Archive of ‘Sleep Tips’ category

Counting Sheep For Sleep This Chinese New Year

This Chinese New Year (starting 19th February) is the year of the sheep. This got me thinking about ‘counting sheep’: why it’s said to help you fall asleep, where it originates from, and whether it actually helps.

The common idea is if you can’t sleep you should imagine a series of sheep jumping over a fence and count as they go. It seems like a logical activity to focus the brain on something repetitive, as with meditation – but where does the phrase come from and does it work?

counting sheep for sleep

Early origins in 17th century Britain

Early references to counting sheep to induce sleep can be found in literature dating back to the 1800s. An 1854 book by Seba Smith’s ‘Way down east; or portraitures of Yankee life’ cites: “He shut his eyes with all his might, and tried to think of sheep jumping over a wall.”

It’s easy to imagine how shepherds on long watches might have fallen asleep. Yan Tan Tethera is a sheep-counting rhyme system traditionally used by shepherds in England.

Counting sheep is too boring

According to an Oxford University experiment, counting sheep is actually too boring to induce sleep. People imagining a beach or waterfall were forced to expend more mental energy, and fell asleep faster than those asked to “simply distract from thoughts, worries and concerns.”

In a 2001 study published in the Journal of Behavior Research and Therapy asked participants to imagine “a situation they found interesting and engaging, but also pleasant and relaxing” which generated similar results: more detailed imagery distraction helped those with insomnia fall asleep faster.

Counting sheep for sleep

Detailed sensory visualisation works best

Visualisation where you really engage all of the senses is a more effective method of relaxation. For example, imagine being in a beautiful meadow with the smell of eucalyptus trees, the sound of chirping birds and the feeling of warm grass beneath your feet. When we use visualization, especially when it is using all of our senses, it helps to slow down our brainwaves and achieve the delta brainwave state necessary for sleep. It also synchronises the left and right spheres of the brain, which aids with inducing sleep. I often get clients to imagine the next episode of their favourite TV series as this is more engaging and they’re already interested.

Sleep Together Better This Valentines Day

Despite our best intentions for romantic nights we don’t always get the sleep we need when sharing a bed. What are the facts and how can you get better sleep on Valentines Day with your bed partner?

Tips for sleeping better together on Valentines Day

Pros and cons of sharing a bed

Previous studies suggested people get more quality undisturbed sleep alone regardless of preference for sharing. More recent research suggests other benefits of sharing such as feelings of safety and security as well as lower levels of stress hormones outweigh the disturbed sleep (source). Men tend to sleep as well alone or with a partner; women are more sensitive to their environments and sleep better alone.

Sleeping separately is more common than you might expect

About 24% of couples sleep in separate rooms (source)… and 60% would prefer to sleep separately (source). Reasons for not sleeping well together vary from different preferences for when to go to bed, sleep positions, noise level, and temperature, to issues such as snoring and arguing.

Tips for sleeping better together
(Source)

How to get better sleep when sharing a bed

Other than the obvious practical solutions such as better or separate mattresses, you can improve your natural ability to sleep soundly together whatever your situation. If you’d love to be able to share a bed but it makes you anxious, or if one of you disturbs the other, try these tips for more romantic relaxing time together:

Practice relaxing together regularly to achieve deeper sleep

It sounds obvious but sometimes you have to practice or re-learn how to relax. In today’s society we move at a fast pace with constant stimulation. This has resulted in a reduction in our brainwave flexibility. During the day when we concentrate, we are in a beta brainwave state. When we relax we go into the slower alpha brainwave state. When we are deeply relaxed (almost asleep) we go into theta. If the brain cannot transition between these states easily, we lose our ability to be able to shift gears, slow down our brainwaves, and enter the delta brainwave state of sleep.

“By regularly spending time doing relaxing activities that slow the brainwaves, we can improve brainwave flexibility and achieve deeper sleep more easily”

With increased brainwave flexibility, we’re able to sleep more deeply, which makes us less likely to be woken up by our partner’s tossing and turning during the night.

Fitness for better sleep on Valentines Day
(Source)

Create a state of bliss in your daily life

Schedule regular relaxation and time out to slow your mind down” says Elina “ not just before bed but during the day too – away from screens and notifications. Go for romantic walks, picnics or swims; get out into nature. Try a bath with candles and theta brainwave music. The more bliss you can create together on a regular basis, the better you’ll sleep. It is much easier to fall asleep with natural dopamine and melatonin (made from serotonin) in our bodies, than it is to fall asleep with stress hormones in our bodies.

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