Sleep Specialist: A True Friend in Need and In Deed

Most of us hear about heart, lung, brain and even bone specialists but not many know who a sleep specialist is. Even when one is suffering from a sleep disorder and the family physician refers him or her to a sleep specialist, ignorance takes an upper hand.

What kind of a doctor specializes in sleep? Are they special doctors? What are their qualifications, and most importantly where does one find them?

Who is a sleep specialist? 

According to American Academy of Sleep Medicine such a specialist is a certified medical professional in the subspecialty of sleep medicine. He or she specializes in the clinical assessment, physiologic testing, diagnosis, management and prevention of sleep and circadian rhythm disorders.

Some of the sleep disorders that a specialist treats include: sleep related breathing disorders, insomnia, hypersomnia, circadian rhythm sleep disorders, parasomnias (abnormal and unnatural movements and behaviors that happen during sleep onset, during sleep, between sleep stages or during waking). Nightmares, night terrors, sleep walking and talking, head banging, bed wetting, teeth grinding are some of the parasomnias treated by these doctors.

Since management of sleep disorders often requires a multidisciplinary approach, the specialty of doctors also varies. Some examples are as follows:

–          A sleep specialist can be a pulmonologist (lung doctor). He or she ought to have attended a 6-month fellowship program to acquire the certification. They treat sleep disordered breathing effectively.

–          Sleep dentistry is another field of specialization. Here the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABDSM) offers Diploma in sleep medicine to doctors specializing in this area. Also called an orthodontist, such doctors help in the fitting of oral appliances.

–          Neurologist or an internal medicine specialist or even a psychiatrist. This is because sleep disorders often have origins at the level of central nervous system or mental health.

–          Otolaryngologist or ENT specialist is one of the most popular doctors in the field of sleep medicine. This sleep specialist is the best friend of all apnea patients. These surgeons also do surgery to rectify septal deviation, removing enlarged nasal turbinates, polyps, enlarged tonsils/adenoids, etc.

Which are the most reliable sources for accessing sleep doctors? 

The following websites can offer reliable help:

–           American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM): For list of various accredited sleep centers as well as certified behavioral sleep medicine specialists.

–          American Board of Sleep Medicine (ABSM): They provide the Board Certificate for Sleep Medicine. The site maintains a searchable list of Board Certified Sleep Specialists by state or name.

–          American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM): Dentists interested in treating sleep disorders with oral appliances are members of this organization. You can find a directory of dentists specialized in treating certain sleep problems.


Finding the right type of sleep doctor may seem a bit challenging initially; people who can help are your family physician, a health care facility or a sleep center closest to you. Make sure that the doctor has special qualifications and accreditation and is familiar with sleep testing procedures like polysomnography, multiple sleep latency testing (MSLT) and Maintenance of wakefulness testing (MWT).

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