How to find a good sleep doctor

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When you’re having trouble sleeping, sometimes there comes a point at which you exhaust everything you can do on your own. You try melatonin, eat sleep-inducing snacks, and develop a good sleep routine. And yet, quality sleep evades you.


At this point, it’s likely time to visit a sleep specialist. If you’re wondering what a sleep specialist does exactly—and how to find a sleep doctor in the first place—read on for everything you need to know.

What is a sleep specialist?

“A sleep specialist is a healthcare provider that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders and disturbances,” says Shantha Gowda, PsyD, board-certified behavioral sleep medicine specialist.

Some sleep specialists may have narrower expertise or specialization in specific areas of sleep or sleep disorders, she adds.

According to Gowda, these providers tend to fall within three categories: sleep medicine specialists, behavioral sleep medicine specialists, and dental sleep medicine specialists.

  • Sleep medicine specialists are medical doctors, or MDs, who “chose to specialize in sleep by completing a fellowship in sleep medicine,” Gowda says. “MDs from a variety of specialties may choose to do this,” although, most commonly, they’re neurologists, pulmonologists, internal medicine physicians (internists), family medicine physicians, psychiatrists, otolaryngologists, anesthesiologists, and pediatricians.
  • Behavioral sleep medicine specialists are “often psychologists who complete a fellowship in behavioral sleep medicine,” Gowda says. “They focus on the evaluation and treatment of sleep disorders and disturbances by addressing behavioral, psychological, and physiological factors that interfere with sleep.”
  • Dental sleep medicine specialists are “dentists trained in dental sleep medicine and focus on the use of oral appliance therapy to treat sleep-disordered breathing, specifically obstructive sleep apnea (OSA),” Gowda explains.

When should you see a sleep specialist?

“You should see a sleep specialist if you are struggling with sleep in any capacity,” Gowda says. Additionally, she says some common examples that warrant a visit to a sleep specialist include but aren’t limited to:

  • You snore or gasp for air while you sleep (your bed partner may be the one to point this out to you).
  • You feel sleepy during the day and can easily doze off even after what seems like a sufficient night of sleep.
  • You have difficulty falling asleep or maintaining sleep throughout the night.
  • You have excessive worry about your sleep in general (your sleep’s impact on your functioning during the day, your long-term health, etc.).
  • You have difficulty adjusting to jet lag or shift work schedules.
  • You’re concerned about unusual behaviors at night (acting out nightmares, sleepwalking, sleep paralysis, etc.)
  • You want help working with your newborn/infant/child/teenager on their sleep.
  • You’re interested in learning more about how you can maintain healthy sleep and prevent poor sleep in the future.

Sleep doctors can help diagnose and treat a variety of sleep disorders, adds Gowda. These can include:

  • Sleep-disordered breathing
  • Insomnia
  • Circadian rhythm disorders
  • Parasomnias
  • Restless legs
  • Pediatric sleep problems

“They can also provide you with sleep education and strategies to help you manage your sleep lifelong,” she says.

How do you find a sleep specialist near you?

If you’re wondering how to find a sleep doctor that treats sleep disorders or any other sleep issues you’re dealing with, it’s a good idea to start with your primary care doctor. They can provide a recommendation for the specific challenge you’re dealing with.

As Gowda shares, you can also:

  • Contact your insurance provider to see which sleep specialists are covered under your plan.
  • Search the Internet with the search term “sleep doctor near me” to find specialists in your area. Set up a time to speak with the clinic or specialist, ask questions, and read through their credentials and any reviews that may be available.
  • Go through accredited directories. This is an easy way to find a sleep specialist near you since you can search by location. “You can access these directories from each board’s website,” Gowda says. These include the American Academy of Sleep MedicineNarcolepsy NetworkSociety of Behavioral Sleep Medicine, and American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.

Other options include getting a referral from family or friends or contacting local hospitals for recommendations.

How should you prepare for your appointment with a sleep specialist?

There are some ways you can prepare for your first appointment with a sleep doctor. Gowda’s top tips include:

  • Jot down your main concerns before your appointment so you don’t forget to convey anything important.
  • Be prepared to share: What exactly about your sleep are you concerned about? What treatments (medications or otherwise) have you tried before? What are your goals with treatment?

