Sleep specialists assist patients who suffer from disorders or conditions that affect our ability to sleep, dealing with conditions like sleep apnea, narcolepsy and night terrors.

Watch an Overview of Sleep Medicine

About Sleep Medicine

Physicians trained in the field of sleep medicine research, diagnose, treat, prevent and manage numerous disorders and complications associated with sleep. Sleep medicine specialists often act as consultants to general practitioners or family doctors who are seeking advice for their patients who are experiencing sleep-related complications. Additionally, sleep medicine physicians may serve as part of a multidisciplinary team when providing care.

Disorders and diseases treated within the sleep medicine specialty include narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome (RLS), teeth grinding, sleep apnea, nightmares, insomnia, circadian rhythm disorders, and many others affecting or affected by sleep. To diagnose sleep-related disorders, sleep specialists may screening devices, questionnaires, actigraphs, apnographs, oximeters, overnight sleep studies, polysomnograms, home sleep studies and maintenance of wakefulness tests, among others.

After diagnosing the patient with a sleep disorder, there are many treatment techniques a sleep specialist may provide. These may include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, behavioral therapies (such as cognitive behavioral therapy), counseling, medical devices (such as oral devices for sleep apnea), modification of lifestyle (such as an improved diet or instituting a regular sleep schedule), prescription of medications, and other treatment techniques. Each patient’s specific lifestyle and diagnosis will affect the treatment plan developed by the sleep specialist, as no two patients have the same physiology and contributing factors.

Sleep Medicine Education & Training

Becoming a physician trained in sleep medicine begins with the completion of a bachelor’s degree before attending medical school. During medical school, the student will spend four years learning the basics of medical care; a medical education provides students with classes and instruction in laboratory, classroom and clinical settings. After graduating with an MD or DO degree from an accredited medical school, the physician must complete a residency and internship in internal medicine.

Internal medicine residencies provide the physician with clinical experience in the treatment of adult illness and disease. Residents complete clinical rotations to diagnose and treat patients while under the tutelage of a team of experienced physicians. During residency training, the physician is prepared for more specialized fellowship training.

After completing an internal medicine residency, the physician must complete a one to two year fellowship in sleep medicine. During this time, the fellow begins to provide diagnoses and treatments for both adult and pediatric patients suffering from a wide range of sleep disorders and conditions. Following a successful fellowship, the physician is properly trained to provide care in the specialty and may choose to seek board certification from the American Board of Internal Medicine in the subspecialty of Sleep Medicine. To stay board certified, the physician must complete Maintenance of Certification requirements, as well as hold a valid license from the medical board in each state they provide care.