Counting Sheep – Does this Sleep aid actually work

Counting Sheep – Does this Sleep aid actually work

As sleep aids go, counting sheep is probably the oldest in the book. Its so old cave-mums were probably telling their cave kids to count prehistoric sheep to help them sleep.

The concept is simple: you lie in bed and imagine an endless row of sheep jumping over a fence. As they jump, you count them.

The idea of counting sheep – like many other mental sleep aids – is that it is so repetitive and simple it induces boredom, which makes you sleepy. Repetitive, boring, rhythmic and simple mental activities have been proven to be useful sleep aids.

My mother has always insisted counting sheep is one of the best sleep aids around. I remember many a sleepless night as a child visualizing fluffy lambs leaping over my bedposts. Some of my favourite childhood cartoons involved scenes with characters counting sheep.

The use of livestock counting sleep aids has been documented as far back as the early 1600s, where Miguel de Cervantes wrote in Don Quixote about counting goats as a way to fall asleep. Another reference to counting sheep can be found in Harriet Martineau’s “Illustrations of Political Economy”, published in 1832, where the author comments on the monotony of counting sheep following each other over a fence can be one of the most effective sleep aids.

Counting sheep has become one of the most popularized sleep aids in the world. The highly visual nature of counting sheep made it a mainstay of cartoons, comics and TV shows. Nowadays, it’s such a common stereotype the term “counting sheep” often refers to insomnia.

But, as sleep aids go, does it work? Will counting sheep really send you off to sleep? Researchers at Oxford University have found that counting sheep isn’t a very effective way of falling asleep. Subjects who used different sleep aids such as envisaging water lapping on a beach or a waterfall required more mental energy and, as such, fell asleep quicker.

The researchers concluded that any number of different sleep aids requiring mental energy could help you sleep just as effectively as counting sheep. They suggest insomniacs looking for mental sleep aids try adjusting their pre-bedtime sleep activities, taking a warm bath, changing their diet, or investigating herbal sleep aids.

While counting sheep may be forever associated with the symptoms of sleeplessness, it’s not a very effective remedy.  Using a herbal sleeping remedy for support with this is recommended.

One of the advantages of the SleepDrops range of products is that they actually support your nervous system to calm down, supporting you to become drowsy and fall asleep – ultimately this supports you to sleep better throughout the night too.

Listening to the SleepDrops Delta CD before sleep is another calming and relaxing tool to help quieten the mind and relax the body.

Naturopathic tip: Avoid caffeine containing beverages during the day as these can overstimulate the nervous system and they may stay in the system until evening preventing relaxation and sleep.