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Study Reveals That Counting Sheep Will Not Help You Fall Asleep but Relaxing Will

Wanna Sleep at Night? Stop Counting Sheep

Every few weeks I'm hit with a bad case of insomnia, and it's beyond frustrating. I've tried every trick in the book to deal with it, but I usually end up lying in bed for an hour before giving up and getting up again. One thing I've tried to lull me to sleep is the old wives tale of counting sheep. I haven't had much success with it and it looks like I am not alone. According to a sleep study, counting livestock is not an insomnia cure and it may even be keeping you up longer.

To see what methods were best when it came to falling asleep, researchers in Oxford monitored the sleep habits of insomniacs. On the nights the participants were told to count sheep (or do nothing at all), it actually took them longer to fall asleep in comparison to other methods. What did help the insomniacs was to visualize a relaxing scene. On average, the participants fell asleep 20 minutes sooner when they used this visualization technique. Researchers believe that counting sheep is ineffective because it's too boring and participants stop counting. In comparison, imagining yourself on a tropical island is engaging enough to concentrate on until we tire ourselves out.

The reason positive visualization may work on insomniacs is related to another Oxford sleep study that compared the pre-sleep thoughts of insomniacs and sound sleepers. Researchers found that insomniacs don't usually picture relaxing images before bed and instead focus on worries, things they did during the day, and environmental noises. It looks like having less stress is the key to a good night's sleep — unfortunately, the stress of not sleeping is enough to keep anyone up! Next time I have this problem, I'll be taking a few minutes to meditate all the day's worries away.

inlove23 inlove23 7 years
Oh, and sometimes when I really can't fall asleep then I imagine every part of my body relaxing, I release tension in my toes, calves and work my way up it normally really helps! When your body falls asleep it naturally stops contracting so I guess thats why it helps.
inlove23 inlove23 7 years
I normally don't have problems falling asleep, but I like counting sheep when I can't! Sometimes I can't see the sheep at all, sometimes random animals pop up or sometimes its sheep. I picture the bar and all!! =)
Spectra Spectra 7 years
Usually I fall asleep on my own, but sometimes I just think about something very mundane, like a solid color or something like that. It's almost like meditation; I usually fall right asleep.
insanitypepper insanitypepper 7 years
I read to fall asleep. Counting doesn't distract me from my own thoughts well enough.
chloe-bella chloe-bella 7 years
I have trouble falling asleep once in a great while. When I do, I lay in my bed in savasana, clear my mind of all thoughts, and focus on breathing. It really works! I also visualize myself being weighed down, to where I'm literally "falling" asleep. It sounds weird and is hard to describe, but it works for me as well.
SaraJeanQueen SaraJeanQueen 7 years
I love Fitsugar.. anyway. I totally deal with insomnia about 1-2 times a week on weekdays. It's always because I'm stressed out about waking up early, and my mind is racing. Seriously sometimes it's scary, I feel like my thoughts are going so fast other backround thoughts creep in too. Might sound weird, but the only thing that works for me is imagining "black". I am thinking, then I have to literally stop it mid-thought and imagine a black wash over my eyes. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It usually slows my heartbeat and I can almost feel myself falling asleep when it does, though.
onlysourcherry onlysourcherry 7 years
how weird. counting (not sheep but just counting) always knocks me out. it's usually the last thing i remember before nodding off
lilxmissxmolly lilxmissxmolly 7 years
I have to have a TV show playing- supposedly the brightness is bad but I have to have something going on quietly or my mind just races.
J-Rabbit J-Rabbit 7 years
Counting definitely doesn't relax me. I usually try deep breathing and focusing on that. When I can't sleep, it's because my mind is very busy. I find that focusing on my breath helps clear my mind.
TheAsh TheAsh 7 years
Pop a calcium pill - I believe it mimics calcium-containing foods like milk or yogurt, which contain tryptophan, which can make you sleepy.
Blue24 Blue24 7 years
Yeah, counting doesn't work for me! And sometimes my brain becomes really overactive at night so I can't fall asleep. It's so frustrating, especially if I know I only have 4-6h before I need to get up! It does cause a lot of stress too... I'm going to try that visualization thing tonight :)
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 7 years
if i have to count, it turns my brain on to focus so that doesn't work well for me :)
skigurl skigurl 7 years
i don't count sheep but i do sometimes try counting backwards from 100 i don't usually have huge problems falling asleep though
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