Counting Sheep in Tranquil Scenes

The concept of counting sheep as an exercise for inducing sleep has lingered in our social memory for generations. It has mainly existed as a stereotype rather than a practice which has any basis as a genuine solution for managing insomnia. Whether this curious method truly works has always been a point of conjecture in both casual and academic circles. In 2002, Oxford University conducted research into the effectiveness of the counting sheep method, alongside other, similar exercises that involve visualising tranquil or peaceful scenes. The findings demonstrate that while the traditional sheep-counting method does not necessarily work as hoped, there may be some credence to the use of other, similar solutions.


The 2002 study was conducted by colleagues Allison Harvey and Suzanna Payne. In their experiment, which involved studying the reactions of 50 insomniacs, they found that while counting sheep didn’t appear to assist falling asleep any faster, focusing on a tranquil scene, such as a waterfall or a holiday, did help. Based on their evidence, the Oxford University team was able to surmise that the act of picturing an engaging, imaginative scene requires more focus and effort from the brain than the repetitive counting of sheep, and so is conducive to a more restful experience. On average, those who imagined a tranquil scene fell asleep 20 minutes earlier than on nights where they did not apply the technique, suggesting that, as Harvey stated, “Counting sheep is just too mundane to effectively keep the worries away.”

No Right Answer

This find, while interesting, essentially demonstrates that when it comes to falling asleep, there is no right answer. This study certainly appears more credible than some other ideas, particularly when attached to a name as prestigious as Oxford University, but in truth, there has been a plethora of research done in the name of helping people get to sleep. There is, after all, a massive commercial benefit to ensuring normal sleep patterns. The non-profit global think tank RAND published findings in 2016 that lack of sleep costs the UK economy £50 billion per year, or around 1.86% of the GDP. Pharmaceutical companies make huge profits helping people overcome insomnia, as therapists bill by the hour to help uncover root causes behind sleeplessness. Academic groups around the world have sought to explore solutions far more elaborate than just counting sheep; scientists at the University of Sydney recently published the results of their own experiment involving real-life sheep, not just imagined ones. They discovered a link between the wearing of wool in bed and achieving a more restful night, explaining how wool regulates body temperature, keeping us in what is known as the “thermal comfort zone”. So, if you were looking for a more outlandish way of getting those forty winks, then next time you settle down on your 5ft King Size Sleep Shop Pocket Adjustable Set Adjustable Bed, make sure you’re also wearing your best woollen pyjamas.

A Wise Policy

They key theme to take from this though is that, even if you find counting sheep isn’t the most effective method for you, there’s no reason to abandon all hope of ever resting peacefully again. The truth is, while the scientific community may be divided over the true solution for chronic insomnia as a diagnosable illness, there are plenty of suggestions for how to put yourself in the best position to easily fall asleep once you hit the hay. Many are easily achievable, such as creating a comfortable sleeping environment where temperature, light and noise are all controlled to maximise the sleep-inducing capabilities of your bedroom. There’s also limiting the activities you do in bed; after all, the 5ft King Size Silentnight Eco Comfort Pocket 1200 Mattress was designed for one thing only; sleep. It was not created as an office space or home cinema. So, putting away the excel spreadsheet or turning off the TV a good half hour before bedtime is always a wise policy.

Countless Options

Of course, there will always be things you can’t control. Which of us hasn’t ended the day with a dark cloud over our heads that we’ve taken to bed with us, tossing and turning for hours, agonising over some decision we might have made or a looming encounter we were dreading? And if filling your mind with countless bounding sheep doesn’t improve that situation, then consider what else you might do; from deep breathing techniques to meditation and progressive muscle relaxation, when it comes to finding ways to relax our mind and body, there are countless options at our fingertips.

So the next time you are laying there, with your head resting on your brand new Healthbeds High Profile Cooltex Latex Pillow and you find yourself suffering from sleeplessness, rather than putting your faith in an endless procession of sheep, focus instead on finding a solution that works best for you.

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