Sleep Myth: Counting Sheep Helps You Fall Asleep –

Sleep is vital as we spend almost one-third of our lives doing it. There are a lot of myths and information about sleep – enough to make your head spin.

Why are sleep myths widespread? Why do people believe them? It may be the fact that one in three people in the United States has sleep problems. If you have a hard time falling or maintaining your sleep, you believe in almost anything that might help you get to bed. Perhaps this is why the belief that counting sheep helps you fall asleep is popular among children and even adults.

The Myth

When it comes to trouble falling asleep, people have different remedies. Some swear by exercising or drinking warm milk, while others go for counting sheep. Counting sheep may be the oldest sleep myth there is. There is a theory that shepherds used to count their sheep at night before falling asleep to make sure that they were all in their field.

The Fact

Does counting sheep work and help you fall asleep? Researchers from Oxford University conducted different tests on volunteer insomniacs. The volunteers were asked to visualize different scenarios as they tried to go to sleep.

The study showed that it took the volunteers who pictured images of counting sheep 20 minutes longer to fall asleep than those who imagined an engaging and relaxing scene like a waterfall or a beach.

The success of imagery distraction kept the participants from re-engaging with their thoughts, concerns, and worries before sleeping. It may be that counting sheep is simply too boring to do for a very long time while imagining a beach or a stream is engrossing enough to concentrate on.


The belief that counting sheep helps you fall asleep is not true. In fact, it can prolong the time it takes to fall asleep. Instead of counting sheep, practice some relaxing imagery. Also, sticking to a fixed bedtime and wake-up time can help you maintain good sleep hygiene. If your body and mind are accustomed to sleeping at a particular time, it is easier to fall asleep faster. Finding a comfortable temperature, a room that’s cool, is the most conducive to sleep.