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Counting Sheep

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Cowardly Lion: I haven't slept in weeks.
Tin Man: Why don't you try counting sheep?
Cowardly Lion: That doesn't do any good — I'm afraid of 'em.

A character desperately needs to get to sleep. Maybe they've been awake for three days straight; maybe they have an important meeting to attend in the morning. But for whatever reason, no matter how hard they try or how much they toss and turn, they simply can't fall asleep.

Cue the character trying to get to sleep by counting imaginary sheep. Cartoons may show the sheep in an Imagine Spot. Those sheep may be jumping over a fence, walking into frame, or simply standing in a field; it doesn't matter. The intention is to drift off to sleep through the sheer boredom and repetition of counting them.

Unfortunately, proven by science to be ineffective in real life.

Because most people know (normally through personal experience) that counting sheep does not help the counter to fall asleep, this trope is rarely played straight nowadays. More often than not, it can be found:

  • Deconstructed (with the character concentrating so intently on counting sheep that they forget to sleep. If interrupted, cue swearing and/or recounting)
  • Parodied (flocks of non-imaginary sheep have a soporific effect because people will try to count them)
  • and/or Exaggerated (using some weird method in counting sheep, like counting something else, or the sheep is doing something else other than jumping, or using a calculator, or counting to 338,547 sheep, or setting up an animation of sheep jumping using a computer...)

Very often, it will be Played for Laughs. When it's ineffective, the trope can also be used to show how serious the character's insomnia is. When it's too effective, on the other hand, it shows how easily the character drifts off to sleep.


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  • A series of mattress commercials by Serta featured counting sheep who were constantly annoyed that people stopped needing them since the mattress was so comfy, they'd had an easier time falling to sleep. Although, more recent commercials have forgotten this idea with the sheep openly supporting Serra’s products.
  • One of the more (relatively) famous billboards for South Carolina roadside attraction South of the Border has a motorized depiction of sheep jumping over a fence with the phrase "Your sheep are all counted at South of the Border" (their classic billboards went for these kinds of puns a lot).

    Anime & Manga 
  • In the second episode of Ah! My Goddess TV, when Keiichi and Belldandy are trying to sleep in a car, he explains the idea of counting sheep to her. He ends up awake all night, as Belldandy doesn't realize why you do it. She ends up counting over 38,000 when we last see it.
  • Happens in episode seven of Gabriel DropOut with Vigne, (a demon with an F in evil), has trouble falling asleep. At first she can't remember what animal its supposed to be so she starts counting cerberi (plural of cerberus) but thinks that it's supposed to be something "cuter and fluffier" and switches to counting dream versions of her friend (and Angel) Gabriel.
  • In an episode of Gintama, Katsura starts counting sheep to help himself fall asleep. As is typical of the show's nature, this activity eventually leads him to telling a lengthy and tragic story about some high school basketball players, the only things in the story related to the sheep counting being the jumping involved in the sport, and the jersey number of one of the players being the same as that of the sheep he was about to count (Which he finally does at the end of the story).
    • Okita counts Hijikata corpses when he wants to fall asleep. Hijikata naturally isn't amused when he finds out about this.
  • In the first episode of Haruhi-chan, Kyon has a dream, and Mikuru is a sheep that Haruhi is cruelly trying to force into jumping over the fence through a ring of fire so Kyon can count her.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: During a period where he's both tired and stressed out, Shirogane falls asleep in the Student Council room and starts counting sheep...and then transitions into counting coffinsnote . Ishigami wakes him up, worried that he's going to put some kind of curse on himself.
  • In the first half of the 37th episode of Kira Kira Happy Hirake Cocotama, Pillow is having trouble sleeping, so he attempts to count sheep by having Ribbon wear a sheep costume and repeatedly jump over the same miniature fence while he counts her jumps. Instead of making Pillow sleepy, it results in Ribbon tiring herself out from all the jumping.
  • Klonoa: In Volume 1, Chapter 5, Klonoa suggests that Emperor Jillius do this to fall asleep easier. It doesn't work, even when he reaches 165,478,325,693,261,541 sheep.
  • In Kurikosan Konnichi Wa, the titular Kuriko prefers to imagine her husband jumping the fence.
    Kuriko: Ten Yoichi's, eleven Yoichi's...
    Yoichi: Make it sheep, will you?
  • The almost daily animation clips that appeared online when Monster Musume was airing all ended with an audio segment of one of the girls counting sheep for main character Kimihito to help him fall asleep. Most of them parodied the trope with Papi falling asleep herself, Suu waking him up so she can finish counting, Tio counting cookies (until she ran out), Manako shouting her counting since she's too nervous to get close and Zombina counting zombies, only to switch to zombie sheep when she's told to count sheep to name but a few.
  • Nichijou: When the Professor fails to get sleep, Sakamoto suggests she count sheep. She falls asleep after just one sheep. Nano, impressed by how much it works, tries it herself the next moment, and also falls asleep on the first sheep, except this time mid-sentence, with Sakamoto noticing that this sheep didn't even make it over the fence.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • In the Pokémon: The Original Series episode "Snack Attack", the group is trying to stop a large Snorlax that's eating the grapefruits of seven big islands by making it to fall asleep. One of the things Misty tries is a Snorlax counting routine instead of one with sheep. She only succeeds in putting herself to sleep.
    • In another episode, James, Jessie and Meowth are up in a tree spying on a rancher and her field full of Mareep, which are basically electric sheep. As usual...
      James: One Mareep, two Mareep, three Mareep... *snore* ...
    • It happens again but to only Meowth this time in the Episode N arc of Pokémon the Series: Black & White when Team Rocket is stealing Mareep from Floccessy Ranch. This actually becomes something of a Brick Joke a few episodes later when Meowth is trying to be resilient to Dr. Colress of Team Plasma's Mind Control experiment – it's shown that Meowth's technique to keep his mind focused is counting Mareep in his head.
    • Happens a fourth time in Pokémon the Series: XY, when Meowth counts Mareep to get some sleep, and ends up dreaming he's buried under a mountain of Mareep.
  • Tatsu from The Way of the Househusband tries counting yakusa to help him fall asleep, it doesn't work.

