Tue, May 24, 2022


A story for sleeping

This Swedish book swears it can put children to sleep. But does it really work?

A Swedish book is going global, and it’s not a crime thriller. Instead it guarantees to put children to sleep.
The success of author Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin shows how desperate some parents have become to settle down whining pre-schoolers who keep announcing, “I can’t get to sleep,” late into the night.
You can often recognise their mothers by the dark rings under their eyes.
Although the book, “The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep”, is extremely boring – or perhaps because of that – many parents now swear by it.
“That’s evidence of how big a problem sleep disorders are,” says Alfred Wiater, head of the German Sleep Society.
“I can make anyone go to sleep,” the book immodestly guarantees on its cover page.
It didn’t work for three-year-old Mila from Cologne, Germany however. 
“I read her one page and then she got bored and didn’t want to listen any more,” says her mother Maria Braun.
The book isn’t particularly interesting, but perhaps therein lies its secret.
“I let the child become part of the story,” says the author. “That way he or she can accompany the rabbit when it tries to get to sleep. Hopefully the child identifies with it and wants to get to sleep too.” 
Parents are supposed to read the book aloud in a certain way for it to work.
“The book begins with some instructions which tells the parents how they can read the book – that they can emphasise the words in bold, and that they can read some words more calmly and slowly,” says Forssen Ehrlin. 
To make children tired, lots of yawns are built into the story.
“Somebody I know told me she bought it after she read about it in the paper,” says Braun. “She tried it three times and it worked every time.”
Even after the child has fallen asleep, parents are supposed to continue reading the story. Her acquaintance felt a little silly doing that, adds Braun.
Forssen Ehrlin tried his book out in pre-schools, giving his book to parents to take home with them.
“A lot of them were surprised that it really works,” he says.
But it took two years to convince himself of its effectiveness before he self-published it. Since then, parents have been buying the book like hotcakes and it has been published in English, German and Spanish. It shot to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list in Germany.
“It’s something new and it helps parents and children get to grips with sleep problems,” explains the 37-year-old.
Forssen Ehrlin says he gets letters |from exhausted parents who had spent |four to five hours every day trying to get |their children to settle.
“And now when they read the book it takes them 12 minutes.”
That was the case for four-year-old Luis from near Dortmund. “He fell asleep on the second-to-last page,” says his mother, primary school teacher Mareike P – but she’s still not enthusiastic about the book. 
“I think a book about a popular cartoon character would have done just as good a job,” she says.
Older children might also feel the book is gently making fun of them, with its yawns and repetitions.
“There’s instructions to relax certain parts of your body. Children don’t understand that,” adds Mareike.
If children are receptive to these techniques, the book could really work, says sleep researcher Wiater.
“But the danger is that these methods are manipulative. In children that could make them become easier to manipulate in other situations.”
Problems with sleeping have often to do with the relationship between parents and children, adds Wiater.
In many families it’s not normal any more that parents spend time with their children before they go to bed. “With the book they automatically get that,” he says.
A change in upbringing could play a much bigger role in solving sleep problems than a book, he continues, so those expecting an instant solution will be disappointed.
“That doesn’t exist,” says Wiater. “The problem is too complex for that.”

Published : October 12, 2015