How to Choose a Sleep Doctor

Selecting a Specialist Based on Expertise, Your Needs

Choosing a sleep doctor requires reviewing their training, board certification, and the resources the specialist has available to help you
Choosing a sleep doctor requires reviewing their training, board certification, and the resources the specialist has available to help you. Getty Images

If you are having difficulties sleeping, you may need a referral to a sleep specialist, but how should you choose a sleep doctor? In some cases, your primary care physician will select for you based on the available resources, but you may have more options in the matter. There are certain characteristics that you should consider when selecting a specialist so that you get the appropriate testing and help that you need.

Discover what a sleep specialist is, what training and board certification credentials are required, and how to select the right sleep doctor with the resources needed to help you.

Who Is My Sleep Specialist?

There are many individuals who will be involved in your care if you seek treatment for a sleep disorder. You will likely start your evaluation with your primary health care provider. This may result in a referral to a sleep specialist, most often a physician but sometimes a midlevel provider such as a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant working under the supervision of a physician. There may be ancillary staff involved as well, including polysomnographic technologists who do the sleep studies. One of the most important considerations is the selection of your sleep doctor and the center that will provide your testing and treatment.

Sleep Doctor Training Includes Residency, Fellowship

Physicians who are certified as sleep specialists have many years of education.

To become a doctor they graduate from college with a four-year degree and attend four years of medical school. They then complete a medical residency lasting from three to five years and a one- or two-year fellowship in sleep medicine. Doctors may pursue a sleep fellowship after training in many specialties, including:

  • Pulmonary medicine
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry
  • Otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat specialists)
  • Family medicine
  • Pediatrics
  • Internal medicine

Some physicians may dabble in sleep medicine, even if they do not have formal board certification in it. Board-certified sleep doctors have completed the required training, which recently has required fellowship training in sleep, and have passed a national examination demonstrating their expertise. Recent graduates are required to demonstrate continuing medical education and re-certify the board examination by taking them at 10-year intervals.

Finding a Sleep Specialist with Credentials

No matter the specialty training, it is advisable to seek out a physician who is certified with appropriate sleep medicine credentials from the American Board of Medical Specialties. This implies that your doctor’s education has been verified and that they have been able to pass a board examination that tests their knowledge of sleep medicine. If you are to undergo additional sleep testing beyond a clinic evaluation, as most people do, you may want to find a sleep center with accreditation from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

In some cases, it may be helpful to travel to a larger community nearby that has adequate resources.

Selecting a Sleep Doctor Who is Right for You

Finding a sleep specialist can be a little intimidating. You may rely on your physician, friends, or family for recommendations. It may be helpful to read online physician reviews available through various web sites by searching the physician's name. Make certain the provider will be accessible to you and that you can get the support that you need to evaluate and treat your condition.

Once you have found a reputable provider, you will want to evaluate whether he or she can meet your needs. It is important to consider how your condition may be evaluated. You will want to select a center that can provide a thorough and appropriate evaluation, including any necessary testing such as:

As part of this consideration, you may need to take into account cost as well as your insurance coverage. If you suffer from insomnia, you may want to find someone who can provide cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI).

The resources available to you are always expanding and with a little research you should be able to find a reputable sleep specialist to meet your needs.

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