    Asian Animation 
  • Boonie Cubs: In Season 2 episode 23, Violet tries this to combat her insomnia, but imagines Billy the goat ringing the school bell among the sheep and fears that she might be late for school, only to realize she's just imagining it.
  • Careless S. does this in episode 19 of Happy Heroes when he finds himself unable to sleep. Unfortunately, he does the counting out loud, which costs Smart S. his sleep.
  • Attempted by Mr. Slowy in Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 1. It suddenly becomes morning by the time he makes it to five sheep.

    Audio Plays 
  • The Hitsuji de Oyasumi series of talk CDs feature an assortment of popular Japanese voice actors counting sheep to help the listener fall asleep. Not just a few sheep, either; most of the counts go up to 400 sheep. 22 albums of this and counting. Here's a Norio Wakamoto version. There's also a CD featuring the cast of Hetalia: Axis Powers in character.

    Comic Books 
  • One of the Archie Comics had Archie try to count sheep when he couldn't sleep, but for some reason the sheep wouldn't jump.
  • Monica's Gang had at least two cases, one where the title character was traumatized by Tremors and tried counting sheep to finally sleep, and managed to do so even if they turn into Graboids; and a Chuck Billy story concerned the title character and his friend Zeke facing problems when assigned to check the size of a herd i.e. literally count sheep, something that whenever they attempted, it made them sleepy (the eventual solution was painting numbers on every animal).

    Comic Strips 
  • In Dilbert, a co-worker notes that he used to own a sheep farm. Asked how many sheep he had, he says every time he tried to count them he fell asleep.
  • One Charles Addams cartoon has a creepy-looking bald individual (the genesis for Uncle Fester on The Addams Family TV series) getting to sleep by counting sheep being herded into a slaughterhouse.
  • One comic produced during the Clinton administration parodied this by a character counting Veeps. One Al Gore, Two Al Gores, Three Al Gorezzz...
  • Beau Peep had a strip with Beau and Dennis lying in their bunks:
    Dennis: Beau?
    Beau: What is it, Dennis?
    Dennis: I can't sleep.
    Beau: Well, try counting sheep or something.
    Dennis: Beau?
    Beau: What is it this time?
    Dennis: I can't count.
  • Mafalda does this once and Manolito in a sheep disguise enters her dreams to raise publicity for his father's grocery store, much to Mafalda's disgust.
  • One Donald Duck comic strip has the titular duck doing this. However, as he had apparently just read The Lion Hunt in Africa, the sheep slowly morph into full-grown lions. Donald wakes up in fear, and the strip ends with him reading Mother Goose fairytales as a form of Brain Bleach.
  • Inverted in Calvin and Hobbes when Calvin dreams that he's in a field of rocks and decides to count how many there are. He's gone well beyond a million when he ends up counting himself awake.
  • Garfield:
  • Red and Rover: Red, nervous about his upcoming return to school, lies awake. When Rover suggests he count sheep, Red says he tried, and it made things worse. His thought bubble reveals that he imagined drawing sheep on a blackboard, with the teacher telling him he missed one and ordering him to do it over.

    Eastern European Animation 
  • An episode "Dream Maker" of KikoRiki revolves around this. Rosa, trying to get a good night's sleep, starts counting sheep, continues to do so in her dream for a while... and there she meets Wally the ram, who apparently has the power of creating dreams for others. Carlin and Krash are also shown to get visits from him in their dreams. Dokko suggests that after thousands of years of counting sheep, they became able to influence others' dreams. Wally, for his part, does not remember anything and barely gets enough sleep himself.

