Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Fun: Are you getting enough sleep?

Do you feel like this guy?
Sleep is one of those basic needs we can't escape. But that doesn't mean we're planning our days to make sure we get our requisite hours of sleep each night. We live in a society where we're expected to burn the candle at both ends, and even our best attempts at sleeping well can fail with early morning meetings, last minute projects, late night social gatherings, children who need night time attention, sleep problems, a snoring roommate, or those trains blowing their horns throughout the night. What happens when we find ourselves suffering from too little or too light of sleep? Given that I seem to be unable to function on less than 9 hours a night, this question has always been of particular interest to me. This month, I'm actually starting to plan some research studies examining the effects of sleep on relationships, and given that all this planning is depriving me of my much-needed sleep (oh the irony), I thought it was a good time to write a series of posts on sleep: what it is, how it works, and how bad sleep affects how we think, feel and act in our daily lives. To kick us off, I'm devoting this Friday Fun to a few sleep scales so we can all figure out just how we're doing on the sleep-o-meter.

The Stanford Sleepiness Scale: Right now, how alert are you?
Sleep researchers at Stanford created a simple one-item scale to assess your current level of sleepiness.

This is a quick way to assess how alert you are feeling right now.

This simple seven –point Likert-type scale has descriptors ranging from “feeling active, vital alert, or wide awake” (score = 1) to “no longer fighting sleep, sleep onset soon and having dream-like thoughts” (score = 7). Choose the set of descriptors that best describes your feeling of sleepiness at the time this scale is administered (at the time of the sleep assessment/right now). If you go below a three (3-7) when you should be feeling alert, this is an indication that you have a serious sleep debt and you need more sleep.

I took this yesterday at about 3pm. I liked being able to actually think about and quantify my current level of sleepiness. However, I rated myself a 5 or 6 and per their instructions, soon after taking it I raced home and went to bed at 9pm.

The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index: How have you been sleeping lately?
This is a comprehensive sleep quality index that assesses how you have been sleeping over the past month. It asks questions such as:

During the past month...
What time have you usually gone to bed at night?
How long (in minutes) has it usually taken you to fall asleep each night?
What time have you usually gotten up in the morning?
How many hours of actual sleep did you get at night?
How much of a problem has it been for you to keep up enough enthusiasm to get things done?
 ___ No problem at all
___Only a very slight problem
___Somewhat of a problem
___A very big problem
How often have you had trouble staying awake while driving, eating meals, or engaging in social activity?
 ___Not during the past month
___Less than once a week
___Once or twice a week
___Three or more times a week

For the full Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index go here. To download a word file with scoring instructions and for more information about the PSQI go here

Are there any sleep-related topics you'd particularly like to hear about during this series? 

And because I like to hear about other people's sleep needs: How sleepy are you today? How much sleep do you think you need to feel well-rested the next day? Do you feel the effects of too little sleep?

The Articles:

Buysse DJ, Reynolds CF 3rd, Monk TH, Berman SR, & Kupfer DJ (1989). The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index: a new instrument for psychiatric practice and research. Psychiatry research, 28 (2), 193-213 PMID: 2748771

Hoddes E, Dement W, Zarcone V. The development and use of the Stanford Sleepiness Scale (SSS). Psychophysiology. 1972;9:150.


  1. I pretty much always sleep exactly 8 hours (+- 30min). I realized it matters way more for me to sleep at certain times on a regular basis than how much sleep I get.

    If my day night rhythm has shifted to something unnatural (such as getting up at noon, sleeping late) I feel more sleepy during the day. That's probably also due to being exposed to less light.

    In the past I had times when I suffered from onset insomnia so some details about the different kinds of sleeping disorders would be interesting. :)

  2. Jay - You are not alone with feeling sleepier if you sleep in later, and I think the circadian rhythm has a lot to do with that. For example, there is a lot of research on the perils of shift work.

    In my post today on the sleep cycle, I mention that the type of sleep that you get changes depending on what hours you are sleeping, something I hadn't known before today! Perhaps that is another reason that people function differently depending on whether they go to sleep earlier or later? I know I personally feel like Goldilocks - constantly on the search for the "just right" sleep schedule!

    I'll definitely put up a post in the near future about common sleep disorders. There is a lot of great information out there.

    Thanks for reading,