You’ve probably been told that counting sheep will help you sleep, but does it actually work? Counting sheep has been recommended as a method to lull you to sleep when you have trouble sleeping. The concept is simple, imagine a heard of sheep jumping over a fence one by one. The idea is that counting the sheep is so simple and boring that it will cause you to fall asleep. The concept of counting sheep has been around since the for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Shepherds counted their sleep before they would go to sleep to make sure their flock was with them. Well, if it has been around for so long, it must work, right? Wrong. Oxford University conducted a study in 2001 that split 50 people with a history of sleep issues into three groups. Each group was instructed to visualize different scenes. The first group was told to imagine calm relaxing scenes like a waterfall or a beach, the second group were told to imagine sheep jumping over a fence and the third group wasn’t told to do anything and used their own method of attempting to fall asleep.
The results of the study were surprising, the group visualizing relaxing calm scenes fell asleep 20 minutes faster than they had on other non-experimental nights and group two, who counting sheep, took longer to fall asleep than usual.
So, although the advice to count sleep to go to sleep has been around for a long time, we don't recommend it. Instead, visualize a waterfall, a beach or any other relaxing scene to fall asleep faster.