  • In Twelve Days Harry counts reindeer while lying awake shortly before Christmas.
  • In Harry Potter - Three to Backstep Harry, nervous about sharing a bed with Hermione and Daphne for the first time, tries counting sheep jumping over a gate.
  • In Dance with the Devil Harry suffers a bout of insomnia.
    Merlin, he'd already counted about two hundred sheep, and he'd used up the last of his precious supply of Dreamless Sleep yesterday. He was running out of options!
  • In The Closet Harry tries counting sheep but loses track several times when Seamus and his sex partner are too loud.
  • Lucy's Secret: Due to having gotten up at night to change her bedsheets, Lucy is tired in math class, and so decides to take a nap. She counts imaginary sheep with the times tables written on them.
  • Nothing Works:
    Dumbledore: Noooooooo.... I like sleep. Counting goats is so soothing - well that and dreaming of Gellert....
  • In Vows Harry tries counting sheep and dragons, but gives up when the dragons start eating the sheep.
  • In A Kitten's Penpal Harry counts golden snitches jumping through Quidditch hoops.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Zootopia, Nick asks if the trope applies to assistant mayor Bellwether, a sheep, shortly after she leaves the room.
    Nick: Do you think when she goes to sleep, she counts herself?
    Judy: Oh shush.
  • The Farmer in Shaun the Sheep falls asleep when he sees the flock jumping in front of his car one by one.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • From The Wizard of Oz:
    Cowardly Lion: I haven't slept in weeks.
    Tin Man: Why don't you try counting sheep?
    Cowardly Lion: That doesn't do any good — I'm afraid of 'em.
  • In Herbie Rides Again, Alonzo Hawk tries counting sheep, but in his dream the sheep morph into evil versions of Herbie, setting the course for a very deranged nightmare.
  • How to Sleep: Robert Benchley considers counting sheep as a way of getting to sleep, but says he always gets worried about the sheep clearing the fence. Sure enough, in his dream one of them bangs right into the fence.
  • In Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, when a psychiatrist tries to put Lou to sleep (the whole scene is one big Comically Missing the Point), Lou starts counting.
    Psychiatrist: What are you doing?
    Lou: I'm counting cows.
    Psychiatrist: COWS?
    Lou: I'm allergic to sheep.
  • In comic short film Sure Cures, the insomniac doesn't count sheep, he counts babes in bikinis jumping over a fence.

  • A wealthy New York garment manufacturer had been having trouble with insomnia, so his doctor suggested counting sheep. During the next office visit the doctor asked how it had gone.
    "Well doc, I tried counting sheep just like you said. When I got to 500, I sheared the sheep and made some nice wool overcoats. That was when I ran into a problem. Where was I going to get 500 linings?"
  • An accountant tells his friend that he's having trouble sleeping. His friend asks if he's tried counting sheep. The accountant says, "That's the problem. I make a mistake and then spend three hours trying to find it."

  • Can You See Me?: Attempted by Tally in All the Pieces of Me. It doesn't work, because the sheep keep jumping the wrong way, and she can't keep track of which ones she's already counted.
  • In Monster Girl Encyclopedia, the Weresheep has enchanted wool which makes those who come into contact with it drowsy, including the Weresheep themselves.
  • In Postman Pat's Sleepy Days, Postman Pat is struggling with insomnia, so Peter Fogg suggests that he count sheep to fall asleep. However, that night Pat counts five hundred sheep and still doesn't fall asleep.
  • In Jay Williams' The Practical Princess Prince Perian is under a spell which forces him to count sheep and has gotten up to 16,000,015 by the time of the story. Princess Bedelia suggests that counting sheep jumping backwards (by hundreds) might wake him from his current semi-drowsy state. It works.
  • In Winnie the Pooh, Pooh tries to put himself to sleep by counting Heffalumps [creatures that resemble elephants] but every Heffalump takes a pot of his honey, and when "the five hundred and eighty-seventh Heffalumps were licking their jaws, and saying to themselves, 'Very good honey this, I don't know when I've tasted better', Pooh could bear it no longer".
  • The 2022 picture book Baa, Baa, Tap Sheep stars a group of 10 celestial lambs who help children get tired by dancing above their heads. Each lamb takes their turn dancing in a different style (such as disco, waltz, and boogie) before landing on to a child's bed as they get sleepy. The book ends with another lamb performing a lullaby on a violin as the 10 lambs fall asleep on top a child's bed as they slowly fad into constellations.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Mr. Bean once did this, but instead of imagining them, he uses a photograph of a field full of sheep. After continually losing count, he counts the number of rows and columns of sheep, does a quick calculation, and instantly drops off.
  • Gilligan's Island: In "Good Night, Sweet Skipper", the Skipper is trying to fall asleep because when he sleepwalks, he remembers the way he turned a radio into a transmitter in Guadalcanal. When Gilligan offers him a cup of warm coconut milk, the Skipper says he's already had too many glasses and never wants to see another, or a lamb chop, for that matter. Gilligan is confused, and the Skipper explains that he's counted a huge number of sheep while trying to fall asleep.
  • In a Season One The Kids in the Hall sketch, a kid says he can't sleep and his father suggests counting sheep. The kid starts crying about all the slaughtered sheep. His father says they're live sheep. The kid says, "You didn't tell me they were alive. Dad, I was up all night tagging their toes!"
  • In the Married... with Children episode "Un-Alful Entry", Al is counting hooters instead (meaning breasts, not owls).
  • In Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Usagi's reaction to a talking cat plushie telling her she's The Chosen One is to say "I'm having a dream!" Then she gets into bed and starts counting sheep.
  • Chockablock: Episode 3 features the story of Farmer Jake who, when he can't get to sleep one night, starts counting sheep, only for the last sheep to refuse to jump the gate unless he can name eight different words that rhyme with "sheep". After some thinking, Farmer Jake comes up with his eight words, the sheep jumps the gate and Farmer Jake is finally able to fall asleep. However, "watching all those sheep" also causes Chockabloke to nod off while leaning against Chockablock, who responds by letting off a series of alarms to wake him up.

