The program utilizes telehealth to increase veterans’ access to sleep disorder diagnoses and therapies, such as CPAP and CBT-I.


Summary: The VA National Sleep Medicine Program’s TeleSleep service, launched in 2017, is offering sleep care for veterans, especially in rural areas, through telehealth for diagnosing and treating sleep disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia. The program facilitates remote sleep apnea testing and treatments including oral appliances and cognitive behavioral therapy. Clinical resource hubs and video telehealth visits expand access to care.

Key Takeaways:

  • Launched in 2017, TeleSleep provides sleep care for veterans, particularly in rural areas, using telehealth to diagnose and treat sleep disorders.
  • The program promotes home sleep apnea testing and offers treatments like oral appliances, positional therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.
  • 1.7 million veterans treated by VA had sleep apnea in 2023

The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) TeleSleep service, which began in 2017, is helping improve sleep care for veterans, particularly those in rural areas, by using telehealth to diagnose and treat sleep disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia, according to a release from the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We’re heavily engaged with using telehealth to reach veterans. The specialty lends itself very nicely to virtual pathways for clinical management, performing consults and follow-ups through video, and diagnosing patients with a multitude of sleep disorders,” says Kathleen Sarmiento, MD, executive director of the VA National Sleep Medicine Program and director of the Office of Rural Health’s TeleSleep, in a release. 

TeleSleep and Accessibility to Treatment

More than 1.7 million veterans (33%) treated by VA had sleep apnea in 2023. Sleep apnea is the most prevalent sleep disorder among veterans who also have insomnia, the second most common sleep disorder.

VA’s TeleSleep program has promoted home sleep apnea testing for veterans. Tests are available from community clinics and VA medical centers or mailed to patients so they can be treated remotely. In addition to CPAP, other ways VA treats sleep apnea include oral appliances, positional sleep apnea therapy, neurostimulators, and surgical therapies.

Sleep clinicians also have an increasing role in medical weight management to treat sleep apnea as well as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, according to a release from the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

“If you sleep in a position other than on your back and you can manage to lose 10 to 15 pounds, health professionals can coach their patients into success by losing some weight and seeing the severity of apnea get better or go away,” says Sarmiento in a release.

For veterans with insomnia, VA offers cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) as a treatment option. A self-paced course, Path to Better Sleep can help treat insomnia with digital CBT-I. Veterans may also use the CBT-i Coach mobile app to learn how to quiet their minds and set up productive sleep routines.

“We’ve seen significant innovation in cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic insomnia at VA. We’ve worked hard to provide online platforms for self-management to make these treatments more accessible,” she says in a release.

Connecting Veterans with Sleep Telehealth

When TeleSleep initiative began in 2017, it was a centrally supported system of sleep telehealth networks focused on reaching rural veterans. Since then, clinical resource hubs give access to veterans who don’t live near a VA medical center or a sleep specialist. Veterans can receive video telehealth visits at home or through community-based outpatient clinics.

“We’re set up to deliver care wherever the Veteran is and wherever the providers might be,” Sarmiento says in a release.

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