You’ve switched off the lights and placed all your gadgets in airplane mode. You even gave yourself the proper hour of pre-bed downtime to de-stress after a long day. But racing thoughts and nagging to-do lists still swirl through your mind. Then you think about how restless you are and just become more restless. It’s a slippery slope. But before you reach for the bottle of melatonin, there are a few mental exercises proven to focus your thoughts and summon sleep.
No, we’re not about imagining sheep vaulting over fences. Rather, we sourced three proven techniques that involve breathing, meditation and some mental trickery, that will dim your mind before bed and lead the way to a more resful night’s sleep.
Imagine a Movie in Reverse
Visualize a movie you know well, except begin at the end and work your way backwards. Sounds silly, but this exercise will put your mind into a state that discourages it from wandering, but won’t stimulate it enough to keep you awake. Plus, it's a right-brain-centric exercise, which helps the mind enter a dream like state. (It's also pretty enjoyable: Godzilla repairs buildings; the great white in Jaws spits out limbs; Dracula re-injects people with blood.)
Enlist the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise
As every downward-dogging yoga lover can tell you, calculated breathing is an easy way to calm your mind. One of the best ways to calm your mind and conjure sleep? The 4-7-8 technique. Developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, the technique is based on pranayama, a yoga breathing practice that’s said to work as a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system by expelling carbon dioxide and circulating the oxygen through the body, preparing the body for a state of relaxation. “Use it whenever anything upsetting happens - before you react,” says Dr. Weil. “Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep.
Many people swear by the simple method, which was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. It works like this: exhale through your mouth (creating a “whoosh” sound), close your mouth and quietly inhale through your nose while mentally counting to four. Continue holding your breath while mentally counting to seven and then exhale through your mouth (making that “whoosing” sound again) while mentally counting to eight. Repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Try Rhythmic Repetitive
By definition, meditation is intended to center the mind and ready it for relaxation. According to Craig Perkins, director of Yandara Yoga Institute who has spent the past 30 years of his life studying the practice, says Rhythmic Repetitive Meditation is ideal for readying the body for sleep. First, close your eyes gently and focus on the space between your eyebrows. From there, mentally repeat the name of a loved one or anything you desire. “This rhythmic repetition frees the mind from wandering, but it also gives the body a sense of rhythm that soothes the nervous system and allows the body to relax,” says Perkins.