combined with the nightmares I am just not functioning.

I'm on the waitlist for therapy through the NHS. I can't really afford private therapy after childcare costs at the moment, and besides I honestly don't have the time, and my executive function is so destroyed that adding another fiddly medical administrative task to my plate just makes me want to cry. I can't take meds for sleeping because I nurse at night. I love my nursing relationship with my daughter, and don't want that to change. My husband has taken on basically all cooking, cleaning, house admin etc, but this arrangement isn't sustainable and a huge source of guilt for me.

But there has to be a therapy workbook or magnesium supplement or hypnosis tape or SOMETHING that I can do in the interim to take the edge off these dreams. MeFites who have conquered literal nightmares - how did you do it??
posted by nerdfish to Health & Fitness (44 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am so, so sorry for your loss (my mother had dementia) and I can't imagine a new baby on top of that. Silly question, but have you talked to a GP? You may not need therapy as much as you just need SLEEP. Even if that means weaning your daughter, if there's not a nursing-safe sedative. Put your own oxygen mask on first.

The nightmares may well be part of a feedback loop from sleeplessness in general. Tell your husband how much you appreciate him but don't stress too badly ... wouldn't you be doing everything if the positions were reversed? Of course you would. The guilt isn't helping you.

Big hugs, be kind to yourself. Epsom salt baths at night. Maybe a glass of wine. But most of all, kindness. Good luck.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 1:13 PM on September 25, 2019 [21 favorites]

This sounds so difficult. Does the NHS know you are postpartum? A friend of mine had an expedited referral because she’d recently had a baby.

In the meantime, I’ve had a lot of success with the guided meditations from Kaiser Permanente—free for all here:

I don’t know that there is one especially for nightmares but perhaps the grief, stress, sleep, and panic meditations may be able to help with some of the root causes giving you the nightmares?

Sending good thoughts and wishing you well.
posted by stillmoving at 1:16 PM on September 25, 2019 [5 favorites]

You might google "Nightmare rescripting." It's a therapy protocol that is used with patients with PTSD (and probably other disorders). Not sure what is available online but that could be a useful term to search.
posted by Bebo at 1:17 PM on September 25, 2019 [4 favorites]

Oh dear. This sounds awful and traumatic. I think times of grief and times with new babies are excellent times to call in your people. You've got both at once. So call in your people. You said your husband is doing all the cooking and cleaning and you are feeling some guilty about this. Try to go easy on yourself -- this is not an outrageous load for a new father whose mother-in-law died recently. But you might get some guilt relief if you ask a close friend or two to stop by with a meal once a week, or help with some basic household management things.

You said you can't really afford private therapy and you don't have time, but being exhausted takes so much time and energy. Do you think you could afford, say, two or three visits with a private therapist where you are clear that it's short term? I really think you need some help. Perhaps you could ask a friend to find someone for you?

But do call in your people, friends, neighbors, whatever. If I had a friend or neighbor dealing with all this, I might not realize how much they were suffering, but I could certainly help out with a meal or a chore or two. I would truly hope they would ask.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:27 PM on September 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

Prazosin (Minipress) is sometimes prescribed to help with PTSD-related nightmares. I've talked to people who find it very helpful and those who found it not at all helpful, so it's not a magic pill but it may be worth asking your general practitioner/primary-care provider about.
posted by lazuli at 1:37 PM on September 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

Give your brain something soothing to latch onto at bedtime. During times of high sleep stress, I recommend watching Bob Ross painting episodes while falling asleep.
posted by fourpotatoes at 1:38 PM on September 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

It’s okay to ask for handouts - to crowdfund for therapy and time off - It’s better to deal with potential shame than to lose your job or other risks that can come from prolonged and persistent sleep deprivation. I for one would be happy to donate
posted by Mistress at 1:42 PM on September 25, 2019 [5 favorites]

Also, it’s okay to stop nursing - sometimes we need to let go of things we love, of things we want, to prioritise survival. If the workbooks, and so on, don’t work, it’s okay to consider this. Just making a little mental note in your head that this is an option can give you some breathing space to feel less trapped - which might mean that you don’t have to stop nursing, etc
posted by Mistress at 1:44 PM on September 25, 2019 [15 favorites]

I have a friend who had terrible night terrors from his teens until his mid-twenties, until he went off caffeine for two weeks. (Which Wikipedia indicates is the amount of time you would need to recover from caffeine dependence.) I don't know what your caffeine consumption is like, but maybe try reigning that in (or cutting it out entirely if you can).

