The Counting Method
You've heard people mention that counting sheep is a way to fall asleep, but is it effective?
Actually...no. According to research at Oxford University, they performed a study on 20 insomnia patients to see if counting sheep would help them fall asleep.
What they found was that it actually took them longer to fall asleep.
So then why is the counting method for falling asleep still considered an option and showcased on this site?
Because the approach that is illustrated here is not based on the simplistic idea of counting. It combines counting with breathing as an effective strategy. The reason this works instead of simply counting alone is because the breathing keeps the person in the present moment. The counting further distracts the mind from the external preoccupying thoughts that keep us from falling asleep.
The Counting Method (Step-By-Step):
Turn off or dim the lights. Remove any noise distractions from the room.
Climb into bed and close your eyes.
Start with the number that you will be counting down from.
A good number to use is 500.
Now focus on your breathing.
Try to keep your breating as relaxed as possible, not breathing in or out too aggressively.
Imagine that your breathing is calm and relaxed...purifying.
Each time you exhale, you are going to count down by 1.
Continue counting down each exhaled breath until you reach zero.
If you reach zero and you are still awake, then repeat from 500 again (or whichever number you chose in Step 3).
When you perform this counting exercise, two things are happening.
(1) You are using the power of breathing as a means for keeping your mind in the present, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
(2) The counting is used because it is an activity that will distract the mind from other preoccupying thoughts.
As you count down, you'll notice your mind begin to wander. Eventually your mind will completely drift and you'll fall asleep.
NOTE: Some might find the idea of counting down as a distraction in itself, because their mind gets preoccupied with the quickly approaching "zero" and that they will associate this "zero" with failure. It's important to realize that reaching "zero" is not a failure, but rather an end to a cycle. You could choose to count down from 20 if you wanted and keep repeating the process again and again. Reaching the end of your count should make no difference. It's the process that you should focus on.