  • Green Day's "Brain Stew":
    I'm having trouble trying to sleep
    I'm counting sheep but running out
  • This trope is referenced by name in the Owl City song "Fireflies":
    Leave my door open, just a crack
    (Please take me away from here)
    'Cause I feel like such an insomniac
    (Please take me away from here)
    Why do I tire of counting sheep?
    (Please take me away from here)
    When I'm far too tired to fall asleep
  • P.D.Q. Bach's "Shepherd on the Rocks, With a Twist" ends with the shepherd dozing off while trying to count his sheep.
  • "Oh Lord, I Wish I Could Sleep" by The Spinners contains this chorus:
    1,2,3,4 I'm just counting sheep
    Oh Lord, I wish I could sleep
    It's 5,6,7,8 and I'm still counting sheep
    Oh Lord, I wish I could sleep
  • Spike Jones' rendition of "The Sheik of Araby":
    When I'm laying down to sleep
    I'm counting girls instead of sheep
  • Buddy Clark's "Linda":
    When I go to sleep
    I never count sheep
    I count all the charms about Linda
  • Doc Watson's "Southbound":
    I'm all right 'til late at night I'm sitting by my window
    Counting sheep but I couldn't sleep for listening to that train blow

    Puppet Shows 
  • Bear in the Big Blue House: In "A Winter's Nap", Bear tries to take a nap on a cold winter's day, but he has trouble falling asleep, so he decides to count fish. He gets up to five trout before finding this strategy isn't working.
  • In an episode of Eureeka's Castle, Magellan has trouble falling asleep, so Eureeka suggests that he count sheep. The first time he tries this, he is only able to count one sheep. The second time, he gets up to four sheep before he gets to a gorilla that scares them away, as well as him.
  • The Muppet Show: Discussed in the Mark Hammil episode; after the "Ram a Lam a Ding Dong" musical number, Kermit asks one sheep if there are more of them. The sheep tells him that he doesn't know, as every time they try to count themselves, they fall asleep.
  • Sesame Street:
    Ernie: Um... one?
    • On another Bert & Ernie sketch Ernie can't fall asleep on a night Bert is away. He calls Bert and Bert suggests he count sheep. Ernie begins to count sheep but he keeps Bert on the line to hear him count.
    • One "Number of the Day" sketch has the Count count sheep until an elephant appears, with said elephant indicating that number (for example, if the elephant appears after five sheep, then the Number of the Day is five, for zero only the elephant appears).
    • Yet another Sesame Street sketch has Little Bo Peep at a Lost and Found department, for rather obvious reasons. Once her sheep are recovered, she confesses to the clerk that she doesn't know how many she has, because she's never dared count them. The clerk offers to count them for her, and...
    • In another sketch involving the Count, the Count gets up to 3,411 sheep before the sheep quit, tired of jumping for him every night. The Count calls the 24-hour Emergency Counting Service, whose worker tries to give him substitutes like holes in Swiss cheese and paper clips, but the Count insists that he wants to count sheep. Eventually, the Count settles on counting the worker in a sheep costume over and over as he jumps over the bed, much to the worker's ire.
    • Yet another sketch involving the Count is the song, "The Bahh Bahh" where dozens of sheep (and a few other animals) sing and dance across the Counts bed as he counts them. The Count admits that he has such a great time that he doesn't care if he falls asleep or not.
    • In one of the recurring "Singing Number Guy" sketches the guy asks how many sheep will fly over him before he falls asleep. Nine sheep fly by before he does.
    • While they aren't counted, the Boogie-Woogie Sheep in the Bert and Ernie "Dance Myself to Sleep" sketch are a reference to the trope.
    • In Episode 2620, Mr. Handford is trying to take a nap when Snuffy tasks him with looking after Alice. When Mr. Handford tries to figure out how to get Alice to take a nap so he can take his nap, Meryl Sheep suggests that Alice count sheep, since that's what people do when they have trouble sleeping. Since Alice hasn't learned how to count yet due to being only two years old, Mr. Handford counts for her as Meryl jumps. Unfortunately, both Mr. Handford and Alice are still wide awake, as Meryl gets tired when Mr. Handford gets to 12.

