Education & Training for Sleep Specialists

Sleep specialists have comprehensive knowledge, education, and training in many different areas of medicine. These areas may include the following:

  • Internal Medicine
  • Neurology and Child Neurology
  • Otolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat [ENT])
  • Pediatrics
  • Psychiatry and Psychology
  • Pulmonary Medicine (breathing and respiration)

To specialize in sleep medicine, students must first obtain an undergraduate degree (e.g., Bachelor of Science) from an approved pre-medical (pre-med) program. Then, students must attend medical school and graduate with an M.D. (doctor of medicine) or D.O. (doctor of osteopathy) degree. Important areas of study include anatomy, biology, organic and inorganic chemistry, physiology, physics, mathematics, and social sciences, as well as sleep disorders and the effects of drugs on sleep and wakefulness.

Upon graduating from medical school, physicians who wish to be certified in sleep medicine must complete a 1-year internship and an additional 1–3 years of training in an approved sleep medicine residency program. After completing residency training, physicians may enroll in a fellowship program to develop expertise in sleep medicine (e.g., a certificate of added qualifications).

Once educational and training requirements have been successfully completed, the physician may apply for board certification in sleep medicine. In the United States, sleep specialists may be certified by one (or more) specialty boards recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), including the American Board of Sleep Medicine (ABSM; this board discontinued administration of the certifying exam in 2007), the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN), the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP), and the American Board of Otolaryngology (ABOto).

Candidates for board certification must have an unrestricted state license to practice medicine, must have completed all requirements, must provide letters of recommendation, and must pass a number of written and/or oral examinations (e.g., tests administered by the certifying board, Certification Exam in Sleep Medicine). They also must demonstrate clinical competence in caring for patients.

Certification by the American Board of Sleep Medicine is life-long. These physicians are referred to as Diplomates of the American Board of Sleep Medicine. Other sleep specialists must meet continuing medical education (CME) requirements to maintain board certification in sleep medicine.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 10 Aug 2009

Last Modified: 05 Dec 2011