Telling our brain it's time for sleep can be a challenge. It may not be done telling us stories for the day, or it may be more interested in going over things it's already covered about a hundred times or so.
Having a technique at the ready can mean the difference between falling asleep and just lying there for hours. So here are four strategies I've used over the years to help me fall asleep fast — usually within minutes of hitting the pillow.
1. Stretch before bed.
Light stretching before bed can help calm the body and mind. Forward bend poses are great (standing, seated, wide leg seated), but other poses like Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall), restorative yoga poses, or Savasana can be equally excellent.
2. Count your breath backwards.
You can simply count backwards if you like, but I find counting the breath is even more effective. Starting with a large number like 100 is nice, because you'll likely be asleep before you come close to zero. Mindfully relaxing, and sinking into your bed more with each exhale will also help release tension in the body.
3. Do a body scan.
Scanning the body from toes to head, or vice versa, can be helpful. Bringing the awareness to these body parts will tend to relax them, as well as the corresponding part of our brain which controls it. Some people like to include a tense-and-release aspect to this, and while I've found that beneficial, I prefer simply bringing my awareness to each part.
4. Try guided meditations or nature sounds.
Yes, this is a pretty broad item. Before I ever had a daily meditation practice, I used guided meditations to put me out like a light. Some guided meditations tailored specifically for sleep include numbers 2 and 3 in them. With these I've found the voice is the most important aspect. If the voice is right, I could probably listen to the most absurd words and still fall pleasantly asleep.
I include nature sounds in this last one because years ago my ex-wife got in the habit of listening to a sound machine (specifically the cricket sounds) for an hour to fall to sleep. It was helpful to me as well, and there are numerous nature sound mp3s available to help you tune out.
There are lots of other ideas which can be used to help you reach that desired state of slumber. These are simply the standbys I fall back on if my mind is in a dastardly mood and needs to be brought into submission.