It's like... the most anecdotal evidence ever, but it seems like it couldn't hurt to try.
posted by Zudz at 1:49 PM on September 25, 2019

First, stop worrying about your husband doing the day to day things. It doesn't have to be sustainable, because it's not going to stay this way forever - your daughter will wean, your nightmares will fade, you will get off the waiting list for therapy, those things are all timers clicking along that will help make things better for you, and you can revisit the household balance then.
posted by Lady Li at 2:00 PM on September 25, 2019 [14 favorites]

How about half a glass of wine immediately after a feed, so there's time to metabolize it before the next one?
posted by the_blizz at 2:03 PM on September 25, 2019

You can try melatonin for sleep (I take it while nursing, though double check LactMed or with your doctor/midwife/LC). It helps me fall asleep faster but sometimes makes my dreams MORE vivid so it may not help for this.

I agree with everyone saying it’s okay to stop nursing, but it’s also okay not to stop nursing if that relationship is bringing you a lot of warm fuzzies you aren’t getting elsewhere. That oxytocin hit can really help with tough situations and is part of why we haven’t weaned yet when my son is nearly two! Women get a lot of pressure about breastfeeding from all sides. You do what’s right for you and your daughter, even if that means letting go of other things so you can keep nursing, if that’s what you need right now.

Yoga and deep breathing? The free version of the Calm app has a breath exercise you can literally do for a minute that helps me with general stress. I love Yoga With Adriene on YouTube if you can carve out 20 minutes a couple times a week. General stress management can sometimes help me sleep better/more restfully, and I think it’s not a stretch to think it could help calm the nightmares.

When I was a child with recurrent nightmares, something that helped a lot was teaching myself to recognize it was a nightmare and wake myself up. This is nebulous advice because I can’t explain how to do it, but I would wake myself up by yelling (in the dream) “I want to go back to [street address]!” It was still disrupted sleep and I still felt panicky after I woke up but it was better than feeling trapped. Maybe you can do some research on this or others will have related ideas.

I’m sorry you’re going through this. It’s a lot. You’re doing great, even when it doesn’t feel like it. It’s okay to let your husband do a ton around the house right now. It’s okay to hire help (house cleaners, etc) if you can afford it, or ask family or friends to come help. I agree that this doesn’t have to be sustainable. You just have to get through today. And then tomorrow get through that day, etc.
posted by bananacabana at 2:06 PM on September 25, 2019 [8 favorites]

Rachel Yellin makes relaxation audiotapes, including for pregnancy and new parents. I don't know if they would help with the kind of grief and illness PTSD you're dealing with, but they couldn't hurt?

I've found visualization really powerful in letting go of traumatic things. Maybe you could work on visualizations that ease the nightmares (e.g., of your mother at peace now,? it could take some trial and error to figure out exactly what images would counteract the nightmares).

Also, as someone who loved my nursing relationship, I wish people would stop disrespecting your request for solutions that support it. Do you co-sleep and do side-lying nursing? If not, try that instead of having to wake up fully.

Last, could you take a day or two off so that you can sleep while your baby is in daycare? Sleep begets more sleep, and the reverse seems to be true, too -- when I'm sleep deprived sometimes my brain seems to think that I'm supposed to be up all the time, so it doesn't go back to sleep easily.

I'm so sorry for what you went through and wish you the best in recovering from it.
posted by slidell at 2:07 PM on September 25, 2019 [4 favorites]

My daughter is a fantastic sleeper, but she still nurses at night

Could breast pumping let you transfer the night time feeding duties to your husband, at least temporarily?*

If your first instinct is to think "No, he's already doing too much!", set that aside. Once you're feeling better you can take back some of the responsibilities he's taken on.

I have a lot of experience with sleep problems including nightmares, and if I have time I'll come back and share, but for now I'm just going to say ignore the people who are suggesting alcohol. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it will have a negative effect on the quality and restorativeness of your sleep, will mess with your REM sleep, and it tends to make your sleep more shallow so you're more likely to wake up again spontaneously.

* I suggest this with no personal experience of breast pumping besides that being the way my own Mother kept me fed while I spent several months in a NICU. I know it's not uncomplicated.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 2:13 PM on September 25, 2019 [5 favorites]

I'm so sorry you are going through this--it sounds just awful.

