It is normal for people to go through their days a little groggy. How do you know if sleepiness is a sign of a potential problem? For many, it is hard to simply rate their level of sleepiness. Would you rate it on a one to ten scale? What different variables go into the equation? Luckily there is a way for sleep specialists to quantify sleepiness into an easily measurable scale that allows them to pinpoint potential sleep issues: The Epworth Sleepiness Scale.

The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is a useful tool for screening, but the actual diagnosis of sleep apnea takes more specific testing. Do you have reason to suspect you might have sleep apnea? Please contact Denver sleep dentist Dr. Kevin Berry at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado.

Scale Background

The Epworth Sleepiness Scale was developed by Dr. Murray Johns of Epworth Hospital located in Melbourne, Australia. Dr. Johns established a sleep practice there in 1988. He needed a tool to assess his patients’ sleep quality via their daytime sleepiness. He developed the Epworth sleepiness Scale in 1990, modifying it slightly in 1997. To address language errors that affected between a quarter to a third of participants taking the test, researchers developed a pictorial Epworth scale in 2010. Although this is a potentially useful tool, doctors don’t use it often. 

The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is presented as a series of eight questions that people engage in every day, such as “[sleepiness] as a passenger in a car for an hour without a break.” The person taking the test then writes a number between zero and three, with zero being no chance of dozing and three being a high chance of dozing. Your doctor then totals the score. Scores between zero and ten indicate a normal amount of dozing. About 95% of people with healthy sleep will score in this range. Scores between 10 and 24 indicate that a person has daytime sleepiness that could indicate sleep apnea or another sleep disorder. They should speak with a Denver sleep dentist or a doctor about possible sleep problems. 

Applications of the Test

This test is ideal for identifying sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and narcolepsy because it is delivered in a standardized form. The questions are always the same which removes some of the subjectivity from someone simply estimating how drowsy they would be in a given daytime situation. The Epworth Sleepiness scale can also help indicate if a given method of treatment is effective as patients take the test during treatment.

It’s important to note that the Epworth Sleepiness Scale can’t actually be used to diagnose sleep apnea—it’s just a screening tool. To determine if you really have sleep apnea requires a sleep study interpreted by a sleep physician. Denver sleep dentist Dr. Berry can help you get a sleep test. For most, this means a home sleep test that you can take in the comfort of your own bed. 

Other Sleepiness Scales

Although the Epworth Sleepiness Scale is a highly successful screening tool, it’s not the only such tool out there. In addition to other sleep apnea screening tools your Denver sleep dentist might use, such as the STOP and STOP-BANG tests, there are other specific sleeping tests. 

The first alternative sleepiness scale is the Stanford Sleepiness Scale. This scale is a classic sleepiness test. It was developed in 1972 by researchers at Stanford. It consists of just one question, in which participants rate their sleepiness from one to seven. While some object that the scale’s values don’t always correspond to just sleepiness, the scale has proven valuable in detecting sleepiness related to long-term sleep deprivation. However, it’s not sensitive enough to detect partial sleep deprivation such as one gets from sleep disorders like sleep apnea. The Karolinska scale is a similar one-question test, but with values that originally went from 1-9, but now go from 1-10. 

A more involved test of sleepiness is the multiple sleep latency test (MSLT). In this test, a person is given 4-5 opportunities to sleep every two hours during normal waking hours. However, this test is more difficult to administer. Doctors normally use it to diagnose narcolepsy, rather than as a screening tool for sleep apnea.

Trouble Sleeping in Denver?

Do you find that you have trouble sleeping at night? If so, you should consult a sleep specialist and take the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. Denver sleep dentist Dr. Kevin Berry of the TMJ and Sleep Center of Colorado is trained in treating sleep apnea, and may be able to help you get a good night’s sleep. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment at our office in Denver near the intersection of I-25 and Colorado Boulevard, please call (303) 691-0267 today.