  • In Once Upon a Mattress, Winnifred, having failed to find any comfortable position on the bed, counts all through the night and by the next morning has reached several thousand without getting any rest.
  • In Annie Get Your Gun the "Moonshine Lullaby" number has the line "Count your sheep, Mama's singing you to sleep."

  • The Ganz toy company (makers of the Webkinz), as part of its "Flat-A-Pat" collection, sells a "Sleepy Sheep" that evokes this trope by being a plush sheep with its eyes closed in sleep (the other animals in the toyline, in contrast, don't have a sleep theme). Though given it's intended to be a Security Blanket for babies, having it in the bed or crib to cuddle with might actually make it easier for children to fall asleep than the more traditional version of this trope.

    Video Games 
  • In LSD: Dream Emulator, sometimes, instead of starting a new dream, you are instead shown an animation. One of these shows sheep jumping over a fence.
  • In Worms 3D, the objective of one of the missions is to cure your leader of his insomnia by using the sheep weapon to make him count some sheep.
  • The game Pokémon Channel has an entire channel devoted to showing Mareep (electric sheep) jumping over a fence. Pikachu has a tendency to fall asleep while watching it.
  • WarioWare: Twisted!: One microgame is called "Falling Asheep", which has you timing sheep's jumps over a fence in a boy's thought bubble. There’s also an extended version of this microgame called “Staying Asheep”, which involves the player having to get as many sheep to jump over the fence as possible.
  • In Super Mario RPG, Princess Toadstool's "Sleepy Sheep" spell inflicts sleeping status onto the target by causing a sheep to fall onto them. If done right, you can cause a sheep avalanche to put all enemies to sleep.
  • Due to their association with sleep, games in the Paper Mario series have this as an item which inflicts the Sleep status.
  • Dream Weaver Doremy Sweet (a Baku) has this a major motif of her attacks in Touhou Hyouibana ~ Antinomy of Common Flowers, where her attacks consist of sculpting dream souls into sheep, beds, pillows, hammocks and other sleep-related paraphernalia, with super-move where she turns into a giant mechanical sheep that shoots sheep missiles.
  • Animal Crossing:
    • New Leaf introduces the Dream Suite, which allows the player to visit other towns in dreams. The character who runs the Dream Suite is a tapir named Luna, who helps the player to fall asleep by counting sheep.
    • New Leaf has peppy villagers sometimes bringing up the question if the player has trouble sleeping at night, and then mentions people counting sheep jumping over a fence, which does not work for her. She then says that she has instead been counting ants jumping over a sugary food (which is selected at random), only for the ants to get stuck in a pile, and the peppy villager can't get to sleep.
    • Vesta's description in Pocket Camp:
    If you're having trouble sleeping, Vesta will always let you count her. Sure, she's only one sheep, but you can count her over and over until it works.
  • Mario Party Advance: One of the Gaddgets in is a sheep counter which displays sheep going by on the screen.
  • Dragon Quest: A skill by that very name is introduced from Dragon Quest VII onwards, which can put all enemies to sleep during battle, though in the PS1 original, it can only be learned as a hybrid ability by reaching Rank 5 of the Troubadour and/or Shepherd vocations after completing either vocation. In the game's 3DS remake however, it is learned by advancing to Rank 5 of the Shepherd vocation, due to the remake eliminating hybrid abilities. From Dragon Quest VIII onwards though, it becomes an enemy only skill used by Satyrs and Silenuses in battlenote , as well as Woolmauluses, a rarefied variant of the Cumaulus enemies introduced from 6.4 of Dragon Quest X onwards.
  • The Animist job class in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy Tactics A2 has an ability called Sheep Count, which acts as an area-of-effect sleep spell. In Tactics Advance, the spell's animation shows three sheep circling above the battlefield while in Tactics A2, it shows an entire herd running across the screen.
  • In Incredible Dracula 6: The Ice Kingdom an insomniac werewolf tries counting the mosquitoes in the swamp.
  • Gensou Shoujo Taisen Yume introduces an original character, Meeko, a sheep youkai. Her special effect causes characters who are too close to her and have a Will below a certain level to be unable to act (because they fall asleep). Incidentally, "mee" is the Japanese onomonopeia for a sheep's cry (the equivalent of "baa"), while "-ko" is a standard ending for Japanese female names, meaning her name basically means "baa girl".
  • In Atlantis Odyssey, Robert explains the purpose of counting sheep, stating that it's so boring he always falls asleep by the tenth one. An insomniac Mi'ara promptly starts counting yok'tars.
  • In Homescapes William comments in the Homespace feed that he used to count sheep, but at present is counting all the extra shelves needed for the library. Jeb replies that when got caught up in a job once he started counting nails, while Lisa states that she's been counting the pages of her lecture notes.
  • Referenced in Yakuza: Like a Dragon when you go to the movies. Ichiban has to resist the urge to fall asleep, which is represented as driving off men in sheep masks trying to hypnotize him. On the other hand, he gets assistance from men in chicken masks armed with cymbals.
  • In Spring Valley, Thomas comments that after counting sheep all of last night, he now wants to buy some for the farm.
  • Octopath Traveler II plays it for laughs in a tavern banter between Osvald, Hikari, Partitio, and Temenos. Osvald asks everyone about their opinions on the mysterious One True Magic. Hikari thinks its source is friendship, Partitio says it's money, and Temenos claims that it's sheep. When questioned, Temenos proceeds to explain that since counting sheep puts you to sleep, sheep obviously have some kind of special power. The other guys find this idea to be decent and try it out... and it works.