My situation isn't exactly the same, but my mom died unexpectedly when I was 5.5 months pregnant with my first baby, so I empathize so much with going through grief while also going through my daughter's babyhood and trying to be a good mom and functional human. I have had some upsetting nightmares as well as a feedback loop of grief and horrible sadness and flashbacks to awful moments around her death that would play in my mind when I would try to go to sleep, as it would be the time of day when I was alone with my thoughts.

I don't know if this is the healthiest coping mechanism--and it might sound really simple or silly--but to short circuit those thoughts I started to listen to podcasts while falling asleep to distract myself from dwelling on those things. I actually just had a night of nightmares that woke me up, and used this to fall asleep in the middle of the night a couple days ago. It sounds silly, but there is a podcast designed to help people fall asleep that is actually quite lovely: Sleep With Me

I also felt way too busy for therapy and was avoiding dealing with my grief for a long time, but I did start to go to a therapist a little before the first anniversary of her death, which has been very good for me. I also found a local group of women who have lost their moms, and it was infinitely helpful to connect with other people who could empathize with my experience. Before that I felt very isolated and alone in my grief, and felt that other friends and family couldn't understand what I was going through in a way that they could support me the way I needed. Maybe there is a similar group near you? I also read grief books about losing mothers, which was helpful for me.

Another thing I would say is that you are really in the thick of it with both grief and motherhood right now. For me, the first year of grief was an absolute blur, and was so intense. The second year was when I felt like the shock started to wear off and the loss really hit me. Now, in my third year of grief, I feel more functional (though I will never feel the same again). I hope that the nightly intense nightmares are part of the processing your mind is trying to do that will taper off as you enter a new phase of your grief.

Your daughter's sleep will also change--I can't quite remember, but I think my daughter stopped nursing at night around 6 months? I would feed her right before bed and right when she woke up (as well as several times during the day). So hopefully that won't be disrupting your sleep for too much longer. I loved nursing and nursed until she turned three.

I'm sorry for your loss and the traumatic way it happened. Sending love to you and your family.
posted by ialwayscryatendings at 2:25 PM on September 25, 2019

There's been a small amount of research in playing video games helping people lessen PTSD. It's not a substitute for therapy, but I know that in my past when I've felt overwhelmed with emotions about upsetting events, I have often self soothed with playing video games that did not demand too much of me but filled up the space in my head and lessened the room for what I was upset about. They didn't fix things, they just helped me take a breath.

You're already trying to get the appropriate treatment, which they're not a substitute for, but they don't require you to leave the house or arrange paperwork and many are fairly inexpensive or even free. Many phone games can even be snuck into the five minute chunks of time confetti that you have available to you.

The one downside is you probably shouldn't be doing them right before bed, because screen time is going to interfere with your sleeping, and sleep the most pressing issue and the more you can get of it the more you'll be able to heal. If you need a similar activity that doesn't involve looking at a screen, perhaps coloring books could serve?

If you want to try this but don't know much about what video games you might enjoy, contact me and I'd be happy to try and help you find one you might like.
posted by foxfirefey at 2:33 PM on September 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think you may be experiencing what Americans call Post Traumatic Stress disorder. I have found that listening to anti-traumatic (for lack of a better term) podcasts and music helps me manage intrusive thoughts at bedtime, so maybe nightmares, too?
posted by theora55 at 2:54 PM on September 25, 2019

Beginning a mindfulness meditation practice gave me the ability to lucid dream, which may help give you more control over the nightmares if it happens to you too. If not, it's a small time investment that may have other benefits for your mental health. Worth a shot alongside other solutions.
posted by potrzebie at 2:58 PM on September 25, 2019

In my experience, I've seen a lot of women postpartum put themselves through a lot of extra stress because of what they want to happen, but not because of what needs to happen. It's disappointing to have to rearrange something that you had hoped to do, but your body is clearly telling you to stop. Stop and evaluate the situation .

