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INSOMNIA / It's Beach Versus Sheep in Sleeplessness Study

January 28, 2002

Boredom may not be the best antidote for insomnia. Contrary to popular belief, the monotony of counting sheep isn't as calming for the chronically sleep deprived as thinking about sitting on a quiet beach or next to a pristine waterfall, according to Oxford University researchers.

They theorized that imagining an appealing setting was a better way of clearing the mind of the worries that keep people awake because it was more interesting, and, they said, "it takes up more brain space than the same dirty old sheep."

To test this idea, 50 insomniacs were asked to either count sheep, visualize a tranquil scene or use their own methods to fall asleep. Recalling relaxing experiences won by a mile, with subjects nodding off, on average, 20 minutes earlier than when they employed other techniques. So forget sheep when you want to sleep--think beach.

Linda Marsa

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