Sleep Psychology

Sleep psychology is a specialized branch of psychology which deals with sleep disorders and studies sleep. A variety of evidence based psychology approaches are used in the prevention and treatment of conditions caused by sleep disorders with the overall aim of improving sleep quality.

If you are interested in becoming a sleep psychologist you will first need to become a professional licensed psychologist. This involves enrolling in an undergraduate program in psychology followed by a graduate program and a Ph.D. Once you have your Ph.D. you will need to pass the licensing exam to become a psychologist. To specialize in sleep psychology, you will need to get a Behavioral Sleep Medicine (BSM) certification.

What is Sleep Psychology?

Sleep psychology is a specialization within the field of psychology. It is concerned with understanding and addressing physiological, behavioral, and psychological factors which may cause a wide range of sleep disorders. Sleep disorders are varied and affect a wide range of individuals from diverse populations and across all age groups.

Some common sleep disorders include:

  • Sleep Cycle Disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Sleep medication dependence
  • Hypersomnia
  • Narcolepsy
  • Parasomnias such as nightmares, sleep walking, bedwetting, sleep terrors, etc
  • Breathing disorders related to sleeping
  • Movement disorders related to sleeping such as teeth grinding or periodic limb movement
  • Sleep disorders caused by other psychological or medical illnesses

How do you become a Sleep Psychologist?

In order to become a sleep psychologist, you need to have a number of educational qualifications, training, and experience.

Steps to become a sleep psychologist:

1. Get an undergraduate degree in psychology
2. Get a master’s degree in psychology
3. Get a Ph.D. in psychology
4. Get relevant training and experience
5. Acquire the Behavioral Sleep Medicine (BSM) Certification

Professional sleep psychologists must earn a doctoral degree in psychology and then proceed to complete post-doctoral training in sleep psychology. Afterwards, they must pass the Behavioral Sleep Medicine (BSM) Certification examination.

In order to become a sleep psychologist, you need to have an understanding of:

  • Sleep cycles
  • Normal and disordered sleep
  • Changes to sleep caused by age
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Sleep physiology
  • How sleep medications effect the brain
  • How to regulate sleep
  • How to monitor treatment for sleep disorders
  • The different interventions for sleep disorders including cognitive, non-medication, and behavioral
  • Therapies for sleep disorders
  • How to measure and monitor sleep

The Behavioral Sleep Medicine (BSM) Certification is offered by the American Board of Sleep Medicine (ABSM). This is an independent, nonprofit organization that provides the necessary qualifications for sleep psychology.

Where do sleep psychologists work?

Sleep psychologists work in a variety of different settings. This includes sleep disorder centers, primary care facilities, private practice settings, etc. They also work at research facilities, colleges, and universities in order to better understand sleep disorders and the best methods to treat them.

The Behavioral Sleep Medicine (BSM) Certification

The Behavioral Sleep Medicine (BSM) Certification is essential for those looking to become certified sleep psychologists. BSM specialists are trained to treat a wide range of sleep related disorders and illnesses as well as help patients deal with sleep related problems which are affecting the quality of their life.

To be able to treat these issues, BSM practitioners use a number of cognitive and behavioral techniques to treat the underlying conditions causing sleep disorders.

The eligibility criteria for the BSM qualification are as follows:

  • Hold a doctoral degree in psychology
  • Have a valid license to provide healthcare clinical services
  • Satisfy the relevant experience requirements

The experience requirements are as follows:

  • Have 1,000 hours’ worth of direct experience with sleep related disorders
  • Have 500 hours’ worth of training in sleep related disorders and 500 hours of training in behavioral medicine training

If you satisfy all of these requirements, you can take the BSM exam which is offered once a year at the AASM conference.

Job Prospects and Salary  

BSM Certified Psychologists General Psychologists



Sleep psychology is a highly specialized field and there are currently very few professionals certified as BSM practitioners. There is no specific data on how much sleep psychologists earn. However, data from the American Psychological Association (APA) shows that psychologists who work in sleep centers generally earn $60,000-$80,000 a year. In addition, income can be boosted by applying for research grants or appearing for talks on the subject.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), psychologists in general earned an annual median salary of $72,580 in 2015.

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