Who is a Sleep Medicine Specialist?

August 25, 2019 • By Penelope Torres
The estimated reading time is 4 minutes

A sleep medicine specialist is a medical doctor with extra training and education in sleep medicine. The field of sleep medicine concentrates on sleep and sleep-related disorders and conditions. It is a subspecialty within certain medical specialties such as neurology, internal medicine, psychiatry and pulmonology.

Without a doubt, sleep plays an essential role in overall well-being. Difficulty sleeping can decrease the quality of life and may worsen the severity of specific medical conditions like asthma, epilepsy, and cardiovascular diseases. A Totowa sleep medicine specialist has the training required to help treat sleep disorders.

What Conditions Do Sleep Specialists Treat?

According to a report by The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, around 50-70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. Additionally, 1 in 3 adults doesn't get the medically recommended level of uninterrupted sleep required to guard their health.

Many sleep issues go undiagnosed and untreated and may happen to persons of all ages including young children, adolescents, middle-aged adults and older adults.

Sleep medicine specialists know how to diagnose, manage, treat and prevent sleep disorders and other related problems. They usually work in sleep centers or sleep clinics and can treat several sleep-related conditions such as:

  • Excessive snoring
  • Sleep apnea
  • Insomnia
  • Narcolepsy (uncontrollable daytime sleepiness)
  • Circadian rhythm disorders (e.g., jet lag, shift work change and sleep phase syndrome)

Sleep specialists are also trained in the diagnosis and treatment of parasomnias, which are abnormal events that happen during sleep. Examples of parasomnias include:

  • Bedwetting
  • Nightmares and night terrors
  • Restless legs disorder
  • Sleep paralysis
  • Sleepwalking
  • Teeth grinding
  • REM behavior disorder

To diagnose sleep problems, sleep medicine specialists perform a medical evaluation and sleep examination. Diagnosis typically involves taking a full family and individual medical history and conducting a physical assessment and lab tests. Sleep studies, which might require overnight stays in a sleep clinic, are usually used to examine the patient's wake-sleep cycle. Sleep studies are available in different forms including:

  • Polysomnography
  • MSLT (Multiple sleep latency test)
  • MWT (Maintenance of wakefulness test)
  • Actigraphy
  • Titration

What Methods Do Sleep Medicine Specialists Use To Treat Sleep Disorders

Sleep medicine specialists use a variety of techniques to treat sleep disorders. The most common sleep disorder treatments are:

  • Medications
  • CPAP (Continuous positive airway pressure) for treating sleep apnea
  • Oral appliances (e.g., to inhibit the grinding of teeth and open airways during sleep)
  • Therapy (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy and bright light therapy)
  • Surgery in some cases (e.g., adenoid removal, palatal restoration and tonsillectomy) (2)

What Credentials Do Sleep Medicine Specialists Have?

Doctors who are certified as sleep medicine specialists have multiple years of education and training. To become a physician, they have to graduate from college/university with a four-year degree and pursue four more years of medical school.

After that, they finish a medical residency taking three to five years and a one or two-year sleep medicine fellowship. Physicians might attend a sleep fellowship after acquiring training in multiple specialists such as pulmonary medicine, psychiatry, family medicine, neurology, pediatrics, otolaryngology, and internal medicine.

Some doctors might dabble in the sleep medicine field, even if they lack formal board certification in the area. Board-certified sleep physicians have completed the necessary training, and have passed a national exam showing their expertise.

No matter the education, it's advisable to look for a doctor who is certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties. That implies that the physician's training has been verified and that he or she has passed a board test that examines knowledge of sleep medicine.

Anyone who is to undergo extra sleep tests beyond a clinic assessment may want to seek out a sleep center that is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Penelope Torres

She is a health blogger that knows exactly what readers expect from her writings on nutrition, health and wellness. She inspires them to act and educate them on nutrition and healthy living using real and scientifically-based facts that support her ideas.
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