A 26-page children’s bedtime story, The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep: A New Way Of Getting Children To Sleep by Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin, has climbed to the top of the Amazon bestseller list, making it the first self-published book to ever do so. In addition to provoking interest from frustrated parents, (no mom or dad could resist the sign on the book cover that reads: “I can make anyone fall asleep”), the bedtime story is also garnering a great deal of attention from child psychologists, pediatricians, and other sleep experts who have mixed evaluations of Ehrlin’s new method. The author isn’t your typical children’s book author, but instead, he’s a scientist. Specifically, Ehrlin is a behavioral psychologist and linguist from Sweden, and he believes he’s cracked the code to create the perfect bedtime story that can help even the most rambunctious youngster settle down and drift off to sleep peacefully.
I am perfectly qualified to test his theory. Shortly after I became a mother, one question struck more terror in me than any other. I didn’t mind when people asked when I was going to have another baby, and I barely flinched when I was criticized about various other parenting choices. However, the question “Is he a good sleeper?” caused me more anguish, nausea, frustration, and downright fury than any other. In the two years since my son was born, I have tried everything to help him sleep, from herbs and oils to energy work to specialists and, most recently, ear surgery. Very few of those things have made much of a difference so, when all else fails, it’s time to throw the book at it, right?
The book is not just a cute story about Roger the Rabbit, whose Uncle Yawn and friends help him fall asleep at night. It’s written with cues to the reader, through bold and italicized text, indicating where words should be read with more force or in a softer tone and even where to yawn. There are also places where you insert your child’s name while reading, effectively making them part of the story, and creating a close connection between the sleepy rabbit in the book and your tired little one. The author suggests that children lie down to listen to this bedtime story, as opposed to looking at the pictures and following along with the text. This way, story time becomes somewhat akin to a guided meditation, in which your soon-to-be sleepy little one can focus on the soothing tones of someone they trust, to deliver subliminal messages telling them to just relax and go to sleep already.
Try as we might, some children will always have a difficult time falling asleep and staying asleep, and there may not be anything we parents can do about it. Although sleep training and other conditioning techniques work like a charm on some kids, recent studies show that sleep habits may be largely genetic. That is, if your child is a terrible sleeper, it could be a trait they inherited from you or their other biological parent. That’s not necessarily the most reassuring news in the world, because it’s an explanation without a remedy. But understanding that sometimes a poor sleeper is just a poor sleeper can help parents feel like less of a failure when they count up all the things they tried that didn’t work.
Regardless of the reason your little one has trouble sleeping, and regardless of what you might have tried in the past to do about it, any sleep-deprived parent enduring lengthy, stressful bedtimes and repeated late night wakings understands that anything is worth trying. And so is this book. Ultimately, I think my son – at just shy of two years-old, is too young for the method to work on, but I’ll keep the book around and try it again in a few months. For parents of older kids, especially those who love to snuggle in and listen to a cute story, The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep just might be the ticket you’ve been hoping for, to turn bedtime into a peaceful affair.
Images via Amazon