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How to Choose a Sleep Doctor

Select a Specialist Based on Credentials, Your Needs


Updated February 19, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

How to Choose a Sleep Doctor
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If you are having difficulties sleeping, you may need a referral to a sleep specialist, but how should you choose a sleep doctor? There are certain characteristics that you should consider when selecting a specialist so that you get the appropriate testing and help that you need.

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.

Sleep Doctor Training

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 and a 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.

Finding a 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.

Selecting What is Right for You

Finding a sleep specialist can be a little intimidating. You may rely on your physician, friends, or family for recommendations. 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.

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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