My husband snores, a lot. He’s done it for years. Several months ago, it became patently clear that he needed to learn to fall asleep–and stay asleep–without me. It was a hard journey. Used to be, no matter what time I came to bed, no matter how long he’d been in there alone, he’d be wide awake in the pitch black, not even groggy. I’m talking real awake, similar to a kid convinced there’s a monster in the closet. “How’d everything go?” he’d say as I tip-toed into the room, ever confident the night would come when he’d fall asleep on his own. Killed me to do it, but I had to do some sleep training. Helping him develop his independence and healthy sleep habits, well, these are a gift worth all the heartache of eventually letting him cry it out (CIO).
I’m not a monster. Please don’t look at me like that. I know the attachment-wifing community may frown upon my choice, but I did my research, and I did my time before making the excruciating leap. I assure you that even I felt CIO was a savage last resort, so I exhausted every avenue before I finally gave in. Here are the things I tried:
The No-Cry Sleep Solution. This is where I started. After I wed my husband, I had all these fantasies about how I was going to practice a gentle approach to marriage. It had worked for so many women! I even read in the medical journal Granola Marriage that the more attention you give your husband, the more quickly you respond to his cues, and the more lovingly you respond to his needs, the better-adjusted he will be. Over time, he would develop the skills to handle his needs independently, and he wouldn’t feel abandoned. Not responding to his bedtime needs could easily damage our bond, perhaps for life. Naysayers said if I responded to every whimper for anything he wanted, be it a quickie or pancakes in bed, he would only demand them more. To be honest, even I doubted that that if I brought sex and bedtime munchies on demand that he would eventually start to masturbate and make his own snacks. And as it turned out, his needs only escalated. Soon it seemed he grew only more impatient, expecting me to appear almost magically in the bed at his whim to help him relax and fall asleep.
Husband-Wearing. Look, I couldn’t even begin this one. Hubby tips the scales at 200 pounds, and no matter how I tried, I could not figure out how to strap him onto me with a Maya Wrap. Next he refused the sling, said it would force him into a fetal position that would smoosh his man-bits. Don’t even get me started on the Bjorn carrier. I couldn’t get his legs through the damn holes.
The Husband Whisperer. Next I moved on to the Whisperer approach, which is a sleep technique for people who want something middle-ground. The idea is that you teach your husband to sleep independently by more closely monitoring his cues and getting him into the bed before he gets overtired, ornery, and can’t even think about falling asleep without a 50-minute exotic back-rub culminating in the beast with two backs. So, I tried, but the window was just too small. One minute he’d be sitting at the table eating a late-night snack of cold meatloaf, and the next he’d be up in the bed calling for me in a sexy-time voice. And calling. And calling. And calling, louder by the second. I’d be zipping around the kitchen trying to quick turn out the lights, and by the time I’d get upstairs, he’d be so worked up that the only thing that would calm him would be to offer the breast. If I urged him into the bed too early, before the “window,” things were even worse. He wasn’t tired enough to fall asleep, so he’d dawdle and call for me. He’d feign desperation and throw hissy fits. Where is my sex!? I want my munchies!
The Ferber, or Cry-It-Out, Technique. Here’s where the rubber met the road, no more pussy-footing around about getting him to sleep independently. CIO takes consistency and nerves of steel. The cardinal rule of the CIO approach is that once you start, you cannot turn back, you cannot break. By people in the know, I was told that a good way to start is by monitoring your husband’s sleep-wake cycle for about a week. Make notes of when he gets drowsy, and time his sleep accordingly. Then, when you’re sure you’re ready, you send him to bed and anchor yourself in the living room to that great book you’ve been wanting to read. He will call for you. Oh, yes, he will call for you. When he starts to get really worked up–and he will–the temptation to fall back into older, easier habits will be strong, especially if you’re on a really great chapter in that book and just want to get on with it. You have two choices at this point: Go in and check on him at increasingly wide intervals: 5 minutes, then 10, then 15. Or, if that works him up into a bigger lather, just stay put. Don’t give in. Eventually he will realize that you are not going to come, so he will abandon efforts to manipulate you. Then he’ll fall asleep on his own.
Folks, judge me if you must, but CIO worked. It took just a few nights, and things definitely got worse before they got better, but soon he wasn’t even calling for me anymore. I’d go upstairs an hour later, find him fast sleep, and then I’d climb into bed with one of our soundly sleeping, not-snoring children. No more co-sleeping with my husband! No more sleep deprivation! Ahhh, finally, we’re all nice and rested.
Interesting side note: I never had to do any sleep-training whatsoever for naps. My husband never had trouble with those. He could fall asleep faster than you could say, Dang, these lunch dishes need washing. He’d even sleep right through loud noises, such as our kids fighting and yelling. Experts tell me this is not unusual with sleep-training.
I know the cry-it-out method is controversial and wouldn’t have been my husband’s first choice if the choice had been his, but for our family? For me? It worked.