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May 15, 2017
WHEN IT WAS PUBLISHED in the US in 2014, The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep made quite a splash in parenting circles. Written by Swedish behavioral scientist Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin, the book aims to help parents who are struggling to get their children to sleep, whether at naptime or bedtime.
It’s easy to see why this appeals to weary moms, dads, and caregivers: sleep problems are among the most common parenting concerns. Can something as simple as a rabbit book really make a difference in getting a stubborn kiddo to fall asleep? We tried it out, and here’s what we found.
Touted as a book that makes kids fall asleep, The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep uses a combination of sleep-inducing factors, including soothing rhythm, hypnotic language, and relatable (sleepy) characters to nudge children off to dreamland with the power of suggestion.
It’s the story of a little rabbit, Roger, who has a hard time falling asleep. He wants to sleep, but he can’t stop thinking about things–a dilemma many children will recognize. His ever-patient mother helps him by taking him to sleep guru Uncle Yawn. Along the way, he meets some drowsy friends who give him advice to help him sleep. Uncle Yawn, a wizard, casts a sleeping spell on Roger. Ultimately, the exhausted little rabbit collapses into bed and immediately falls asleep.
This sleep book is intended to be read aloud to a child at bedtime or naptime. Before the story begins, there’s a set of instructions to the reader explaining the best way to achieve optimum results (which, obviously, are for your kid to conk right out). Bold text in the story should be emphasized, while italicized text should be read “with a slow and calm voice.” There are places to insert your child’s name in order to make him or her feel included in Roger’s tranquilizing journey, and readers are encouraged to yawn in key places throughout the story. Some parents find this complicated; the author actually recommends the audiobook version to simplify matters. The language and cadence of the story capitalizes on relaxation techniques and psychological tactics like subliminal messaging, lulling listeners into an anxiety-free state conducive to sleep.
As with all successful books, The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep is not without its detractors. Critics tend to slam its illustrations as amateurish, (the book was initially self-published in Sweden), and some find the drawings downright creepy, especially the bearded Sleepy Snail. Others take issue with the book’s methodology, and an opinion piece in the Guardian went so far as to call the story “sinister.” However, these darker interpretations of the story clearly haven’t made a dent in sales–the rabbit sleep book was the world’s first self-published book to rocket to number-one bestseller status on Amazon.
The big question, of course, is “Does it work?” Dozens of news outlets, ranging from the UK’s Daily Mail to Slate, have put it to the test and reported on the results. Not surprisingly, it works best when used in tandem with other healthy sleep habits, such as a consistent bedtime and the avoidance of stimulants like sugar in the evening.
Naturally, a magical solution to fix sleep issues in all children sounds too good to be true because it is. The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep will work well for some kids and not at all for others. It seems to work best for the three- to five-year-old set; younger kids may find it too long and older kids may find it too boring. However, if you’ve just about exhausted your options when it comes to bedtime battles and naptime woes, it certainly couldn’t hurt to check it out from the local library and give it a try.