Diggin’ Counting Sheep

How do you sleep at night? Well I hope. I’m a hit and miss kind of sleeper, some nights my head hits the pillow and I’m figuratively away with the fairies, other nights I toss and turn, wake up, get up, wander around and start all over again.

The hardest part is getting to sleep in the first place, winding down from the day and quietening my whirring brain to find relief in those zzzz’s. Like many I’ve tried all sorts to get to sleep including the classic counting sheep. I’ve counted dozens of the buggers, small ones, big ones, white ones, brown and black ones but it doesn’t seem to work. Sheep jumping over a wall, a ditch or a hedge. Quiet ones, noisy ones, errant ones I’ve tried them all. I’ve nothing against the sheep let’s face it lambs are cute plus there’s nothing better than new season lamb served with some fresh homemade mint sauce, its just that sheep in all their forms don’t induce sleep.

Counting Sheep

The idea behind counting sheep is meditative, you focus on one thing to relax your mind to gently lull yourself to sheep – sorry that should read sleep! The trick is to think of something relaxing to create a scene in your minds eye; researchers and professionals suggest waterfalls, a blue sky, a beach or a woodland glade. Undoubtedly all are idyllic but unless I’m practicing a guided meditation where the instructor talks you through a scene and you fill in the gaps these scenes don’t bring on slumber.

Left to my own devices, my mind wanders back to the present or I start constructing a story as to why I’m on a beach, then what kind of beach is it – a Caribbean all white sand underfoot and aquamarine sea or is the beach on the English Channel with a bracing wind the sea all churned grey-brown and pebbles underfoot. A woodland scene – is it spring or winter, am I hot or cold or just dressed inappropriately. I end up creating a full blown story, wondering why I’m there in the first place – where is this waterfall and why am I the only person there? You can see it can’t you – my mind races away and I’m still WIDE awake.

As I don’t take a meditation practitioner to bed with me I have to resort to my own resources…… You know I garden? You know I love my allotment? You know that these two things give me great pleasure and help me relax and unwind…..


………for a while now I’ve found that thinking about my allotment can help send me to sleep – not the planning what goes where, making mental lists of jobs to do or ooops I forgot to water the beans kind of thinking but imagining that I’m digging my allotment. Stay with me here folks this is my digging “counting sheep” equivalent to get to sleep –

I stand at one end of the plot, usually the top nearest the main path, I’m alone, its day time, a standard day nothing out of the ordinary – not too cold, not especially sunny or warm or wet – OK the not too wet is out of the ordinary but a girl can dream?! Garden fork in hand, the prongs touching the ground, my right foot on the steel pressing down into the soil, pulling back slightly and lifting up the soil and turning it over. I move across or backwards, it doesn’t matter which way I go along the allotment and I repeat the same motion in my mind, plunging the fork into the ground, placing my booted foot onto the edge of the fork, pushing down, digging and lifting and repeating…..

There are as many ways to garden as there are to go to sleep and I’ve come to realise that the ‘no-dig garden policy’ wouldn’t work for me – there I am lying in bed, tucked up under the duvet imagining I’m on the allotment and I start placing cardboard over the ground, covering that with manure, laying sheets of paper to top off with grass cuttings; somehow I can’t see the ‘No-Dig’ method of gardening sending me to sleep any time soon!

How about you and what sends you to sleep? I’m wondering if there are bakers out there who run over in their mind things like icing a 100 cup cakes, kneading the dough for a dozen rolls, painters washing their board and setting up their easel, or maybe cooks repeatedly chop herbs, sprinkle sea salt or drizzle oil but maybe that gets a bit messy in bed 😉




  • Brilliant post! I’m like you, sometimes I sleep easily but mostly (I think it’s an age thing) I do a lot of pacing around. If I start to think about cooking I have to get up and write things down. Now that we’re back at work on a house, at least the physical labour wears me out 🙂

  • Wonderful post and beautiful photographs. Actually I was same as you about sleeping but I think I solved at the end 🙂 Yes, I try to solve crossword before going to sleep and I make my mind busy with something different and I fall asleep and of course I never complete the crosswords 🙂 It works for me. Because the problem for me when I put my head my mind doesn’t stop and many thoughts, etc. coming up and makes me busy… so if I can make a point in different point like crossword, sleeping finds me! Thanks and Love, nia

