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My sister knows how hard it is for me to get my daughter to fall asleep so she told me about this #1 bestseller by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin when she heard a review of it on the radio. She couldn’t remembered the name of the book but said the sentences and choices of words were constructed with psychological purpose to help children fall asleep more easily and to sleep well, and that sometimes the adults reading it might fall asleep unintentionally as a result of the carefully selected words.
Interesting, so I Googled, and the search lead me quickly to The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep. After reading a lot of the promising reviews, I crossed my fingers and ordered it from Amazon.
There were a number of negative reviews too, but what is one more book on sleep?
I didn’t even realize we had that many books on sleep until one night my daughter picked out five books for me to read to her and four of the five were specifically on sleep and the fifth, a rhyming book on robots, ended with “good night”.
It had been my sole decision to co-sleep and to allow my daughter to nurse on demand so I don’t blame anyone, but I had little hope of ever sleeping decently again. The years of sleep deprivation had made me cynical and skeptical of everything but I still wanted to try anything that might help her fall asleep without crying.
The book begins with the following instructions to the reader: Warning! Use this book with caution. It may cause drowsiness or an unintended catnap. And never read this book out loud close to someone driving any type of vehicle or engaged in any other activity that requires wakefulness!
I thought very funny! But oh boy, oh boy, was that warning true – I had to bite hard on my lower lip to keep from falling asleep and wipe away tears from yawning as I read. And the Mister, well he was snoring well before the story was finished. The little one, however, stayed wide-eyed to the very end.
Night 1: She couldn’t stop asking questions about the drawings. There are about 10 drawings, and she couldn’t tear her eyes away from them. In particular, she is concerned that the kind Sleepy Snail might fall off his leaf if he falls asleep. I tried explaining how snail secretion can act like glue but she wasn’t convinced. The Mister, along with at least several other reviewers on Amazon, think the drawings are kind of scary. I’ve never been high but I wonder if the drawings are anything like drug induced hallucinations?
The instructions in the book recommend that the child is lying down while listening instead of looking at the pictures to help the child relax. My daughter was lying down next to me, but I couldn’t get her to stop looking over at the pictures. It might have been more successful if I was reading from a chair at the foot of the bed like I see in movies or something.
Night 2 & 3: Instead of lying still as she does for other books, she kept trying to get up and run around the room. My guess is that she isn’t used to such a long book. The Mister however, fell asleep again before I finished the book.
Night 4: My daughter requested The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep. I thought success tonight? But no, at the end of the story, she was still awake and she explained she chose this book because it was the longest book we had so she could stay up longer.
Night 5: The drawings no longer intrigue her as much so we finally get through the book at a more normal pace. She mentioned that she is sleepy but wants to know what happens next. I replied that she knows what happens and tell her to just fall asleep if she is tired and she says “Okay”. In fact, several times in the story, there are reminders to your child that it’s okay to fall asleep even before the story ends, because it has a happy ending.
When I read this book, several phrases and words jump out at me as they are repeated very, very, very frequently in the story: now, (so) tired, down, sleepy, fall asleep, slowly, heavy, yawning and relax. My daughter is suddenly using these words, especially ‘now’ and ‘tired’ more in her daily play and conversations, so maybe the sleep messages are slowly sinking in?
Some sentences do read almost like what I imagine a hypnotist would say: “Fall down, down, down. Just like a leaf that falls down slowly down, down, down, slowly down from a tree, follows the wind, and just let it make you fall down, slowly down to the ground. Slowly down, down, down. Now. Your eyelids are so heavy.”
The story is about Roger, the rabbit who is having trouble falling asleep. He interacts with Mommy Rabbit, the kind Sleepy Snail, the beautiful and wise Heavy-eyed Owl and finally the world’s kindest Wizard, Uncle Yawn. Each character helps Roger (and your child) to fall asleep easier and better in a different way:
- Clear mind. Mommy Rabbit tells Roger to clear his mind by putting all the thoughts and questions in a box by the bed. She also accompanies Roger as he goes down to visit Uncle Yawn who will certainly help him sleep.
- Calm down and slow breathing. The kind Sleepy Snail suggests calming down and doing everything more slowly.
- Relax. The beautiful and wise Heavy-eyed Owl tells Roger to relax.
- Fall Asleep. The kind wizard, Uncle Yawn, uses a magical sleeping powder along with a powerful sleeping spell that always works on children and rabbits.
Night 6: Oh no…she asks me NOT to read it please. We came to a compromise: she gets to pick a bedtime story of her choosing and then we end with The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep if she is still awake. I told her it will help her fall asleep faster and sleep better so she agreed.
Night 7: She falls asleep before I finish the book! What happened between the previous night and tonight? I do not know. But…perhaps…fingers crossed…this book will work?
Since that night, she has been falling asleep fairly consistently at the part where Uncle Yawn sprinkles his magical powder and casts his powerful sleeping spell, which is just about halfway through the book. I continue to read all the way to the end of the story as the instructions tells me to and wonder if she can subconsciously hear me say ‘good night baby’ and ‘I love you’ as I close the book.