    Web Comics 
  • Count Your Sheep obviously derives its title from this trope. In the very first strip, Katie puts herself to sleep by counting her imaginary friend, Ship the sheep. Since there's only one of him, this doesn't take long. There have been several variations on the gag over the years, including this semi-serious one.
  • In this xkcd strip, a character tries counting sheep, only to run into an Overflow Error, causing their mental image of sheep jumping a gate to turn into a stampede heading in the opposite direction. Whether it's a bigger problem to have one's brain throw an overflow error or to be awake even after 32,767 sheep (the limit of a signed 16-bit integer) is anyone's guess.
    Alt Text: "If androids someday DO dream of electric sheep, don't forget to declare sheepCount as a long int."
  • Sinfest inverts this, by having sheep count people to fall asleep.

    Web Original 
  • Homestar Runner: In "A Jorb Well Done", Coach Z dreams of Strong Sad clones jumping over a fence while listening to a tape of Strong Sad repeatedly saying the word "job".
  • Insomniac Innovations by Glennz — an elecronical rotary sheep counter!
  • Neopets:
    • In the game Maths Nightmare, Imiya the Aisha is sleeping before a big math test, and is having a nightmare about a horde of Babaas (sheep-like Petpets) jumping over the fence, all carrying math problems. You have to solve the math problems very fast to keep the line of Babaas moving, or else they'll fall down onto the alarm clock and Imiya will wake up.
    • One of the books that you can read to your Neopet is called Counting Babaas. It's exactly what it sounds like.
      This wonderful book gives suggestions for counting Babaas and even has Babaas on each page for you to count!