Do you absolutely have to nurse at night? Could you pump or use formula just at night with your husband taking over?
Do you absolutely have to work full time right now? Can you use FMLA - in the USA you could - for postpartum related issues?
Can you absolutely not afford therapy on your own? Really? Really, really?
Is there a free grieving group or parents group you could do? (these exist in the US, so that is why I am asking)

It's great your husband has stepped up, and it's awesome you are trying to live your life normally. But you need to reflect on this - your circumstances aren't normal and your body/brain is crying out. Listen.
posted by Toddles at 3:03 PM on September 25, 2019 [7 favorites]

6 months is about the age when my daughter started sleeping through the night. Maybe that will happen for you sometime soon? That first year with a new baby can be so, so tough. Until my daughter started sleeping through most of the night I felt basically deranged, like every day was just spent in survival mode and like I was just an empty shell pretending to be a functioning human being. Such exhaustion, and hormones, and pressure, and expectations of how things should be. So maybe go easy on yourself and don't feel like you should be functioning better than you are; lots of new parents are barely functioning at this stage, even without the burden of grief and nightmares and trauma that you are carrying. It's OK that your household arrangement isn't sustainable - this is a short period of your lives and it is going to get better for everybody before long.

I haven't been in your exact situation, but there have been difficult times when I've had trouble falling asleep for months at a time. What helped me a lot was listening to podcasts that featured a few people talking in a friendly, relaxed way, about something completely low-stakes. MBMBaM and the Flop House were my favorites; I would turn on the sleep timer on my podcast app for 30 minutes and let my brain latch onto that while I was winding down in bed with the lights off. If I woke up in the night and felt like I was freaking out, I would try to turn it on again.

I am so sorry for your loss and for what you are going through. I hope things get better soon!
posted by beandip at 3:06 PM on September 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding lazuli. I take Clonidine (a common blood pressure med) to handle intense dreams I get as a side effect of a different medication. I was told it is used for PTSD sleep issues as well.
posted by serathen at 3:13 PM on September 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Perinatal mental health is definitely meant to be an NHS priority at the moment. I don't know what therapy waitlist you'll be on at the moment (in jargon, is it an IAPT service or did you go to a Primary Care Liaison appointment and get referred through them), but if you are feeling strong enough to nag your GP and quite possibly get nothing, I can't see why you shouldn't ask for a referral to the Community Perinatal Mental Health team.

I'm afraid I don't have any other suggestions, but you deserve to be helped, and on paper the government has promised to help you, so if you can hold them to that, it'll be good for you and good for everyone.
posted by ambrosen at 3:33 PM on September 25, 2019 [5 favorites]

Are you familiar with the "biological" nursing position? It literally got me through my kid's early childhood, because it meant not actually having to wake up for nighttime nursing. My dad died a month after they were born, also after an awful period of suffering, and the little one was my "teddy bear" for a long time. I firmly believed, and believe, that weaning would have been far harder than not-weaning. If that's not the case for you that's fine, everyone's different, but so many people were telling me I could try night-weaning for better sleep, and it made me want to cry just contemplating it.

On a completely different front, one thing that helps me not have nightmares is keeping my supper well away from bedtime. Ideally I don't eat after six, and if I really need something, I choose the blandest possible thing.
posted by teremala at 4:13 PM on September 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

Perhaps you could try to change the night breastfeeding session to a dream feed? This means that just before you go to sleep, you pick up Baby and nurse her when she's half asleep, then put her back down.

It's the same as what you're doing now except YOU choose a time when you're awake, so that feed doesn't involve yourself being awoken. Ideally this will give you that nice breastfeeding love hormone boost, help you feel sleepy, AND may keep baby full so she stays asleep 'til morning (maybe!)

That way you don't need to wean baby, but you will get more sleep, which will help you cope with everything. You are under A LOT of stress- new parenting, grief, and PTSD is a real hard triad- and sleep deprivation makes it all harder.

The longer your uninterrupted sleeps are, the better you'll feel.

Another thought: I had a lot of postpartum anxiety and I had to tell my husband to TELL ME he was doing stuff and it was ok. "I want you to have a nap so I am going to clean, go to bed." Him just doing it stressed me out, but if he TOLD ME I should go to bed, and he WANTED to clean, I felt better about it. Maybe you could say something similar to yours? "Babe, it would make it easier for me not to feel like I'm being lazy or weak if you explicitly (lovingly) told me what you're planning to do, and gently suggest self-care options that I could do with that time- rest or eat or go for a walk. "Hon, I'm going to do this laundry while Baby naps... would you like to take a nap too?" - if you say something like that, it makes me feel much less guilty about napping."