“This appointment is a great opportunity for you to ask any questions you have about your sleep problems and treatment options,” she says.


What doctor should I see if I can’t sleep?

It depends on the sleep challenge you’re facing. Providers tend to fall within three categories: sleep medicine specialists, behavioral sleep medicine specialists, and dental sleep medicine specialists.

While sleep medicine specialists are geared toward sleep in general, behavioral sleep medicine specialists can help with sleep issues that are psychological in nature and dental sleep medicine specialists can help with obstructive sleep apnea.

When should I see a sleep specialist?

If you’re struggling with sleep in any capacity, it’s time to make an appointment with a specialist, says Gowda. This is especially true if you’re noticing things like feeling overly sleepy during the day, having trouble falling and staying asleep, or acting out unusual behaviors in your sleep.

How can I find a sleep doctor near me?

There’s a wide variety of ways to locate a sleep doctor near you. You can ask your primary physician for a referral, search accredited directories, or turn to Google to find a doctor and read reviews.


Can’t seem to fall—and stay—asleep? Learn about cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, a popular treatment option.


This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

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5 common (& harmful) sleep myths debunked


Where’d you get your information? If you haven’t looked into it, chances are good that much of what you think you know about sleep is based on old myths and not facts.

For a 2019 study published in the journal Sleep Health, researchers at New York University’s Langone Health School of Medicine examined 8,000 websites with sleep-related information to find out what Americans think they know about healthy sleep.


The researchers identified 20 sleep myths, ranging from the statement that “during sleep the brain is not active” to “sleeping in during the weekends is a good way to ensure you get adequate sleep.”

After running their findings by a team of sleep medicine experts, the researchers determined that many of us operate with wrong, unhealthy assumptions about sleep.

Here, we’re breaking down some of the biggest sleep myths from the study and explaining how they affect your health.


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The researchers say this sleep myth is the most likely to harm someone’s long-term health. “We have extensive evidence to show that sleeping five hours a night or less, consistently, increases your risk greatly for adverse health consequences, including cardiovascular disease and early mortality,” Rebecca Robbins, PhD, lead study investigator, tells CNN.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society both recommend adults get seven or more hours of sleep per night regularly to promote optimal health.


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The researchers point out that this is usually a sign of sleep deprivation, which can lead to a host of issues including trouble concentrating, irritability, increased risk of diabetes, and a higher risk of car accidents due to drowsy driving.

They also note that sleep deprivation could be due to sleep apnea, which occurs when the muscles in your throat relax, blocking the airway and causing a momentary cessation of breathing. You then wake up, gasp for air, and go back to sleep.

The sleep apnea process can repeat hundreds of times a night, preventing your body from entering deep sleep and depriving it of much-needed oxygen. This can result in high blood pressure, leading to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.


While snoring by itself isn’t dangerous, it can be a sign of sleep apnea, a more serious sleep condition. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, an estimated 22 million Americans suffer from some form of sleep apnea—a serious sleep disorder that should be checked out by a health professional.

“Sleep apnea is extremely exhausting,” Robbins tells CNN. “These patients sleep and then they wake up over and over; then they are fighting sleep all day long because they’re so exhausted.” Robbins also notes that sleep apnea is under-diagnosed. “We believe it affects about 30% of the population, and around 10% are diagnosed,” she says.


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It’s well-established that although a cocktail may knock you out, alcohol also disrupts sleep by preventing you from achieving the important deep, restful phase of sleep. “It continues to pull you out of rapid eye movement and the deeper stages of sleep, causing you to wake up not feeling restored,” Robbins tells CNN.

Plus, if you already have a sleep problem, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, or a parasomnia (such as sleepwalking or sleep talking), alcohol can heighten those disorders and make getting a good night’s sleep even more difficult.


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Not so. We sleep better in cooler temperatures. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation states that the ideal temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

Studies show people with insomnia have a warmer core body temperature immediately before initiating sleep—and the brain responds well to cooler temps, making sleep easier for those who tend to have difficulty.

A new bed can help improve your sleep—but it turns out plenty of mattress myths exist too. Here are the most common mattress myths and why you shouldn’t fall for them.

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