Sleep Medicine Frequently Asked Questions
What is a sleep medicine specialist (somnologist)?
A sleep medicine specialist, also known as a somnologist, is a doctor who diagnoses and treats sleep disorders. Many sleep specialists first train in internal medicine, psychiatry, or neurology before specializing in sleep medicine.
Sleep specialists treat a variety of conditions, such as:
- bruxism: the act of grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw during sleep
- hypersomnia: a condition in which you feel excessive sleepiness
- insomnia: a sleep disorder where you have a hard time falling and staying asleep
- narcolepsy: a condition that causes atypical sleep patterns, including sudden urges to fall asleep
- night terrors: the recurrence of disruptive sleep episodes where you may flail, cry out, breath rapidly, and more
- obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): a condition in which you momentarily stop breathing while asleep
- REM sleep behavior disorder: a condition in which you attempt to act out your dreams while asleep
- sleepwalking (somnambulism): a condition in which you walk or move around while asleep
- snoring: the narrowing of airways that can be a sign of restricted breathing
The exact nature of your sleep disorder may depend on some factors, such as:
- aging: many adults 65 years or older report having some sleep disorder
- environmental conditions: disorders that result from smoking or alcohol use
- genetics: sleep disorders such as narcolepsy are genetic
- medical conditions: these include asthma and OSA
- psychiatric conditions: depression and anxiety disorders can disrupt sleep
You may benefit from speaking with a sleep specialist if you’re not getting enough sleep, have difficulty falling or staying asleep, or feel unrested. Your primary care physician may also refer you to a specialist if they believe specific symptoms result from a sleep disorder.