by Katie Oliver
One battle all parents come to dread sooner or later is bedtime. At the end of a long day of being run ragged by the little tykes, you’re at your weakest—and they know it. Somehow, the more you remind them that bedtime is approaching, the more resistance they seem to muster. If they’re in a particularly rebellious mood, something that should take a few minutes can go on for agonizing hours.
So what if we told you that there is a bedtime storybook on the market that can have your children fast asleep in minutes? It sounds far too good to be true, but The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep, by Swedish author and behavioral psychologist Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin, reportedly does exactly that.
Translated from Swedish into English, the book confidently claims “I can make anyone fall asleep” right on its cover and has garnered enough of a reputation for delivering on that promise that it’s currently sitting at the top of Amazon's Best Sellers list. This unmitigated success has been entirely self-generated too, as Ehrlin chose to publish the book himself—which is even more impressive when you learn that no self-published work has ever occupied the number one spot on Amazon before.
When you read the rave reviews on the site, you can understand the appeal. Dozens of parents recount the same story of how their children miraculously fell asleep before they’d even finished reading it to them. "I can promise you that I will continue to read this book to them every single night,” enthuses one parent. “Last night all three kids fell asleep before I had finished half of the book," says another, "Amazing!"
According to Ehrlin, the book works by employing “sophisticated psychological techniques” that combine to rapidly induce sleep in the listener. The reader is encouraged to intersperse the storytelling with lots of obvious yawning, to emphasize certain phrases (which are in bold), and to insert the child’s own name when indicated, so that he or she more fully identifies with the rabbit, Roger. "These are formed in a way to help the child relax, fall asleep faster, and sleep calmer every night,” Ehrlin told The Independent. “The tale gives suggestions to the child's unconscious mind to sleep."
If you’re thinking it’s a miracle cure for all sleep-resistant children, it’s worth noting that the book is not without its detractors. Alongside the many success stories, there are some less enthusiastic reviews by parents disappointed that their child seemed immune to its charms. “Didn't work in the slightest. A complete and utter waste of money. My daughter ended up crying for about half an hour because she couldn't read it,” complains one parent.
“It's a poor quality book, an awful 'story' (if it can even be called that) and my son hated every second of it. It was such a blatant attempt at hypnotism that I felt uncomfortable even reading it to my sons. It unfairly plays on a parent’s desperation to get their children to sleep!”
Writing for The Guardian, Imogen Russell Williams agrees with this latter view, labeling the concept of the book as “sinister” and the story itself “the stuff of nightmares.” Picking up a copy for the first time, you can see where she’s coming from, as the skinny, dark-eyed rabbits illustrated on the cover are not quite the fluffy bunnies you might expect. More reminiscent of the doomed rabbits of Watership Down than Peter Rabbit, it’s probably a good thing that the book advises children to just listen to the story rather than read along.
Beyond the weirdness of the illustrations, the fundamental principle of the book is an issue for some: the idea of tricking your child into falling asleep using a battery of hypnotic techniques. And you’re left in no doubt of its potential power after reading the disclaimer, which absolves the author of any responsibility for the outcome and warns never to read the book near someone driving a vehicle!
With warnings like this, can you still feel entirely comfortable that the book might be having such a strong influence on your children’s highly impressionable young minds? Well, that probably depends on just how desperate you are to get them to sleep. After months of grinding sleep deprivation, subjecting your little angel to a minor dose of brainwashing—in exchange for everyone getting a good night’s rest—may seem like a price worth paying.