We have all read the children’s books telling us to count the sheep jumping over the moon to get to sleep. Who would have thought the actual tale of counting sheep could be traced back to ancient shepherds, who literally had to count sheep before they went to bed to make sure their flock was all there. Since the counting took place at night time, the Shepherds were so tired once they got in, it eventually turned into a night time sleep aid story according to Matt Soniak of Mental Floss.
After years and years of counting sheep to try to fall asleep, a group of researchers at Oxford University decided to put the old wise tale to the test! Does counting sheep actually work? Allison G. Harvey and Suzanna Payne, from Oxford University’s Department of Experimental Psychology tested volunteer insomniacs as they tried different distraction techniques to get to sleep over several nights.
Unfortunately for the sheep counting population, Harvey and Payne found that the insomniacs who were instructed to count sheep actually took longer to fall asleep. The insomniacs who were told to think of peaceful surroundings like a beach scene or a massage fell asleep twenty minutes sooner than the people who counted sheep!
If counting sheep does the trick for you, great! If it doesn’t, try thinking of something more peaceful that does not involve any counting. Laying on a beach, watching a waterfall, floating in a pool, whatever does the trick for you!