New parents often expect sleepless nights when their baby arrives. But when sleepless nights last for years, it can shatter family life. Two sleep experts, advocating diametrically opposed approaches, offer to help families who cannot get their children to sleep through the night. After three weeks of working with the experts both families will see what difference the expert help has made to their children's sleep patterns in a final test week.
Stefanie and Priyesh's first child didn't sleep through the night until she was three years old. Now their second child, Indiana, is following in his sister's footsteps and at 19 months has never slept through the night. After bedtime at 7pm, he wakes again one or two hours late, and stays awake for several hours before eventually falling asleep in the early hours of the morning, exhausted, in his mother's bed.
Priyesh is worried the lack of sleep will cause him to lose his job and Stefanie feels like it's all her fault. "As a mother, you think you should know all the answers." Stefanie and Priyesh have tried everything they can think of to calm Indiana back to sleep when he wakes, but the hours of lost sleep are taking their toll on their relationship and now they want expert help.
One child waking during the night can be challenging but Hugo and Susie have twins (26 months) who haven't slept for a full night in over two years. Susie has tried everything she can think of, but while Poppy can now sleep through, each night Thomas gets up - and promptly wakes his sister. After not having had a full night's sleep in over two years, Susie and Hugo want to get the twins to settle.
Baby care consultant Alison Scott Wright says her clients call her ‘The Magic Sleep Fairy'. She runs a consultancy practise for parents and has published her child sleep plan The Sensational Baby Sleep Plan. Hugo and Susie have chosen her method, The Reassurance Sleep Training Technique, as it promises swift results - with children sometimes sleeping through in as little as three days. Alison works with parents to establish a night time routine and removes any dummies and bottles that are being used as sleep aids.
Taking a softer approach to sleep is psychologist Chireal Shallow, who runs a sleep clinic in London and advocates Gradual Retreat, where sleep aids such as toys and music are given to the child before the parent slowly removes themselves from the child's room. Stefanie and Priyesh want to try Chireal's approach as they feel it mirrors their parenting style.
Over three weeks both experts work with the families to encourage Indiana and Thomas to sleep through, night after night. In the fourth and final week, without the support of the sleep training experts, the families test how long their children are able to sleep through the night. Chireal and Alison will then compare the results from their differing approaches to sleep training. For the families the results have a profound impact.