    Western Animation 
  • In Aladdin: The Series, the titular character was having a problem sleeping, so Genie tried to help him sleep by summoning mini sheep for him to count.
  • The Angry Beavers episode "Up All Night 2: Up All Day" has Daggett attempt this, but he gets it mixed up by thinking he should listen to a sheep counting in order to go to sleep.
  • Arthur:
    • In "Sleep No More", due to nervousness over a pizza eating contest, Buster can't get to sleep so Arthur recommends he count sheep. It works at first until a thought train leads Buster into thinking of pizza and then a pizza eating contest.
    • In the prologue to "Buenos Noches, Vicita", Arthur tells the viewers that everyone has a different method of falling asleep. In Muffy's example, she calls her butler, Bailey, to count sheep for her. She falls asleep shortly after he starts counting.
  • Parodied in the French series Avez-vous déjà vu... ?, where a conversation between two sheep listing the friends and family members who'll attend a picnic ends with the two of them falling fast asleep.
  • In Big City Greens, Cricket tries counting sheep to sleep. Unfortunately, the farm only has the one sheep.
  • The Bojack Horseman episode "Mr. Peanutbutter's Boos" features a background gag based on the trope where one of the party guests is a sheep who has pajamas with the numbers "1, 2, 3" on them as his Halloween costume and is eventually seen sleeping on the couch.
  • The Bonkers episode "Do Toons Dream of Animated Sheep?" had Bonkers D. Bobcat count sheep, only for one of them to steal his dreams out of disappointment that her own dreams never come true.
  • The Bozo the Clown cartoon "Sheep Thief Grief" has Bozo tending his uncle's sheep flock. He does a spot check, counting them off, and proceeds to start getting sleepy.
  • The Casagrandes: In "Silent Fight", C.J. and Carl accidentally wake up Carlitos when they fight with each other and try to get him back to sleep to avoid having him wake up their sleep-deprived parents (as Frida had threatened to ground them for two months if they woke Carlitos up). C.J. and Carl make sheep costumes, dress in them, and take turns jumping near Carlitos' crib until Carlitos falls asleep. This plan works, but when Carl notices his El Falcon action figure in C.J.'s back pocket, he fights over it with him, waking up Carlitos and their parents and getting themselves grounded as a result.
  • Camp Lakebottom: In the "Bloody Marty" episode, McGee is hiding from Marty who wants to make McGee fall asleep so that he can trap him in a mirror. He notices a sheep jumping over a fence, then another and then another before he realises that Marty is throwing them over.
    Bloody Marty: Mind helping me count my flock?
  • Captain Zed and the Zee Zone, which is based on the concept of a group of RAF-like pilots in a Dream Land patrolling to keep kids' dreams safe, has the ground crew consist of anthropomorphic sheep as a Stealth Pun reference to this trope.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door features Numbuh Five singing a lullaby about counting sheep in the episode "Operation: D.I.A.P.E.R."
  • In the Courage the Cowardly Dog episode "The Sandman Sleeps", the titular Sandman can't go to sleep, so he brings sheep over to jump in front of him. But some get bored already and pass the time by either arm wrestling or playing poker, and one even yells at him "Just go to sleep already!"
  • In Cow and Chicken, Chicken tries to do this to sleep and get over the effects of too much caffeine. He ends up counting mules carrying coffee bean bags.
  • One scene in Pixar Shorts film "Day & Night" had several sheep jump inside Night's body.
  • In Dexter's Laboratory, the Justice Friends episode "Things That Go Bonk in the Night" had Krunk count sheep to go to sleep. He's out like a light after only counting one sheep.
  • Droopy: In Drag-Along Droopy, sheepherder Droopy leads a massive flock of sheep who mow down all the vegetation in their path, riling the resident cattleman. On the eve of their face-off, Droopy dozes, counting sheep hopping a fence. The sheep doze, counting Droopys hopping a fence.
  • Family Guy: In "First Blood", Peter and his friends camp outside while staying at Wild West's dude ranch. While Quagmire dreams of sheep hopping a fence, Joe dreams of a wheelchair-bound sheep finding himself unable to jump, suing the farmer for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, and forcing him off his newly-acquired property, only for the fence to swing shut as the farmer drives away, resulting in the sheep flipping him off. And that's when Joe starts counting.
  • Felix the Cat: In the Trans-Lux short "Mechanical Felix", the Professor is so obsessed with obtaining Felix's magical bag of tricks, that when he tries to count sheep, they turn into identical magic bags.
  • The Flintstones:
    • In the season one finale, "Fred Flintstone: Before and After", Fred complains of being hungry, trying to count sheep (on Barney's suggestion present-day), only to recall the sheep turning into lamb chops!
    • In "Ann-Margrock Presents", Ann-Margrock sings a lullaby to Pebbles about counting sheep.
  • Futurama, "The Day the Earth Stood Stupid", when the characters go to a pet show:
    Fry: Man, that's dog's gonna be hard to beat. Look at him bring in the sheep! One sheep, two sheep ... (yawns)... three sheep... (falls asleep)
  • Garfield and Friends:
    • Inverted in the U.S. Acres segment "I Like Having You Around": Bo, a sheep, isn't sleepy, so he decides to count people until he dozes off.
    • Played straight in the U.S. Acres segment "Sleepytime Pig", where Orson has trouble sleeping and the other farm animals try to help him get some sleep. Bo's twin sister Lanolin tries to help by having Orson count a conga line formed by her relatives.
    • In "Arrivaderci, Odie", Garfield tries to count sheep, but his guilt at supposedly driving Jon into sending Odie away makes him start counting Odies instead.
  • The Garfield Show episode "Silence of the Sheep" has Mr. Sandman send three sheep to get Garfield to sleep by counting them. Unfortunately, they fail due to Garfield earlier drinking 92 cups of coffee. As a result, the sheep get fired by Mr. Sandman and proceed to cause problems by instead making everyone else in town fall asleep. Eventually, Mr. Sandman gets the sheep back to his domain with Garfield's help and the episode ends with Garfield sleeping by counting lasagnas.