    • Hi Nia , a crossword sounds like a good way to switch your brain off. There is a report which says the worst thing for sleeping is reading your computer or phone late at night. Take care my friend

      • yes, I know computer anmd phone but this is a book(crossword book) and always falling down from my hand in the bed 🙂 because I fall asleep… Love, nia

  • I do sleep easily, and I realize what a gift that is, because my husband does not! But if I am stressed, I can focus my breathing and I can hear the water from our waterfall, and that will usually do it. I like your method very much, however, because the focus is definitely aimed at what gives you so much pleasure. I’m just surprised it doesn’t make you want to jump up and get your gardening clothes on and wait for sunrise. 🙂 Your photos are just lovely, Claire. I am sure you’re enjoying this welcomed growing season!

    • How lovely that you can hear the sound of the water from your own waterfall, how peaceful that must sound – I usually hear the seagulls kicking up a fuss 🙂

  • I know people who have changed their diets and that did it! However, for a quicker fix why not try to put a couple of plants in your bedroom if that’s the trigger point that sets you at ease. Also, electronics in the bedroom can have an effect on restless nights. Instead put up a picture or mural of beautiful Mother Nature and let her take you to a deeper REM. Finally, what color is prominent in your bedroom? If there is an overwhelming amount of energetic and passionate color like red it will keep your energy on high. Think of the bedroom as a relaxing spa and have items that you would find in a spa. For example if you have your laundry basket with clothes pilesd high, your consciousness will think of…oh, I have to get laundry done. Get it out of your bedroom site. Sweet dreams!

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment – I do many of these things, like making the room pleasant and calm, clear of clutter and washing! Would you believe it but when I bought the house the previous owners had painted the walls a dark orangey colour and the wood work a deep red – so far from sleep inducing, I always wondered how anyone could sleep in there! as you say, sweet dreams!

  • Counting sheep is an interesting technique to use. But for city people, I doubt that it’s very helpful. The blossoms are so very pretty.

    After saying my evening prayers (in bed under the covers as I haven’t prayed kneeling by my bedside since I was in my teens) I’m usually out for the night. Otherwise, I tell myself “the story”. It’s my version of fanfiction and I start from the beginning with characters I invented 20 yrs ago. Sometimes I make changes. One day, I should really write it down. 🙂

    • You are right, one day you should right it down, I guess it’s like being read a story, except you are the one telling the story – I like the idea!

  • Ah, great post, Claire! I think many of us struggle with this one time or another. I love your idea of digging the garden as a mental activity that’s pretty repetitive and not too active. I have an imaginary lotto win…somewhere in the twenty million dollar range…that I am plotting how I will spend in my sleepless hours. Thanks!

  • LOL! I have never had problems falling asleep, but a nightmare might be endless deadheading and every time I turn around there are more flowers due to be chopped…. 😉 Sleep tight tonight Claire. And happy digging!

  • I’m a terrible sleeper. Years ago I was given Ambien (a sleeping pill), and I eagerly consumed it. BIG MISTAKE. As far as I’m concerned, Ambien is the most evil drug ever. Left it behind, and now I work at it through other solutions…. room darkening curtains, a firm mattress and a regular schedule. And instead of counting sheep, I simply “observe” my breath. “I’m breathing in. I’m breathing out. I’m breathing in. I’m breathing out.” I think I bore myself to sleep. 🙂

  • Ha! Great post Claire, and lovely photos (especially the #1 log). Love the meditative digging idea. I’m an absolutely crap sleeper. Like you, just too many thoughts going up upstairs. This may sound utterly bizarre but lately I’ve been having success with this method: I put my tongue up in the roof of my mouth and leave it there. I concentrate on it, and it is so utterly boring that it sends me to sleep.

