Counting Sheep Doesn’t Work

Going to sleep isn’t a problem for me. Staying asleep in order to get the seven to nine hours of shuteye a night health gurus advise is a problem. I tried counting sheep many times and it has never worked for me. After five hours, I’m up, ready to go, and have no desire to count any more wooly lawnmowers.

I usually drift off by 11:30 p.m. and awaken by 4:30 a.m. If I’m up for any length of time during the night, I’m still staring at the clock by 5:00 a.m. Recently, I got up to use the bathroom. That’s it. I didn’t turn on lights, eat pizza, or do squats. It took me almost two hours to fall back asleep. I think I held my breath till I passed out.

My youngest grandchild, like many infants, sleeps
through a tsunami of noise.

I finally woke up at 5:35 a.m. with my husband Michael staring wide-eyed at me. Slapping his right hand over his chest, he gasped, “You scared me! I thought you were dead! You never sleep this late!”

Apparently, he couldn’t see me breathing under the blankets. After he saw that I appeared to be a viable, not dead, wife, he told me the order of events he had decided for my deceased body. “I planned your funeral! I was debating which of our (three) children to contact first. Then who next? Your brother? Your cousins? I chose a funeral home, where to plant you, everything!”

It would’ve been nice if he had thought to call 911 to summon an ambulance to see if I could be resuscitated from my fake death but he said that never occurred to him. Comforting.

My oldest grandchild, who is now 8 years old, slept soundly as a baby and still does.

I’m not like the sluggard in Proverbs 6:9-11 who takes a long time to rise from sleep and tempts poverty with idleness. But many Bible verses also emphasize the importance of sufficient sleep to restore our bodies and to trust in God for untroubled rest. So I try to do just that, but it’s difficult to change a lifelong circadian rhythm.

In my early years, I wandered my neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning eagerly waiting for other kids to get out of bed. All the little box houses where I grew up were the same and on slabs, so I could easily peek through gaps in the curtains to see if they were spooning sugar into their bowls of Cheerios yet. I never needed anyone to wake me as a child and never needed an alarm clock as an adult.

My granddog is a crazy silver lab. One minute she’s tearing through the house and the next minute she’s fast asleep..

Consistently not getting adequate quality sleep can certainly hasten my demise. A slew of studies warns that sleep deprivation impacts mental and physical health, including how you feel, how you act, and what you eat. Other coffin nails are increased chances of depression, heart disease, and stroke. Poor sleep not only affects the immune and respiratory systems but also tissue and cell repairs.

Although it’s uncommon, researchers think some people like me who feel refreshed with less than six hours of sleep have a genetic predisposition for it. But they stress that no matter how many hours anyone sleeps, it’s still necessary to go through the four sleep cycle stages from light to REM. So, waking in the middle of the night to count farm animals flying overhead flashing their dangly parts-or not so dangly parts-is not conducive to deep sleep.

A ram being protective of a ewe at Spicy Lamb Farm after romping in mud stirred up by December rains.

According to the science behind the sleep data for certain companies that sell beds, I just need a comfy mattress in a dark, cool, and quiet environment to enhance restorative sleep. They tout that it will ramp up my energy, save my sanity, and improve my health. It’s definitely more comfortable staring at the clock in a fabulous adjustable bed.

The list that follows includes several of the natural sleep aids I tried. Some foods containing melatonin, a sleep-regulating hormone, worked a little. Others, like chamomile tea, didn’t seem to make a difference. None got me past five hours of sleep, but a few made my sleep more restful.

The content in this blog should not be taken as medical advice or used as a recommendation for specific treatments. Please consult your healthcare professional about possible complications before using supplements or foods that may interact with medicine. But pray all you want!

Prayer-relieves anxiety and is calming

Chamomile tea-an herbal tea often used to relax and promote sleep

Lavender essential oil-an aromatherapy used to improve rest and relaxation

Magnesium-a calming mineral

Kiwi fruit-has melatonin, folate, and serotonin which enhance sleep

Tart cherry juice-contains tryptophan and melatonin, snooze booze

Mindful meditation-relaxes and destresses

Ashwagandha-a medicinal herb known to reduce stress

CBD oil or lotion-a component of cannabis being studied as a sleep aid

Pistachio nuts, eggs, and salmon-a snooze trifecta with lots of melatonin

Here are several products I used to try to sleep more soundly. Some work better than others depending on what my body needs to chill.

A while ago, when I felt sicker than a rabid dog, I used the television to fall asleep. This is a no-no according to an avalanche of sleep experts who could probably fall asleep while skiing and sipping an expresso. Pale, uncomfortable, and sleep deprived, I finally dozed off on the couch, remote in hand. Then Michael came home and immediately jostled me.

“Why did you wake me up?” I moaned. “I’m exhausted, my body hurts, and I just fell asleep!”

Michael countered, “You made my heart stop! I thought you were dead!”

Seriously, if I don’t start snoring, I’m going to end up in a pine box.

Recently, while again trying to get back to sleep in the middle of the night, I reflected on being among the flock the LORD shepherds (Psalm 100:3), and it gave me comfort. That’s why I tried counting sheep again-ornery sheep.

This Dorset sheep from Spicy Lamb Farm must have recognized me.

The first sheep struggled to jump over the fence, so I envisioned a border collie to herd the rest of them over it. The flock remained in the pasture. Then, I thought, I’ll just count the sheep eating the grass. Well, they stopped grazing and lay flat with their legs outstretched. They looked like a large sheep pancake with a frantic dog circling and barking.

When I awoke in the morning, I thought about my attempt to count sheep. Had it been a dream? I don’t remember anything after I counted off one for the sheep pancake.

Do not love sleep lest you be reduced to poverty; keep your eyes open, have your fill of food.

Proverbs 20:13, NAB

In peace I will lie down and fall asleep, for you alone, LORD, make me secure.

Psalm 4:9, NAB

Cast your care upon the LORD, who will give you support. He will never allow the righteous to stumble.

Psalm 55:23

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