Although sleep medicine is a relatively new specialty, it has evolved greatly over the past three decades. The introduction of positive airway pressure therapy as a noninvasive method to treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in 1981 resulted in a significant increase in interest in sleep apnea and all sleep disorders in general. Since then, the professional makeup of sleep medicine has grown significantly enough to justify the recognition of sleep medicine as an independent specialty. As a new specialty, sleep medicine encounters several challenges that evolve as the recognition of and demand for the service increase. Recently, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) issued a task force report titled “The Future of Sleep Medicine” that aimed to define a strategy and vision for the field of sleep medicine for the future. However, such recommendations may not suit developing countries such as Saudi Arabia, in which the specialty is not well recognized or established. Therefore, we need to develop strategies and a vision that will increase the recognition of the specialty in Saudi Arabia and improve the education and practice of sleep medicine. However, the available local data and experience must be considered.
Although sleep medicine services and the number of practicing specialists in Saudi Arabia have increased over the past few years, the specialty still faces major challenges. A discussion of all of the challenges facing the specialty in Saudi Arabia is beyond the scope of this editorial, but the reader can refer to a recent review that discussed most of the challenges that face the specialty in detail. In this editorial, we address the obstacles that hinder the establishment of sleep medicine as an organized, distinct medical specialty in Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region. In my view, the following two issues must be addressed at this stage: (A) accreditation of the specialty and (B) providing specialty education to lead to the graduation of qualified sleep medicine specialists and sleep technicians.