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The meaning and origin of the expression: Counting sheep

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Counting sheep

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Meaning

A distraction technique used to combat insomnia.

Origin

Insomnia has probably always been with us. We have evidence of this particular technique, of counting sheep as they are imagined to jump over a fence, being used from 1854. That's from Seba Smith's Way down east; or portraitures of Yankee life:

"He shut his eyes with all his might, and tried to think of sheep jumping over a wall."