If you’ve ever tossed and turned in bed, you know that when it is tough to sleep, it also tends to be difficult to quiet your mind. Mantra has a role to play in getting us to a better, deeper sleep, because it is a type of meditation that doesn’t require the mind to be quiet. When we use mantra, we get our overactive minds something to focus on and thus direct its energy where we want it to go. Rather than our mind being a runaway train that keeps us up, it becomes a one-way train to peacefulness. Where the mind goes, the body follows, so as we repeat these mantras through our mind, our bodies can soften and drift into deep relaxation and eventually sleep.
You don’t need to overdo it with mantra and chant one after another just to get to a good night’s sleep. You certainly can spend an entire day and night chanting if that makes your heart sing, but you can also keep it simple. Find a sound current that resonates within you and a version that makes you feel relaxed. If you know the mantra, go ahead and chant or recite it, but if you are just learning, don’t try to learn when you should be preparing for sleep and dialing the mind down to a resting state. Listening to a mantra has healing effects very similar to chanting, and the most important thing is that you are relaxing into the sacred sounds. Turn down the lights and let the sound current carry you off to sleep.
Here are 5 mantras that can help you get a better night’s sleep tonight:
Antarjaamee purakh bidhaatae sardhaa man kee poorae
Nanak das eihai sukh maagai mo kau kar santan kee dhoorae
Knower of hearts, architect of destiny, the one who fulfills the longing of this mind.
Servant Nanak asks for this peace. Let me be the dust of the feet of the saints.
Perhaps the most powerful mantra for sleep is Antarjaamee, which is the last two lines of the Sikh evening prayer called Kirtan Sohila (listed below as its own recommended practice). Designed to be chanted just before bed, this mantra brings peace and ease to your rest. When we turn our minds to the Infinite, it becomes easier to send our consciousness into the other realms and pull us into a protected, peaceful sleep. This is a mantra of true rest and relaxation in the comfort of the One. It’s some of the most beautiful words ever written, and will carry your heart away.
I love Ajeet’s version on At the Temple Door. It’s sweet and comforting, and puts me into the perfect state of peace before sleep. It makes me feel held in the arms of the Divine.
Guru Guru Wahe Guru, Guru Ram Das Guru
Guru – teacher or guide that brings one from the darkness to the light.
Wahe – exclamation of ecstacy like ”WOW!”
Ram Das – literally translates as “God’s Servant”,
but also refers to Guru Ram Das, the Fourth Guru of the Sikhs
The Guru Ram Das mantra is my all-purpose soothing balm. I’m not sure there’s a situation which wouldn’t be helped me this powerful mantra. What I find is that the rhythmic pulse of this mantra brings a symmetry to my mind that helps it quiet and relax. The energy of this mantra is healing. It also reconnects your experience of the finite to infinity and takes your soul from the human mundane world and lifts it back to non-corporeal, helping it to shift into deeper peace. I often find this mantra to be one that works when you play it all through the night, creating a cocoon of sweet energy.
There are many versions of this mantra that I love, but the one that I turn to most frequently before bedtime is Snatam Kaur’s classic version from Shanti. It’s been my go-to mind-calmer and heart-soother for many years, and its a medicine that continues to support my life. Mantra is like a key and hearts are like locks, and this version works for but, but if this version doesn’t quite quiet your mind, look up versions by other artists like Nirinjan Kaur or Jai-Jagdeesh to find the one that soothes your mind in just the way that will work best for your brainwaves.
Chattra Chakkra Vartee, Chattra Chakkra Bhugatay
Suyambhav Subhang Sarab Daa Saraab Jugatay
Dukaalan Pranasee Diaalang Saroopay
Sadaa Ang Sangay Abhangang Bibhutaay
You are pervading in all the four directions, the Enjoyer in all the four directions. You are self-illumined, profoundly beautiful, and united with all. Destroyer of the torments of birth and death, embodiment of mercy. You are ever within us. You are the everlasting giver of indestructible power.
This mantra is a heart chakra mantra that recuperates the heart and assists in overcoming anxiety. If your sleepless nights are being caused by heart break or trauma anxiety, this is a mantra that can help you restore equilibrium to your heart.
One of the most soothing and supporting versions is Mirabai Ceiba’s version on Sevati. The first few minutes of this version are like liquid comfort, pouring healing straight into your heart.
Gobinday Mukunday Udaaray Apaaray Hariang Kariang Nirnamay Akamay
Sustainer, Liberator, Enlightener, Infinite, Destroyer, Creator, Nameless, Desireless
This mantra is one that unloads the subconscious mind of its accumulated dross by connecting it with powerful qualities of God consciousness. Often when our minds won’t quiet, they are spinning with the restless energy of the uncleared subconscious. This is a particularly powerful mantra if you suffer from disturbed sleep of any type, including restlessness, nightmares, or night terrors. Chanting this before bed will help you to release the subconscious thoughts that are stuck beneath your awareness, and this can be particularly helpful if you have been watching television or film before bed, but also if you have had any real-life arguments or discomfort during your day.
I love the version by Tera Naam for a before-bedtime energy. It’s soothing and gentle and shifts my mind into a sleep state. If I want to really go deep into a meditation with Gobinday Mukunday (sitting in easy pose with a straight spine, eyes shut, hands in gyan mudra) and chant for a solid 31 minutes before sleeping (which I have done at various times when I was upset or disturbed by painful life events), I am drawn to the version by Satkirin Kaur Khalsa on the album Jaap. It does the heavy lifting for me and helps me achieve a deeper, uninterrupted sleep during times of challenge.
Kirtan Sohila is the night prayer said by all Sikhs before sleeping. The actual name of Bani is Sohila Sahib and it is also recited before cremation following a death, as death is considered the final sleep of the body (the soul is considered timeless and deathless.) Yogi Bhajan said that it tuned you into the Earth Element and removed any negativity from your environment.
I usually don’t recite Kirtan Sohila myself, but I am greatly soothed by listening to a version of the recitation while drifting to sleep. It can become a part of a nightly ritual before bedtime, where you dim the lights and prepare yourself for sleep by listening to this sacred sound current, helping to train your mind and body to sleep on schedule. Often when we have difficulty sleeping its because we are on our electronic devices and the light from screens signals our mind to stay awake. If we can create a sacred ritual for ourselves of dimming the lights, and tuning into the sacredness of the ending of the day, it will become easier to drift into a dreamless state of peace.
My favorite version of Kirtan Sohila to listen to is Snatam Kaur’s Evening Prayer recitation. It’s haunting and nurturing at the same time, and creates a beautiful vibration in my heart before bed.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Ramdesh has been researching ways to support deep sleep through yoga and meditation for many years. She recently released a tool of her own, Guided Meditations for Sleep, which is a powerful tool to add to your sleep tool kit.