Counting sheep


      • to fall asleep
        To imagine or visualize a series of sheep jumping over a fence, in an attempt to induce sleep or calm the mind before bedtime. This is often used as a mental exercise to distract from racing thoughts and promote relaxation.

      • to be repetitive and monotonous
        To emphasize the dullness or tediousness of a task or activity, by comparing it to the repeated image of sheep jumping over a fence. This can be used to express frustration or boredom with a task.

    Examples of Counting sheep

    • In order to fall asleep, John tried counting sheep. Although the traditional technique still worked for him, he often found himself drifting off mid-count, lost in thought.

      In this context, 'counting sheep' is used as a way of describing a ritualistic or traditional way to help someone fall asleep. It is often thought of as a boring, repetitive task, much like counting the number of sheep moving through a field, which is hoped to bore the person enough to fall asleep.

    • The busy executive's eyes drooped as her mind drifted off to sheep jumping over fences in a meadow. Keeping awake was turning out to be as challenging as trying to round up a herd of wild, wooly sheep.

      Here, 'counting sheep' is used as a metaphor for a monotonous, seemingly endless task that is difficult to stay focused on. The busy executive is finding it hard to keep her mind engaged and alert, as she imagines sheep instead of staying focused on work-related matters.

    • Annie's seemingly endless list of things to do added up to more nighttime counting than she cared to admit. She tried counting sheep, but they weren't adding up either.

      Here, 'counting sheep' is used as a metaphor for a repetitive or seemingly endless task that fails to achieve its intended result. Annie is finding the sheer number of things she has to do overwhelming, and the traditional remedy of counting sheep isn't producing the desired effect- relaxation and sleep.

    • As she sat there spinning her wheels, making headway seemed as tough as trying to move a thousand sheep to a new pasture. She had to find a better way to manage her workload.

      Here, 'counting sheep' is used as a hyperbole to illustrate the enormity and difficulty of a task. The speaker is struggling with a seemingly insurmountable challenge, much like the daunting task of moving an entire sheep herd to a new pasture.

    • After a stressful day, when I found myself lying in bed, wide awake and unable to sleep, I realized that I had been counting sheep for the past hour.

      This is a common use of the idiom, where the person is trying to fall asleep, but is unable to do so, and as a result, starts counting sheep. This action helps the person relax and fall asleep eventually.

    • As I lay in bed, my mind racing with thoughts and my heart pounding in my chest, I heard a soothing voice say, "Counting sheep will put you to sleep." I didn't believe it at first, but I decided to give it a try. After a few minutes, I found myself drifting off, lost in the peaceful image of a fields of fluffy white sheep.

      In this example, the speaker is trying to calm their mind and body before sleeping. The voice of encouragement suggests counting sheep as a remedy, and the speaker complies. The image of fields filled with fluffy white sheep acts as a relaxing visual cue, helping the speaker to fall asleep.

    • I found myself counting sheep for the hundredth time last night, and it made me realize that insomnia is a real enemy for many people.

      In this example, the speaker is reflecting on their own experience with insomnia, and realizing how common it is for others as well. Counting sheep is a universal strategy employed by people trying to overcome insomnia.

    • The speaker on the sleep therapy podcast suggested that one needs to 'count sheep to dream of a sheep station' to really fall into a deep slumber.

      This is a clever twist on the idiom, where the speaker adds an interesting variation to it. The phrase "dream of a sheep station" implies that the person dreaming of this particular scenario will have a deeply relaxing and peaceful sleep. The use of this variation highlights the versatility and adaptability of this idiom.


    The idiom "counting sheep" is often used in two main ways. The first is to describe a technique for falling asleep, by imagining sheep jumping over a fence. The second is to convey the idea of monotony and repetition, by comparing a task to the image of sheep jumping over a fence.

    Origin of "Counting sheep"

    The origin of the idiom "counting sheep" is believed to come from the practice of shepherds counting their sheep before they go to sleep at night. This was a way for them to ensure that all of their sheep were accounted for and none had gone missing. Over time, this practice became associated with inducing sleep and calming the mind.

    The phrase first appeared in print in the 1850s, but it is believed to have been used in spoken language long before that. It gained popularity in the 20th century, with the rise of psychological techniques for sleep and relaxation. Today, it is a commonly used phrase to describe a method for falling asleep or to express boredom and repetition.