Daytime tiredness could be a sign that you have a sleep disorder like insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Your primary care healthcare provider may diagnose and treat your problem or refer you to a sleep specialist, who can figure out why you’re not sleeping well and find solutions to help you get the rest you need.
A sleep specialist is a doctor who diagnoses and treats sleep disorders. Most sleep specialists train in internal medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics, or neurology during residency. After completing residency, they complete a fellowship program in sleep medicine.
Doctors who receive training in sleep medicine get their board certification from the American Board of Sleep Medicine, which is part of the American Board of Medical Specialties.
Sleep psychologists are another type of sleep specialist. They focus on the mental and behavioral issues that contribute to sleep problems.
Otolaryngologists, also known as ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctors, may perform procedures that address certain sleep issues, such as repairing structural problems with the nose, mouth, or throat that cause snoring and OSA.
Before you visit a sleep specialist, start by talking to your primary care healthcare provider if you:
- snore or gasp for air while you sleep
- have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night
- feel tired during the day, even if you’ve slept the night before
- can’t perform your daily activities because you’re too tired
After going over your symptoms, your primary care doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist for an evaluation. A sleep specialist can diagnose and treat sleep disorders, such as OSA, restless legs syndrome (RLS), or insomnia.
Sleep specialists work in many different locations. Some are in private practice. Others work in hospitals or sleep centers.
One way to find a sleep specialist is to ask your primary care healthcare provider for a referral.
Check with your health insurance provider to see which sleep specialists are covered under your plan. That way, you won’t end up with a big bill you weren’t expecting for going out of network.
When you have a few names of doctors, ask your family, friends, or coworkers if they’ve seen the doctors before and if they have any positive or negative feedback to share with you.
You can also search your doctor on the internet to find out if they have a specialist interest in a certain aspect of sleep. Consider looking at comments from other patients as you decide who you want to see.
Some sleep specialists have a special area of expertise. They can include:
- psychiatrists and psychologists, who treat thoughts and behaviors related to sleep
- neurologists, who treat brain and nervous system disorders
- pediatricians, who treat sleep disorders in children
- otorhinolaryngologists, who treat problems with the ear, nose, and throat that contribute to sleep disorders
- dentists and oral and maxillofacial surgeons, who fit people for oral appliances to correct problems with the mouth and jaw
- respiratory therapists, who work with sleep doctors to manage and treat breathing disorders
Sleep specialists treat a number of different conditions, including:
- insomnia, or difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night
- narcolepsy, a condition that often causes people to suddenly fall asleep during the day
- snoring and OSA, or pauses in breathing while you sleep
- RLS, or uncontrollable urges to move or sensations in your legs that keep you awake
When you first meet with a sleep specialist, here are a few topics they’ll cover:
- Do I have a sleep disorder?
- What caused my condition?
- Do I need to undergo a sleep study?
- What other tests should I get?
- What are the possible risks or complications of my condition?
- What are my treatment options?
- What if the first treatment I try doesn’t work?
- What lifestyle changes might help with my symptoms?
If you’ve experienced symptoms like snoring or daytime sleepiness, see your primary care healthcare provider for a checkup. After doing an exam, your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist who can evaluate you for OSA or other sleep disorders.
A sleep specialist will run through a series of tests to find out what’s causing your disrupted sleep. Once you have a diagnosis, the specialist can recommend treatments to help you sleep better.