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Coronavirus has you up worrying? Don't count sheep: Try the number '7' technique

Our lives are turned upside down now. If you're lying awake worrying, try this technique.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Yup. It's supposed to help you fall asleep.  

But don't do it. Don't count sheep.

Be it 50 sheep or 100. An expert on anxiety and sleep says it won't help you.

Dr. Joe McNamara is a licensed psychologist and a professor at the University of Florida. He’s part of UF’s Center for OCD, Anxiety and Related Disorders.

"The research shows," he explains, "that counting sheep does not work." 

It's not an effective way to fall asleep, he says, because it's too boring.

Instead, he says, try something more engaging with numbers.

For example, think about the number 1185.  

Subtract 7.

Now you have 1178,

Take away 7 again.

Now you have 1171. 

"The idea is it doesn't matter if you are correct or not. It's engaging and, at the same time, we don't care if we fall asleep," he says.

Another tip? Dr. McNamara says most people tend to breathe with their chests. Instead, you should breathe through your diaphragm.

He says that belly breathing slows down your body and makes you feel more calm. If you can control your breathing, your mind believes there's no imminent danger.

He recommends an app called breathe2relax (available for Google and Apple devices). It teaches you to belly breathe, he says. 

And one more tip: If you don't fall asleep in 15-20 minutes, get up and go in another room. Don't watch upsetting news or shows. Read a book. Just make sure, he says, it's one you've already read so you mind doesn't stay awake curious about the ending.

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