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Woman and Man Sleeping PeacefullyNot getting a good night’s sleep might not seem like a big deal but, if you miss out on proper sleep for long enough, it can seriously damage your health and quality of life. Chronic lack of sleep can affect your memory and overall performance in your day to day life, as well as worsen the severity of medical conditions such as epilepsy, asthma, and heart disease.

One of the reasons you might not be getting a good night’s sleep could be because you are one of the 40 million people in the US that are affected by a sleep disorder. Sleep disorders can affect people of all ages and are often left undiagnosed and untreated. So, if you feel like you are not getting as much sleep or as good quality sleep as you should, be sure to visit a sleep specialist to address any potential problems.

But, What Is a Sleep Specialist?

A sleep specialists is a doctor who, in addition to having completed their medical education, has also completed education and training in the field of sleep medicine. Over a lifetime, human will spend about one-third of their time sleeping, which means sleep medicine practitioners can include paramedics, allied health associates focused on respiratory care, physician assistants, snore specialists, pulmonologists, or ENTs.

Education and Training of a Sleep Specialist

For a person to become a sleep specialist they have to first obtain a four-year undergraduate degree, and then go on to medical school for another four years. After med school, they would have to complete three to four years of residency (a mix of education and training on the job). In addition, prior to 2011, some doctors would also undergo fellowship training in sleep medicine to become a board-certified sleep medicine physician, while others would just take the proper examination without the fellowship training. Now, however, it is not possible for a physician to take the certification examination without formal fellowship training.

Sleep specialists can have diverse primary specialty training, meaning that they can be neurologists, psychiatrists, ENTs, anesthesiologists, etc. as well as sleep specialists. Their primary specialty training does not affect their ability to perform their duties as sleep specialists.

It is important for you to know whether the doctor you are visiting to address your sleep problems is a board-certified sleep specialist, so make sure you start by asking prior to scheduling your visit. You can also visit the website of the clinic you are visiting, they usually provide detailed biographies of their physicians. In addition, you can find a list of board-certified specialists online at the American Board of Sleep Medicine’s website.

What a Sleep Specialist Does

They diagnose and treat a number of sleep-related disorders, including:

  • Excessive snoring
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Insomnia: inability to fall asleep or sleep well.
  • Narcolepsy: uncontrollable daytime sleepiness.
  • Circadian rhythm disorders: long term or occasional disruptions in sleep patterns that result in excessive sleepiness and/or difficulty falling asleep.
  • Nocturnal Enuresis: bedwetting.
  • Nightmares and night terrors
  • REM behavior disorder
  • Periodic limb movement disorder/Restless legs syndrome
  • Sleep paralysis: inability to move when falling asleep or awaking.
  • Bruxism: teeth grinding.
  • Sleepwalking

How Do Sleep Specialists Diagnose Disorders

Diagnosis usually includes a physical examination, a complete family and personal medical history assessment, and some laboratory tests. Sometimes, a sleep study is necessary to evaluate a patient’s wake-sleep cycle. These studies usually require an overnight stay at a sleep center but can also be done at home.

How Do Sleep Specialists Treat Disorders

Mouth SurgerySleep specialists use a variety different methods to treat sleep disorders. Common treatments include medications, CPAP machines to treat sleep apnea, oral appliances to prevent teeth grinding and/or treat snoring, and therapy used to treat circadian rhythm disorders and to improve sleep habits. In some cases, and only if trained to do so, they perform surgeries like the Pillar procedure, Uvuloplasty, tonsillectomy, etc. to treat certain conditions.

If you are in need of  a sleep specialist in Houston or surrounding areas, give us a call at 713-523-8800! Dr. Pasha is a board-certified sleep specialist and can help get you back to sleeping well and improve your quality of life.