Counting sheep? Try these techniques instead.


Since I was a teenager, I’ve had trouble sleeping. From hypnotherapy to melatonin, I've tried all kinds of lifestyle changes and strategies to get better sleep. No matter what helps, I am never immune to those nights at 3 AM where my mind won’t seem to shut off. No surprise those nights have come more frequently since March 2020.

Here are some of the practices I’ve used during sleepless nights. These practices don’t require that I stop thinking, which my hyper-active mind seems reassured by. However, these practices keep my thoughts focused on relaxation.

Sometimes a practice will work for a week or so. Others I revisit after several months and they work again. Put these in your sleep-toolbox and I hope at least one will come in handy from time to time.


A-Z in Your Happy Place (My current favorite practice.)

You may have heard a guided meditation ask you to think of your “happy place”. For many this is the beach or mountains. For me, it is a garden. Every time I imagine myself in the garden I start in the same place, sitting on a stone bench. But my active mind will want more to do, so I give it this task to keep it focused on the happy place.

Here’s how it goes:

Imagine you are in your happy place. Going through the alphabet from A-Z, identify something you see that starts with each letter. Sometimes I repeat the same things as the night before, other times I start over at "A" with new ideas. It might go something like this: I get to “B” and I think “birds”, so I imagine what kinds of birds I see in the garden. Another night, “B” might be “basil” and I imagine picking and smelling a basil leaf. Maybe when I get to “K” I imagine there is a kite, so I pick it up and try flying it in the wind. Most nights I only get through a few letters before I’m asleep.

Counting Backwards

If I my body feels relaxed but my mind doesn’t seem tired, I will use this trick I picked up from a Headspace meditation. Start at 2,000 and count backwards. Sometimes my mind wanders and I need to start over. That is ok.

Grateful A-Z

Someone I know learned this practice from their therapist. This inspired my “Happy Place” technique listed above. For this practice, list things that you are grateful for, starting with a letter in the alphabet and working all the way through.

The Tree

I gleaned this from another meditation I heard using the InsightTimer app. Imagine you are standing at a big tree. At the base of this tree, one by one, place down a worry or thought that is on your mind. These may be events that happened that day, or plans for tomorrow. I may place down about 10 -15 before I’m through 😊. Once you’re done, proceed past the tree and enter into your “happy place”. Sometimes I don’t even make it through the garden gate before I’m already asleep.


Hoping one of these may help you on your sleep journey tonight. The point is don’t give up. There are always new techniques to try.

Looking for more ideas? Check out more SAS Life Blogs on Sleep. 

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About Author

Katie Seavey Pegoraro

Sr Associate Work Life Program Manager

Katie Seavey Pegoraro supports employees with issues of stress and balance, providing tools and resources to cope when life feels overwhelming. Katie is a contact for those who may be coping with issues of mental health, substance use, or grief and loss. A young professional herself, Katie is a unique support to employees who are navigating the many life transitions that occur in your 20's and 30's.

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