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A picture book that pledges to send any child to sleep is an international best-seller

AP/Ross D. Franklin
A blessing from the gods of bedtime?
By Thu-Huong Ha
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The No. 1 best-selling book on Amazon in the US right now is not about an S&M-loving business exec or historic racism in Maycomb, Alabama—it’s a self-published picture book about a very sleepy rabbit.

The Swedish author Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin’s The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep: A New Way Of Getting Children To Sleep claims to use “sophisticated psychological techniques” to help children fall asleep—and if international sales rankings are any indication (it has also been at the No. 1 spot on Amazon UK for 23 days), parents seem to think it’s working. (Ehrlin told Quartz he does not know exactly how many copies of the book have sold.)

Written in the second person, the book invites its listener to follow Roger the Rabbit on his journey to slumber. “Children connect with the rabbit who’s falling asleep,” Ehrlin tells Quartz.

The book seems to bring some of the techniques of hypnosis to bedtime. In the text, words are formatted for parents to adjust their reading voice: bold for emphasis and italics for words to be drawn out.

A typical passage reads:

You are relaxing your head and allowing your eyelids to be heavier [name], just letting them relax. Roger and you are relaxing deeply. Now. You are letting your eyelids be as heavy as they are, just before you sleep, now.

Ehrlin, who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and teaches body language skills at the University of Jönköping in Sweden, said he couldn’t point to any particular psychology research he used in writing his book, but he said he relied on “the basics of how we communicate” and his experience teaching public speaking. He also has a 23-month-old boy of his own, he said.

“The main thing is to direct the child’s focus on associating with the story,” he said. “I tried to get the child to see themselves fall asleep, and to help create imagery of what’s to come.”

Image courtesy of Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin
“The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep,” by Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin

As well as Swedish and English, the book is also available in French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, with Persian, Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic on the way, according to Ehrlin’s site.

The text is accompanied by illustrations by Irina Maununen of a droopy-lidded Roger and his sleepy friends, Uncle Yawn, Sleepy Snail, and Heavy-Eyed Owl. (Though as the Telegraph points out, the introduction reads: “It is best if the child is lying down while listening, instead of looking at the pictures, so that he or she can relax even more.”)

Despite the book’s popularity, some parents might be a bit put off by the idea of the “magic spells and magic sleeping powder” Uncle Yawn uses on children. Ehrlin says many enthusiastic parents have suggested that his next book be about potty training.

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