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The meaning and origin of the expression: Counting sheep

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Counting sheep

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A distraction technique used to combat insomnia.


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."