Since my daughter was born in 2011, I can count the number of uninterrupted nights’ sleep I’ve had on a very small number of fingers. She has never subscribed to the 11-16 hours sleep a day that toddlers are supposed to need and has never wanted to miss a thing, stubbornly staying awake until past what I’d consider to be my bedtime, waking up during the night and then again pretty early. As a result I’ve got used to celebrating if she falls asleep before 11pm 1 and if I get a block of sleep lasting 6 hours or more.
We’ve tried pretty much everything we can think of2 to get her to sleep and, while she’s been well behaved (other than being awake when I’d like a bit of me time), it’s been frustrating all round. I’d said on multiple occasions that it would be great if I could hire Derren Brown for an evening just to hypnotise her3 and then I heard about a book that could put any child to sleep…
It first popped up on my facebook timeline and normally I’d have skipped right over it4 but I was at the stage where it seemed like it was a worth a shot.
It’s a reasonable children’s story about a rabbit, and the child you’re reading it to, trying to get to sleep incorporating all the things that you should do when you’re trying to fall asleep: clearing your mind, slowing down, relaxing and reinforcing that it’s okay to sleep before the end of the story. The characters are all named appropriately – Yawn, Heavy-Eyed, Sleepy, and at several points you are prompted to say the child’s name to make them feel part of the story. What makes the book special is the way in which you read it.
Normal text should be read like you would read any bed time story, with fun and excitement in your voice, italic text should be read slowly in a sleepy voice and bold text should be emphasised. This sounds easy enough but these tempo changes occur mid sentence and there are some odd sentence structures that I auto corrected as I was reading the first time.
If you just look at the the non-normal text you can see that the bold text is all direct instructions to fall asleep now (and similar commands) while the italic text is very much reinforcing indirect instructions, so sleepy and tired and still.
You can see the principles behind all the components of the book and, with my limited knowledge of psychology it all felt like a sound approach and I resolved to give it a go for a week. So how has it done?
Rather than 11pm, she’s been getting to sleep earlier, with a record at 9.20pm. She’s been getting about half way through the book before her eyes close and I generally read another full page before I stop. On two occasions I’ve fallen asleep reading the book before she did and she’s woken me up! I think this is down to all the yawning actions in the book you have to do reading it… It’s not been the “page and a half” to get her to sleep that some of the reviews on Amazon have indicated, but the past week has been easy – I’ve got my evenings back, and she’s not been waking up as much overnight. I’m going to continue using it and creeping back the start time until she falls asleep at the time normal toddlers should.
I’m a big believer in correlation not equaling causation and there could be a number of other reasons why this week has gone well for us:
- She could just be ready to sleep better and the timing is coincidental.
- Any book this long could have done the same, but all the books I’ve read her previously were too short so she didn’t get chance to fall asleep before the story ended and in picking the next one she lost any sleepiness she’d built up6.
- She’s had a more active week at home and nursery and so has been physically tired.
- I’ve been more perseverant with her7.
That said, the book has now become part of the bedtime routine and she asks for it and is asleep before the end of the story. What’s difficult is making sure that I don’t fall asleep at the same time 🙂
- Yes seriously, that’s a win ↩
- Also, we’ve tried every bit of advice friends, family, medical professionals etc have given apart from the ridiculous… ↩
- Although I’m reliably informed that the suggestive tricks that he uses don’t work on children as they haven’t got the sense of normality to disrupt. ↩
- I have a healthy dislike of most parenting books which seem to engender divisions in parents, and there’s a lot of conflicting advice which can make it a minefield for first time parents. The only decent book I have read is How Not to Be a Perfect Mother, which I would recommend wholeheartedly. ↩
- I could have bought the kindle version immediately, but I didn’t want my kindle to be part of any bedtime routine ↩
- As a control maybe I ought to try something like Peter Pan ↩
- difficult for me to judge but I can’t discount it. ↩