Almost everyone will have heard that counting sheep is a good way to fall asleep. But is it genuinely good advice or simply an old wives’ tale?

It appears that the idea for counting sheep stems from times when shepherds used to count their flock before turning in for the night. This would alleviate any concerns they had about missing sheep so that they could rest easier during the night. At some point, this practice migrated across to every day sleep techniques and became one of the oldest pieces of advice in history.

It is true that our brains need to be absorbed in a mindful activity to relax. Studies have shown that distracting the mind with imageryis a great way of keeping yourself from engaging with thoughts, worries and concerns during the pre-sleep period. Imagery helps the mind to focus and switch off from the day’s events, so there is some weight to the theory that counting sheep, with its tedious and repetitive manner, could help your brain to unwind.

However, sleep scientists have discovered that although imagery is a good distraction for our brains, counting sheep doesn’t help you to drop off at all. Oxford University scientists Allison Harvey and Suzanna Payne asked 50 insomniacs to try different distraction techniques to find out which ones helped them to fall asleep faster. One group were asked to think of a tranquil scene such as a waterfall or beach, another group were asked to count sheep and a third group acted as a control.

The study found that those who imagined a tranquil scene fell asleep 20 minutes faster than the nights on which they didn’t try the technique, while the sheep counters and the control group took slightly longer than normal to fall asleep during the nights of the experiment. Harvey suggested that “counting sheep is just too mundane to effectively keep worries away.”

Other, more effective techniques involve setting a daily meditation habit to practice mindfulness and listening to recordings of rainfall or rivers to help you nod off. Smart pillowsare perfect for listening to recordings and meditation music as they allow you to drift off without worrying about wires or turning a device off once the recording has finished.

If you would like to find out more about how REM-Fit Sleep Monitoring technology or ZEEQ Smart Pillows can help you to get a better night’s rest, please get in touch with our experienced, knowledgeable staff by calling 020 8731 0020 or email us via

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