Help for Sleep Woes
Can't get your full night's worth of shut-eye? WebMD has some suggestions.
A Board-Certified Specialist Defined
"Sleep specialists are the health care professionals who are trained to
provide the best diagnosis of treatment for people with sleep disorders,"
says Epstein. "To be a sleep specialist, you must first undergo specialized
training. There are now formal fellowship programs for people to devote at
least a year to learning about sleep disorders, and then practice it ... with
Sleep specialists become board-certified after they successfully meet
experience requirements and pass an examination administered by the ABSM.
Before taking the exam, candidates must complete one year of full-time
training in sleep medicine after finishing at least three years of residency
training. This means applicants need training in one or more medical
specialties such as internal medicine, pulmonary medicine, neurology,
psychiatry, or pediatrics.
"Having knowledge from other specialties is a big help," says
Epstein. "Sleep covers so much. It has a neurologic basis in terms of the
pathways of the brain involved in sleep. We need to know about the effects of
sleep on heart and lung function. We need to know how emotional upset affects
The ABSM examination tests the applicant's general knowledge of
sleep-related subjects. In order to pass the exam, candidates must answer
questions about physiology, neuroanatomy, biochemistry, pharmacology,
endocrinology, psychophysiology, and pediatric sleep disorders, among other
In short, candidates must demonstrate their breadth of knowledge in medical
specialties related to sleep in order to obtain certification.
The American Board of Sleep Medicine will continue to test candidates for
board certification until 2007. At that time, the American Board of Medical
Specialties (ABMS), will administer the exam. The ABMS is a widely respected
nonprofit organization that oversees doctor certification in dozens of medical
Accrediting a Sleep Center
Another option for people with sleep problems is a visit to a sleep center.
But make sure it is accredited, say experts.
"There's a high quality standard and guidelines for care that (centers)
have to meet the requirements for, and not all sleep laboratories could meet
those criteria," says Rosenberg. "At least you know, at minimum,
accredited centers have those criteria."