  • One episode of the cartoon Grimmy features a gang of criminal sheep. How do they rob banks? "Count us!"
  • The Hotel Transylvania: The Series episode "Portrait of Mavis as a Young Vampire" has Mavis try to count slugs so she can get some rest before having her portrait painted. She ends up staying awake counting to 1,993 before she runs out of time and is unable to prevent her portrait being ruined by falling asleep during its painting.
  • In "How to Sleep", Goofy does this unsuccessfully when it turns into a nightmare about a sheep stampede that causes him to wake up screaming.
  • Employed a few times in Jackie Chan Adventures:
    • One time, Jackie fell asleep while looking at the Sheep Talisman.
    • Another time, when Uncle can't sleep because he's focused on preventing Shendu's demon brethren from returning, Jackie asks if he's tried counting sheep, to which Uncle replies "Demons always eat them".
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, when Jimmy is trying to conquer his fear of pickles, he sleeps in bed while dreaming of pickles jumping over a fence, with a small yell between each snore.
  • Johnny Test couldn't sleep, so he had Dukey dress up as a sheep and jump over his bed.
  • Parodied on Kaeloo, in an episode where Stumpy is in a math lesson and wants to prove how good he is at math:
    Stumpy: One sheep, two sheep, three sheep, four sheep...
    Stumpy falls asleep.
  • In the episode "Sleepless Night" from Kipper, Kipper does this when he has trouble falling asleep, and he ends up asking why you're supposed to count sheep. He gets his answer when he counts a kangaroo, which jolts him back awake.
  • In "Sleepover At Gilroy's" from Llama Llama, Euclid wakes up Llama Llama due to his sneezing from allergies. He tells Llama that his family counts sheep to fall asleep. So Llama Llama counts him and falls asleep at a count of four.
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series: Experiment 360, aka Drowsy, is a sheep-like experiment with the power to put people to sleep, riffing off this trope.
  • In the Looney Tunes short "The Sour Puss," Porky and his pet cat Pussy go to sleep before embarking on a fishing trip. Porky counts sheep hopping over a fence while Pussy counts fish hopping over a fence.
  • In the Mickey Mouse (2013) episode "Fire Escape", an already-asleep tenant's dream of sheep jumping over a fence is disturbed when Mickey comes and warns him about a fire, causing the sheep in the dream bubble to freak out and run away.
  • Muppet Babies (1984):
    • In "Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Dark?", Gonzo asks Beaker if he's ever counted sheep to help him get to sleep. He also asks if he's counted elephants, squirrels, and kangaroo rats. Fozzie then says he always counts baby ducks jumping over chili dogs into a bowl of tapioca bumblebees. (It Makes Just As Much Sense In Context.)
    • "Muppet Goose" had Fozzie try to count sheep, but he was overwhelmed by how many sheep there were. Of course, it was all an Imagine Spot.
    • In "Gonzee's Playhouse Channel", Kermit and Scooter use paper bag puppets to play the respective roles of "Kert" and "Bernie" on Sesame Seed Boulevard. When Kert can't sleep, he tries to count sheep, but Bernie finds this a bad idea, since Scooter is allergic to sheep. When the sheep jump over the beds, Scooter sneezes, causing his Bernie puppet to fly off his hand.
  • The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: In the episode "Rock-a-Bye Pooh Bear", when Piglet is afraid to go to sleep, Pooh, Rabbit and Tigger try this on him by having Tigger bounce around dressed as a sheep. In the end, Tigger gets tired before Piglet does.
  • In The Penguins of Madagascar, Mort attempts to sleep while obsessed with touching King Julien's feet. He counts sheep, but those quickly turn into disembodied feet.
  • The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show: One of the Baby Plas segments had the titular infant son of Plastic Man complain to his babysitter that he isn't tired. The sitter replies by suggesting he count plastic sheep.
  • An animated short of Ruby Gloom revolves around the characters doing this. Misery's version has the sheep jumping straight into the wall, where Misery counts with "...ow."
    • Another Misery variation has the sheep jumping over a a cliff.
    Misery: ONE!...I can't sleep for fear more sheep will be harmed.
  • Seven Little Monsters:
    • In the episode "Good Night", Seven is having trouble sleeping and is advised by his brother Two to count sheep. Seven refuses because he doesn't like sheep, but changes his mind when his other brothers Four and Three respectively suggest he try counting crabs and elephants instead.
    • "Splitting Hairs" has Three assume the persona of an Irish shepherd and at one point getting himself to fall asleep by counting three actual sheep.
  • In the Sheep in the Big City episode "Be Still My Bleating Heart", it is shown that one of the jobs Sheep does to make ends meet has him jumping over a fence to help insomniacs fall asleep.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
  • Toy Story Treats has a segment in which Hamm tells Rex to count sheep to go to sleep. Rex counts Bo Peep's sheep... but there are only three of them, so it doesn't work.
  • The T.U.F.F. Puppy episode "Dog Tired" has Snaptrap and his minions try to get Dudley to fall asleep by disguising themselves as sheep for him to count. It doesn't work because Dudley is too stupid to know how to count.
  • One of the Wallace & Gromit Cracking Contraptions shorts features a device that produces sheep for Wallace to count himself to sleep. The "sheep" are really just Gromit in a sheep costume, being tossed up in front of the bed... 500 times.
  • The Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones? episode "P.U. to P.E." shows a screen that depicts pixelated sheep jumping over a fence in a scene where Robot is sleeping.
  • Work It Out Wombats!: In "Happy New Acorn Year," while napping, Louisa counts Zeke and Snout. Everyone else is very irritated.


Video Example(s):


Misery counts sheep

Ruby tries to help Misery sleep by having her count sheep. This being Misery, it quickly takes a dark turn.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / CountingSheep

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