HEALTHY LIVING

5 Tips For Battling Insomnia

01/27/2012 01:36 pm ET

Insomnia is a very common disorder that usually affects 35 to 50 percent of adults. We spoke to Craig Schwimmer, M.D., MPH, board-certified otolaryngologist and medical director of The Snoring Center in Dallas, for one approach to the medical problems you or your loved one may suffer from when trying to sleep.

If you think you might have insomnia, use this as a reference point before getting personalized medical advice from your doctor or other accredited sleep expert. --Wendy Gould

Insomnia is defined as difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep. Roughly 35 to 50 percent of adults experience insomnia at some point in their lives, while 10 percent are affected by chronic insomnia. This type of insomnia is defined as symptoms lasting more than one month.

Avoid Caffeine

"Caffeine is a powerful stimulant," Dr. Schwimmer says. "Its effects can last many hours, so for people with any degree of insomnia, avoiding caffeine for at least eight hours prior to bedtime is important."

Use The Power Of Light

According to Dr. Schwimmer, light has profound effects on sleep/wake cycles and can impact insomnia. "Nature intends for us to sleep while it is dark and to be awake during the day," he says. "Try getting outside for at least 20 minutes of sunlight every morning and limit your use of electronic devices -- including the TV, computer and phone -- at night."

Maintain A Regular Sleeping Schedule

"Our bodies love predictability and routine, particularly when it comes to sleep," notes Dr. Schwimmer. Going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning can be a helpful tool in managing many sleep disorders, including insomnia, he adds.

Create A Bedtime Ritual

Parents understand the importance of bedtime rituals for their children. Naturally, adults suffering from insomnia can benefit from a similar routine. "Regular, predictable behaviors that help signal our bodies when it's time to wind down and get ready for sleep are a helpful tool. Consider a warm bath, pleasure reading, or a cup of herbal tea as your bedtime ritual," Dr. Schwimmer says.

Use Your Bed For Sleep And Sex Only

According to Dr. Schwimmer, it's imperative to establish a relationship between the bed and what happens there if you want to avoid insomnia. It's not the place to pay bills, argue, eat or watch TV. "If you are in bed for 30 minutes and you aren't [sleeping or becoming intimate with your partner], get up, go somewhere else and return to bed when you are ready to try again," he advises.

Craig Schwimmer, M.D., MPH, is a board-certified ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor who specializes in treating sleep disorders. He serves as the medical director of The Snoring Center, is president of the American Snoring Association and is recognized as a top doctor in the field of sleep disorders. In the past, Dr. Schwimmer has appeared on popular television shows like "Dr. Phil" and "The Doctors."

Have you ever suffered from a sleep disorder? What worked for you?

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