  • Since I have been subject to chronic pain for many years I have very successfully learned to meditate! Well, the first part of that is the ‘watching one’s breath’ and ’emptying one’s mind’ that people have mentioned above. As long as one is actively thinking about anything, sleep won’t make an entry 🙂 ! Sometimes I get a craving for a piece of cheese – guess my body likes natural tryptophan!!!!!! Funny to wake to a cheese smell on the pillow – sometimes sleep hits ere the little chunk is finished!!!

    • You have done so well to manage the pain Eha, and your words and experience make me want to try more meditation. I think its remarkable what the mind can achieve.

  • Claire, Would you believe it? Counting sheep works for me! 🙂 If I start thinking about something I like doing, I start to think about what I could make next and then I start planning it and then I start to get excited and then I am wide awake 🙂

  • Hello! You currently follow my blog, The Siren’s Tale (http://thesirenstale.com). Just wanted to let you know I ended that blog + started a new blog named: Belong With Wildflowers. I’d love to have you follow my new blog as well, please stop on over for a visit: http://belongwithwildflowers.com 🙂

    You can follow my new blog through email subscription, RSS, Bloglovin’, or any other blog reader. Hope you’re having a great week! –Caitlin

  • I sometime put something just barely interesting on the television to fall asleep. But I have been considering taking up meditation…

    • My mum always fell asleep to the TV – although this was sitting up in a chair! I sometimes put the world service on the radio – interesting but not too much, and at a low volume so you can just hear it but not too loud so it’s not intrusive! I’m sur ethe makers of programmes would be horrified! Hope all is well Inger

  • It would appear that springtime finds your garden flourishing and providing plenty of fodder for your sleep-inducing exercises.

  • I think you’ve got a good system there. Over the years I’ve tried a few methods that worked, each in its own time. What I like to do now, is to listen to some music, that turns off automatically at the end of an album. While I listen, I try to concentrate on the the roles of the different instruments… sometimes even seeing the score before my eyes. It always disconnects me from thoughts that might have kept me awake. And I’m usually asleep by the end of the album.

    • I think that is the key Shimon – to disconnect our thoughts. I do like the idea of following a musical score in my mind – unfortunately my musical skills aren’t that advanced!

  • Oh i do love seeing your allotment.

    You’re doing your damndest to keep me in the ’60s today, Claire: first the ligurean pie and now the apple blossoms!
    We had a tiny backyard dominated by a mutant-big apple tree. Now that I know more about flora I’ve wondered exactly what variety it was..the apples were smallish but horrible tasting and it was far taller than the typical apple grove “picking” tree.
    When it flowered, the blossoms looked identical in shape and color to yours. Do you have any more details like height and canopy size?

    • Hi there, the apple tree is a French or Golden Delicious – not a keeper and to be eaten straight away. It’s an inherited tree and wouldn’t be my forst choice!
      Here in th eUK we have a service at Brogdale in Kent that will identify your fruit tree for you, I’m wondering if there is an equivalent in the US?

  • Sleep is a funny thing. Sometimes it’s there waiting for you, other times it’s totally elusive. When the latter is the case it doesn’t seem that anything I do helps me sleep. What’s really irritating is that in that instance I generally fall asleep around 5:30 or six in the morning when it’s almost time to get up.

  • Claire – I have to stay out of my head entirely to fall asleep quickly, so I read until I can’t keep my eyes open. The trickier part for me is waking in the middle of the night or very early morning and not being able to return to sleep. Sometimes changing my location works, which in my case means moving to the couch. I sometimes think that if there was one thing I could change about myself it would be that I could be a better sleeper.

  • This is great! I think it makes a lot of sense, really. Not everyone can connect with sheep, but once the purpose is understood, you can substitute it with another rhythmic kind of thing that you enjoy. It’ll be something I try next time I’m struggling to sleep!

  • Love it. I build and remodel dream houses/rooms. Design their off-grid, eco-amazing systems, invent modular shelving and built-ins to maximize the rooms’ uses, create interior decor schemes and artworks to populate them, and (if I’m *really* awake a long time) throw a party or invite guests to tour and stay in the houses/complexes with me. You’re welcome to pop into one of my ‘places’ any time, especially if it’ll help you sleep! 😉

Submit a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s