What do you think about when you fall asleep? It’s an odd question that many people have a hard time answering. Our minds tend to get so fuzzy as we drift off that it’s difficult to remember exactly what we were thinking just before we fell asleep. But for some people, the answer to this question is hugely important; their minds fill with racing thoughts as soon as their head hits the pillow, and they strive desperately to find a calming train of thought that leads to sleep.
Sleeping pills are often the solution of choice, as they knock the mind right on its butt so that it keeps quiet ’til morning. But there are attendant issues with these pills, including the fact that the mind sometimes remains partly inactive into the next day, not to mention risk of addiction and other physical and mental side effects. But if you’re among those who suffer from insomnia, don’t fret: there are a slew of natural remedies that can help. Besides keeping general good sleep hygiene (sleeping in a dark, quiet room; avoiding screens before bed; not eating or drinking alcohol close to bedtime), one powerful tool might surprise you: a sleep mantra.
You may associate mantras with yoga or meditation, but they can actually be used in a wide variety of circumstances, including falling asleep and curing your insomnia. By focusing on the words of your mantra as you internally utter them, you don’t leave room for other thoughts. In this way, mantras help cut out the internal chatter of the mind and turn your attention to a single, affirmative phrase. A mantra frees you from the flurry of distracting, negative thoughts that lead to anxiety, self-doubt, and—when they come late at night—insomnia.
What’s perhaps best about mantras is that even if they “don’t work,” they work. That is, even if you don’t achieve your goal of falling asleep, mantras are incredibly effective at quieting the mind and slowly shutting down certain regions of the brain. This allows your mind to achieve an important type of physical rest, and if your body is also lying still, the entire experience can be surprisingly restorative.
Mantras can come in all shapes and forms. Some of the oldest and most traditional mantras are in Sanskrit, and many of the ones used in yoga and mediation are longer or even sung. However, for the purposes of a sleep mantra, it helps to keep things simple—you don’t want to burden your mind with anything that requires too much concentration as you try to drift off.
When choosing a mantra, keep some guidelines in mind:
- It should be short enough for you to repeat it over and over again without having to think too hard.
- It should contain clear, simple words.
- It should be calming—the power of suggestion is very powerful!
- It should be affirming and make you feel good.
- Some people like mantras that are rhythmic and follow a certain cadence. If this isn’t important to you, that’s fine.
Once you find a mantra that resonates with you, your job is to simply repeat it internally as you lie in bed with your eyes closed. Find a comfortable position and lie still (fidgeting won’t help you drift off), and breathe deeply and slowly as you repeat your mantra silently. If your mind wanders, simply bring it back to the words without judgment.
You can find endless mantra ideas online, whether they are in Sanskrit, English, or a different language, or make one up yourself. To get you started, here are five of our favorite calming sleep mantras:
“I am calm and still.”
“Stillness of body breeds stillness of mind.”
“Each breath relaxes me more.”
“I welcome sleep into my mind and body.”
“All is well and I’m at peace.”
Wishing you a peaceful sleep tonight!