Sending you soft thoughts, this is HARD and you're doing great.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 5:28 PM on September 25, 2019 [7 favorites]

Just want to say it's ok to put more on your hubby's plate too. Get him to help you with all this doctor stuff & the phone calls too. Tell him we said so.
posted by bleep at 5:32 PM on September 25, 2019 [5 favorites]

This sounds so hard. I’m sorry you have to go through this.

I am also nursing a small baby, and I have found that so many people talk about nursing as an all-or-nothing thing, but it doesn’t have to be like that. One option is to keep nursing your baby like normal during the day, with your husband giving her a bottle (of formula or pumped milk) at night. That would reduce your night wakings and maybe let you take medication to help you sleep.

Whatever you choose, good luck.
posted by MangoNews at 6:28 PM on September 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

I used to have the worst nightmares imaginable (PTSD issues), and ended them with this technique I describe here. It's probably the "nightmare re-scripting" mentioned above, but I never had a name for it.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:54 PM on September 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

Can you arrange a couple of weekends where you try sleeping in the day as well? Day sleeping has sometimes shifted my nightmares.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:19 PM on September 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

Can you take a few days off work( or most ideally, two straight weeks) to just give your body a break? This sounds like a physical manifestation of stress and should qualify you for medical leave. You can take your child to her regular care during the day and just use the time to rest, get caught up on house stuff, and calming activities.
posted by samthemander at 8:35 PM on September 25, 2019 [6 favorites]

You mention hypnosis tapes in your question and I think you're on to something. A personalised session or two with someone who practices hypnotherapy would be much better than a tape and much quicker and cheaper than therapy, though. My husband used hypnotherapy successfully for claustrophobia that had been brought on by trauma as a child. Your hypnotherapist will give you a tape of the session that you can play at home also. The objective is to replace the nightmares with more pleasant dreams and there is evidence that it works for recurring nightmares.
Also get some pure lavender essential oil or a mix of oils for relaxation. You can sprinkle the oil directly on your pillow or else even better get a diffuser.
posted by hazyjane at 9:35 PM on September 25, 2019

I can also vouch for prazosin for this. It's extremely low impact and commitment, too, as it's other on label use is as an antihistimine. It's not like starting or stopping an SSRI or other more complex medication.
posted by loquacious at 9:45 PM on September 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding that nursing does not need to be all-or-nothing. My child is now 2 years old, but we exclusively breastfed for first 6 months before weaning. I was very proud of myself then, but now that I think about it, I didn't need to be so absolute about it at all. He would have survived on one bottle of formula at 2am so that I could get some sleep. Take care of yourself too.
posted by moiraine at 3:25 AM on September 26, 2019

Upthread someone mentioned podcasts might be helpful, and I found that listening to Death, Sex & Money, especially when the episode was about something death/related, scratched an itch and made me feel a little more whole while processing grief. At a certain point, people stopped talking about experiencing death and grief, which had me feeling more alone. Listen to others’ journeys gave me more perspective and context for working through grief. A more recent one is Terrible, Thanks For Asking which can put some light at the end of the tunnel that is the first year without our loved one(s). My sister in law died three years ago from that same brain infection in the US. It is a huge adjustment for any family. There can be comfort in routine, so do what works. We used a mini-cosleeper to minimize wakefulness. Anecdotally, melatonin was restful but provided more vibrant dreams. If it’s ok to try, start small with a 1-dose.
posted by childofTethys at 3:57 AM on September 26, 2019

this sounds really, really tough. and dood, i wouldn't stop breastfeeding either, if anything, it might be the one thing helping reduce your stress levels significantly. if you have any juice to self-care the shit out of this situation, these are just a few ideas:

- what's the room temp? are your sheets 100% cotton or linen? synthetic blends (polyester) make me sweattt and i get fever-type dreams.

- someone recommended gentle yoga - it's been proven to promote relaxation and enhance sleep quality, youtube has tons of good videos

- a good lavender room / pillow mist might also help a tiny bit

- my dietician recommended eating multivitamins (also esp. vitamin D if you're in the dark north..) early in the morning (as they give you a wake-up-kick) and mineral supplements in the evening, which also help sleep quality. so perhaps look for a good quality zinc/calcium/magnesium supplement.

- walks anywhere outside (preferably a park or field or forest) - again, fresh air is great for good sleep

- i'd skip the booze & really complicated foods in the evening and stick to pastas and bananas and such that promote sleepiness.

