Does counting sheep actually work?
Quality sleep and getting enough of it, at the right times, is as essential to survival as food and water.
Insomnia is one of the most commonly reported sleep problems, and according to the National Institute of Health, around 6% of the population suffers from insomnia, with anxiety, stress and depression being the most common causes.
Insomnia has been around for a long time and certainly isn’t a new phenomenon and counting sheep is one of the oldest mental exercises used to combat insomnia and putting oneself to sleep.
It is an exercise that is a form of sleep meditation that involves visualising a farmer’s field, filled with sheep and then proceeding to count the sheep one by one. Linking your breathing as you are counting sheep is advised, this allows you to relax your body and ready yourself for sleep.
Silentnight’s sleeping expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, expresses how important counting yourself to sleep is; describing it as a ‘power tool’ and offers tips for insomnia sufferers: “Don’t change your breathing, allow it to follow its natural rhythm. When you exhale, mentally and silently say, ‘one’ for the entire duration of the exhalation and say it as gently as you can. Then on the inhale, silently whisper the word ‘two’. Repeat this until you get to ten, then go back to one and start again.”
Everything that happens during the day is carried into your sleep. The feel and energy of the day can seep right into you so when you get into bed it is still there with you in the trillions of cells of your body – an accumulation of stored memories and feelings from the day.
Dr Nerina Ramalakhan offers tips on overthinking and how it can affect your rhythm whilst counting, she suggests “ You will be aware of thoughts in your head even while you breathe and count, just keep coming back to your breathing and the numbers. This technique may not work for you if your mind is really racing and ruminating obsessively on the same thoughts. You may end up counting all night, which can feel maddening. If this is the case, move on to another exercise.”