Counting Sheep

Has the counting sheep technique ever worked for anyone? Maybe it is because my brain is all over the place, but I can’t do it. I don’t mean I can’t fall asleep. I mean I can’t count sheep in my mind.

I was in high school the very first time I tried. I was laying there in my bed after about a half hour of tossing and turning and decided I’d try this old fashioned method. In my mind was the image of a prairie with a wooden fence running across it. The first fluffy white animated sheep appeared and jumped over the fence. One.

Then came another. Two.

And another. Three.

I could feel myself starting to relax when I noticed that now the sheep were coming faster. Four, five, six. Then before I knew it, they were coming way too fast for me to count. I was feeling like Lucy in the chocolate factory, only without it being funny and without the benefit of eating chocolate!

It stressed me out so I had to stop. I opened my eyes and just rested there. When I decided to try it again, the image of the field was filled with sheep, all staring at me.

Counting Sheep

Throughout the years I’ve periodically tried it again, but now on each attempt the sheep are standing in the pasture shaking their heads. That was not meant to be.

I do have another visualization technique that actually does work. Back when I was in the fifth grade, we had a special science presentation in which one of the teachers went down to the butcher and brought back a beef lung. I remember walking into class and seeing this big pinkish lump sitting there. While there was the initial gross factor, I thought it was so cool when he connected the bicycle pump to the lungs and blew them up! They got bigger and bigger and bigger. He released the air and did it a few more times. Before that, I had no idea what was going on in my chest when I breathed. That demonstration has provided me with an amazing image that has lasted more than 30 years.

What does a cow lung have to do with sleep? Well, the only way I can concentrate on my breathing is to give my brain something to do. I picture my lungs expanding and contracting in great detail. Normally that will calm down a racing mind until my body can drift back off.

Has anyone else ever failed at a visualization exercise? or What were some of the cool science presentations that you saw when you were in school?

8 thoughts on “Counting Sheep”

  1. I used to visualize taking a walk down a path to a sort of secret “hideaway” and then enter the actual place. It was a technique that I learned when I took a few meditation classes about a hundred years ago…seems like that long, anyway. It was a great relaxation technique – we were to create a place that was like a mental retreat and design it any way we want. I can’t say I use it very often anymore – or ever. But every now and then I am sort of jolted there by something…a memory, a connection, not sure. Tell you what, though, I remember that it worked – for relaxation and for sleep.


    1. What a wonderful visualization exercise. I’ve found I’m really good at guided meditations, mainly because I want to impress the leader and therefore try harder, which, come to think of it, does seem contrary to the whole point!

      I know what you mean about something feeling a hundred years ago. Sometimes in looking back at my life it is as if someone else led it for a while since it was so long ago!


  2. Ha ha, I will never be able to count sheep now, because they will forever be standing around looking at me, and will refuse to jump.
    I have tried it a few times, but I get distracted too easily. I could write a nightly stream-of-consciousness novella, because my focus is non-existent.


    1. Sorry if I ruined that visualization for you. They are very cute as they stare at me, though.

      Whenever I think of reading stream of consciousness writing, I think of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by Joyce, which makes me shutter to this day.


  3. The image you have is of a field of sheep all staring at you. For some reason, I find that funny.

    I’ve tried counting sheep a few times. I don’t see how it is supposed to work. I guess when you count sheep it focuses your mind and relaxes you. But I’ve never been able to get it to work. I’d rather just quiet my mind as much as possible. That relaxes me a lot more. Perhaps it’s the dull nature of the exercise. You’re just counting sheep so you become bored and sleepier.

    If it did work, I would do it more often. I usually have trouble falling asleep.


    1. I find it funny, too. There they are, looking all cute, but with a stubborn streak!

      To quiet my mind I need some thing to focus on. Trying to focus on nothing doesn’t work for me. Sometimes I get so frustrated I decide to focus on staying awake. Sometimes my mind falls for the reverse psychology, other times not.

      Why is sleep so hard?


  4. The picture of the sheep staring is hilarious to me. I think sheep are kind of funny, I guess.

    My favorite visualization technique is to imagine each part of my body relaxing in order, starting at my toes. I often don’t get to my head before I fall asleep when I do this.


    1. I was so happy when I found that picture. It cracks me up every time I see it.

      Thank you so much for reminding me of that visualization. That one used to work for me all the time. I simply forgot about it. Another tool in my falling asleep toolbox: I need all the help I can get!


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