Sleep problems can have dire consequences. In fact, according to Harvard Medical, when an individual receives less than seven hours of sleep per night the risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease depression increases. Adding to the problem, research finds sleep problems and psychiatric disorders are undoubtedly linked. The responsibility of treating people with sleeping disorders often falls on the passionate professionals known as Sleep Medicine Psychiatrists.
Sleep Medicine Psychiatrists work with individuals suffering from both sleep and psychiatric disorders. This detailed profession requires a wide skill set, requiring strengths from both the left and right sides of the brain. Although Sleep Medicine demands exceptional mental ability on many fronts, successful Sleep Medicine Psychiatrists can achieve long lasting and fulfilling careers.
What is a Sleep Medicine Psychiatrist?
Sleep Medicine Psychiatrists are physicians, holding an M.D. (Doctor or Medicine) or D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine), trained to diagnose, treat and manage the more than 80 medically recognized sleep disorders. They perform physical exams, account for medical history, administer sleep studies or tests, and diagnose and treat primary and secondary disorders, all with an acute awareness of a patient’s mental health.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, Sleep Medicine Psychiatrists are expected to participate in a multidisciplinary approach to patient care, incorporating psychiatry with neurology, internal medicine, surgery and epidemiology.
In their everyday practice, Sleep Medicine Psychiatrists may be responsible for:
Understanding the Educational Path to Become a Sleep Medicine Psychiatrist
A medical doctorate degree, psychiatric residency and Sleep Medicine fellowship are the primary educational requirements for a profession as a board-certified Sleep Medicine Psychiatrist. Sleep Medicine Psychiatrist must develop an expertise in common sleep disorders, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy and parasomnias, how the disorders impact mental health, their treatment options and therapeutic theory.
While these unique skills result from residencies and fellowships, the educational path of a Sleep Medicine Psychiatrist begins by receiving a Bachelor's Degree from an accredited college or university.
Strong interpersonal skills, an advanced grasp on math and science, and specialized training in the social, psychological and medical aspects of the human mind are also requirements for becoming a successful Sleep Medicine Psychiatrist. This skill set is often the focus of core educational course study while in college.
Educational Path of a Sleep Medicine Psychiatrist
Earn a bachelor's degree.
A bachelor’s degree is the first higher-education step toward becoming a Sleep Medicine Psychiatrist. Although Sleep Medicine Psychiatrists complete a broad range of undergraduate majors, students should complete the courses the American Association of Medical Colleges found most medical schools require as prerequisites: biology, physics, and chemistry; along with written and oral communication course study.
During their undergraduate degree, students wanting to gain an edge in the competitive medical school application pool would benefit from taking career and advanced education oriented steps like joining pre-medical organizations, completing community service at mental health centers, shadowing physicians and studying for the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test). Before graduating, a candidate should apply to medical school. Medical school is a four-year process, leading to an advanced degree in the medical field, either a M.D. or D.O.
Complete a medical school program
During medical school, future Sleep Medicine Psychiatrists spend their first year primarily in the classroom absorbing knowledge in areas like anatomy, histology, pathology, biochemistry, psychology, ethics and preparing for Objective Structured Clinical Exams. The second year, while still in the classroom, is more clinically focused. Third and fourth year students move into clinical rotations and are exposed to a wide range of potential specializations, including psychiatry.
Complete a Residency
Following medical school, graduates pursuing psychiatry should elect to complete their four-year residency in the specialty. Psychiatry residents need to complete 36 months of additional training after the first year of general residency, as required by the American Psychiatric Association. These three years focus on specific training areas, such as psychopharmacology, substance abuse and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Sleep Medicine fellowships, required for specialty certification, are becoming increasingly competitive. To gain an advantage against other applicants, physicians should consider taking one or more sleep medicine electives during residency.
Sleep Medicine Psychiatrists should be aware that board certification, which is necessary for legal practice, must be renewed every 10 years. Continued education is required in order to renew certification, and credits for the psychiatric field must meet specific standards. Psychiatrists must complete 30 continued medical educations credits in their specialty each year.
Complete a Fellowship in Sleep Medicine Psychiatry
A one-year, post-residency fellowship in the subspecialty of Sleep Medicine is crucial for doctors aiming to enter the field. When searching for a fellowship, physicians should ensure the program they are pursuing is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and will both qualify and prepare them to sit for the subspecialty examination. Effective fellowships will involve experience in reading lab polysomnography, home sleep testing, multiple sleep latency tests and other specialized tests as well as the treatment of sleep disorders and co-existing psychiatric issues (St. Louis School of Medicine 2015).
Pass Sub Specialty Exam in Sleep Medicine Psychiatry
Upon successful completion of a Sleep Medicine Psychiatry fellowship, all psychiatrists must submit an application for examination. Once reviewed by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology credentials department, candidates are permitted to take the exam. After passing the exam, candidates become diplomats and start the “Maintenance of Certification” process, adhering to the Board's requirements for continued education.
Psychiatrists should be aware that board certification, which is necessary for legal practice, must be renewed every 10 years. Continued education is required in order to renew certification, and credits for the psychiatric field must meet specific standards. For more information about continuing education requirements, review the ABPN website.
Understanding the Career Path of Becoming a Sleep Medicine Psychiatrist
Sleep Medicine Psychiatrists typically work in hospitals or private practice. Some may also may also work in education or research, and/or serve as evaluators for professional societies and boards. While a number of Sleep Medicine Psychiatrists administer sleep disorders tests themselves, many prefer to spend their time consulting with patients and merely order the completion of sleep tests.
Professional organizations can be used as a means for networking, community service, think tanks, research, continued education and specialized learning. Psychiatrists specializing in Sleep Medicine should consider joining the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
In psychiatry, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) dominates the market with a membership of more than 36,000. It is currently the world’s largest professional organization focused on psychiatry.
Glassdoor.com lists Sleep Medicine Physician salaries as averaging between $200,000-$300,000 annually. According the the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for psychiatrists is $182,660.While a 2013 Medscape report found average compensation for psychiatrists was higher the pediatrics, internal medicine and family medicine, it still ranked in the lower third of physician incomes by specialty.
According to research by AMN Healthcare company Merritt Hawkins, psychiatry is one of the most in demand medical professions. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 1 in 4 adults suffers from a mental disorder each year. Although psychiatric specialties have increased among medical residents, there is still a growing need for qualified Sleep Medicine Psychiatrist.