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Bedtime story uses psychological tricks to get kids to sleep faster

“The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep,” is number one on Amazon’s best-seller list
Can best-selling bedtime book help children get more sleep? 03:23
The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep, Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

For many parents, getting kids to fall asleep can be a nightmare. But a children's bedtime story currently topping Amazon's Best Sellers List promises to make the process easier and help kids to drift off to sleep faster.

"The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep," a self-published picture book written by Swedish author Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin, employs psychological and positive reinforcement techniques to promote relaxation and induce sleep.

The tale follows Roger The Rabbit and his mother as they journey to meet Uncle Yawn to help him find sleep. Along the way, they meet characters like Sleepy Snail and the wise Heavy-Eyed Owl who give Roger advice on how to fall asleep faster.

The key is the story's language pattern and sentence structure, Ehrlin says. "The entire story is focused on getting the child involved and to get the child to identify with Roger who will fall asleep in the end," he told CBS News. "The main goal is to keep the child focused on the goal of relaxation. One could say that this story is the verbal equivalent of rocking the baby to sleep."

By the time Roger reaches Uncle Yawn, he is already feeling tired. Magical sleeping powder ultimately does the trick and he can barely get home before falling asleep and getting a good night's rest.

The book - with the words "I can make anyone fall asleep" emblazoned on a sign on the front cover - allows parents to personalize it by using the child's name, and it offers written cues for parents, such as encouraging them to yawn at the end of a sentence, to help them tell the story more effectively.

Dr. Umakanth Khatwa, Director of Sleep Laboratories at Boston Children's Hospital, likened the book to "gentle hypnosis."

"The authors have created a character that is just like the child and who has a similar problem as the child - trying to fall asleep," he told CBS News. "So the whole time, you're talking about sleep, you're trying to solve a problem about sleep and you see how the character falls asleep. The authors use the words, the patterns and the story in a way to induce a kind of hypnosis. The characters' names even sound like sleep initiation."

"The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep" was originally published in Swedish in 2011. In 2014, an English translation was released and it is now available in seven different languages. It is currently outselling big releases like Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman" and Dr. Seuss' "What Pet Should I Get?" on Amazon.

This is Ehrlin's third book, and his first for children. His previous two books, focusing on adult psychology, leadership and personal development, have not been translated into English.

Reviews of the book online are largely positive. "My two year old daughter always fights sleep," one parent wrote. "It normally takes 1 -2 hours & she was out cold within minutes. This will definitely be a regular part of our bed time routine."

"I am amazed!" another parent said. "We battle sleep every night with my now 2 year old. We got to page 3 and he was out!"

"It feels almost like a guided meditation," another reader observed.

Ehrlin said he is happy the book has reached so many families, many of whom have reached out to him with suggestions for future stories that could help their children. His next book, he said, may focus on similar techniques for potty training.

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