Does Counting Sheep Really Help You Fall Asleep?

Have you ever tried to count sheep to help you fall asleep? Has it worked? Some people swear by this technique to help you drift off to dreamland, but why does it work?


But, why sheep?

The thought behind counting sheep, or really counting in general, while trying to drift off to sleep is to give your brain something else to focus on besides it’s normal thoughts. The monotonous task of counting is simple and rhythmic, therefore quieting your mind and letting your body relax. The visualization of sheep jumping over a fence allows another part of your brain to get in on the action, and the repetitive nature of the visualization also is thought to lull you to sleep.


The black sheep of family

We hate to break it to you, but there are other ways that are more effective in aiding you in drifting off to dreamland. There have actually been numerous studies on if counting sheep really helps you fall asleep faster. The most notable of these studies was done by Oxford University. The studied three groups. One group was told to count sheep, one was told to focus on somewhere relaxing and peaceful, and one was told to go about their normal sleep routine. The group that was tasked with visualizing somewhere tranquil fell asleep faster than those who were counting sheep.


But why? The task of counting sheep, while monotonous, still requires energy from the brain to continually count, it activates the brain too much to quickly fall asleep. However, the act of visualizing a peaceful place requires brain energy as well, but it requires more mental focus than counting, and this increased brain energy expenditure results in falling asleep faster.


What other tried and true tricks do you use to help fall asleep on restless nights?



Lauren Smalley