Reclaiming their evenings: Relationship-saving sleep improvements
After extended lockdowns and added stress, most households have had a lot to deal with this year.
For Nicki and her husband, extreme sleep deprivation was also adding fuel to the fire.
Their little love Alex had joined the family back in January. By 4½ months, Alex was waking every 90 minutes to two hours overnight.
“My husband had moved into the spare room and I had Alex in with me, so that he could still get some sleep. I was still trying to work and we were just at each others’ throats,” Nicki explains.
“I was close to breaking point, wondering if I was dealing with postnatal depression or just having a normal reaction to everything going on, and my husband and I had got to the point where we were wondering if separation was the right idea.”
It was from this breaking point that Nicki knew she needed to do something, so she got in touch with Rotorua-based sleep consultant Kellie.
“I opted for the phone consults because while my husband supported my decision to try something, it was clear that it was on me to make it work,” Nicki admits.
“Because of that, I felt like I could do with a support person and Kellie was fabulous.”
Because of where Nicki and Alex were already at, Nicki felt that a gentle approach would be easier on everyone to begin with.
“Kellie explained that the gentler techniques can take longer to be effective – and we did see some improvement, but ultimately I felt that it wasn’t enough,” Nicki adds.
Taking it up a step, Kellie soon suggested another technique.
Used to falling asleep in Mum’s arms or being assisted, Alex (understandably) protested to begin with.
“Those first couple of nights were hard, and I would be sitting outside his door with the timer going – but we also really quickly got results,” Nicki recalls.
Alex soon began consistently sleeping longer stretches overnight – initially four hours in a go, which was a huge win for Nicki to start with.
“We were feeding at night still, and I was initially nervous that he was going to be hungry during the night, but I trusted Kellie that he could last four hours,”
“Kellie said that he would slowly push that feed out further, and that’s exactly what happened. It went from 10:30pm to more like 2 or 3am, and then he would go back to sleep until the next morning – that was huge!
By eight months old, Alex had dropped that night feed and was consistently sleeping through the night.”
Peace found with a framework
Although Kellie suggested tackling bedtime first, while Nicki was still assisting Alex with his daytime sleeps, they soon moved on to using the same sleep support strategies for naps.
“I went all in and really committed to the routine, which was easy once I had started seeing some results,” Nicki explains.
“I made sure we were home for all of his naps for a few months, which didn’t feel like too much sacrifice for sustained breaks that allow me to work from home and for giving me my sanity back.
I like structure and routine anyway, so really appreciated that about the plan.
Having the framework also made it much easier to help my mum and others understand what he should be doing when they are looking after him. It feels like it’s all come together in a beautiful, big picture now.”
A dramatic turnaround
“My husband recently remarked that Alex is ‘such a happy kid now’ and said that was ‘all down to me’, which was lovely to hear – but also a big part of it has come from this plan,” Nicki laughs.
“He’s right though that the change in Alex has been significant – he was such a tired, grumpy mess before, whereas now he knows what’s coming.”
Nicki knows what’s coming too, and admits she’s already bought the 9-18month sleep programs and is always looking a month ahead to know what they’re working towards.
“I remember first looking at the plan, right at the beginning and wondering how on earth I would possibly manage anything close to that. I am surprised to recall that now with how easy it’s become. It’s all just second nature now.”
But the improvements haven’t just heralded a turnaround in Alex.
“I’m so much happier and am able to be back working more. I’m even at the point of wanting to get back to the gym. It’s so good now.”
Sleep all round has been much more blissful for this household too.
As well as getting their evening back, to allow for more time together and connection, Nicki’s husband moved back into their bedroom after five months of sleeping separately. It’s so common to underestimate the impact that a lack of sleep can have on relationships, but there is no denying that happy relationships are the cornerstone of happy family life.
We’re thrilled to see Nicki’s household so much happier!