Sleep Psychology

The specialty of sleep psychology studies sleep and evaluates and treats sleep disorders.

  • It addresses behavioral, psychological and physiological factors that underlie normal and disordered sleep across the life span.
  • It develops, tests and applies evidence‐based psychological approaches to the prevention and treatment of sleep disorders and related conditions.

Sleep psychology has evolved from a unique merger of psychological science and practice with sleep science and practice.

Specialized Knowledge

Sleep psychology is a specialty that developed from the need to better understand and treat sleep and sleep‐related disorders. The specialty requires a broad understanding of: 

  • Normal and disordered sleep
  • Sleep physiology
  • The effects of sleep medications on the brain
  • Sleep cycles
  • Sleep changes related to age
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Sleep regulation
  • Cognitive, behavioral and non‐medication interventions for sleep disorders
  • Treatment monitoring

The specialty also requires the understanding of sleep measurement procedures and methods, and standard medical and medication‐related therapies for sleep disorders.

Problems Addressed

The specialty of sleep psychology addresses the behavioral, psychological and physiological factors involved with the full range of sleep disorders for all ages and diverse populations, including:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Insomnias
  • Hypersomnia, including narcolepsy
  • Sleep‐Related Breathing Disorders
  • Sleep Cycle Disorders
  • Parasomnias (e.g., nightmares, bedwetting, sleep walking, sleep terrors, etc.)
  • Sleep‐Related Movement Disorders (e.g., periodic limb movement disorder, teeth grinding, etc.)

Sleep medication dependence

  • Adherence to sleep specific medical procedures (e.g., positive airway pressure therapy for sleep apnea)
  • Sleep in the context of related medical and psychological illnesses

Skills and Procedures Utilized

Sleep psychologists are skilled in the use of a range of general and sleep‐specific psychological, behavioral, physiological and cognitive tests to assess and diagnose sleep and related disorders. Sleep psychologists use a range of general and sleep‐specific behavioral, psychological, physiological, and non‐medication approaches to treat sleep and related disorders.

Population Served

Sleep psychology provides unique sleep-related services to both medical and mental health patients from diverse backgrounds and ages. Sleep psychologists practice in sleep disorder centers and at other primary care, medical, educational, residential, industrial/organizational and private practice settings.