- these guided meditations are supposed to be top-notch, i haven't used them myself though, so i can't vouch. but still.

i love the answers here, i hope you get some good sleep soon <3
posted by speakeasy at 5:04 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

oh i remembered one more! the polyvagal theory is podcast about how your body's nervous system deals with stress/trauma - but in a really safe way, and it is interesting and calms me down for some reason (some night i just fall asleep to it), you might like it.
posted by speakeasy at 5:12 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding samthemander above about seeing whether there is any leave available to you for grief/loss, where instead of using all your leave time to take care of your new baby, you use all the childcare resources you have and lay down some of your responsibilities.

Day sleeping, cooking and eating meals you want, time to meet friends, to find a group meeting for those who've lost parents, time to maybe remember who your mom was before the illness, before the end, time to reach out to your sister and grieve together if you have that relationship.

Seconding also those who remind you that you would support your husband if it was his loss and grief, and to release any guilt you may feel. In addition to all the regular newborn stuff, I had mastitis four times in the first 6 mos of my baby's life, and without question my partner cancelled classes to take me to the doctor, cooked all the meals, took care of our house and cats, etc. etc. etc. If you have a good nursing relationship (or even if it's not altogether easy but it's important to you) I would not relinquish your time feeding the baby. Of course your husband can give a bottle, but why would that be the first or even tenth thing he would do to help?

Wishing you peace and quiet sleeps.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 7:08 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry for your loss and that it was so traumatic.

It might be worth contacting your local hospice. Hospices very commonly offer bereavement counselling to relatives and I think they don't always restrict it to people whose family members were cared for in the hospice. If you are able to use that service I would have thought it might be particularly helpful as they will be experienced in dealing with people who have had similar experiences. Even if they don't offer this themselves they might be able to point you towards other free or low cost local bereavement counselling that you could access sooner than the NHS therapy.
posted by *becca* at 7:13 AM on September 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

I understand what you say about not having the time or space for private therapy, but many, many therapists do offer sliding scale and reduced fees and understand the difficulty of dealing with the paperwork in the midst of grieving. I have relatives in an accredited therapist organisation (very focused on talk therapy) in North London, and am happy to send you the details if you like as I know for sure members of the organisation do offer it. You may also look into Cruse bereavement services. I do urge you to take what help you can, whether from your husband and other family members or friends, or professionals.
posted by tavegyl at 7:20 AM on September 26, 2019

Oh, and my experience with clonidine is that it does not prevent me from waking up when my baby cries or being able to change and bottle feed him. I'm a little groggy, but that's it. (Of course there could be other concerns with blood pressure meds for you, concerns with breastmilk transfer, etc.)
posted by serathen at 8:38 AM on September 26, 2019

It's extremely low impact and commitment, too, as it's other on label use is as an antihistimine.

This made me think, just on the offhand, not that you aren't dealing with real trauma, but because antihistamines tend to be treated as no big deal: Allegra is one of the drugs that gives me markedly more vividly unpleasant dreams and disorienting, "sleep drunk" kind of wake-ups, even though it also works very well to help me breathe. So there might be some things you currently take that you wouldn't even think of as having an impact that might be contributing. Some things that will help some people sleep better actually make other people sleep worse, and vice versa. Experimentation is helpful.
posted by Sequence at 8:56 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Talk to your GP or psychiatrist. I had a lot of PTSD-related nightmares at one point in my life and the doctor was able to prescribe something (sadly I don't remember exactly what) that was NOT a sleep aid or a downer in any way but which miraculously made the nightmares go away. Having a body is a fuck.
posted by zeusianfog at 10:42 AM on September 26, 2019

Cosleeping (with safe bedsharing practices) helped even out my sleeping pattern when I was working full time and nursing overnight. This is not recommended by physicians groups in my country and may not be appropriate for you, esp with the nightmares, but my anxiety levels were lower with nursing and cosleeping. I’m so sorry you’re going through this right now.
posted by vunder at 1:44 PM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Has anyone mentioned sleep training? At 6 months you may be able to night wean so she can sleep through the night, especially if she's starting solids, she may be able to make it all night without nursing.
posted by schwinggg! at 6:07 PM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Are you on any medications at all? Nightmares can be a side affect of some drugs.
posted by stripesandplaid at 11:32 AM on October 1, 2019

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