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16.01.2018 | original article | Ausgabe 9-10/2018 Open Access

Wiener klinische Wochenschrift 9-10/2018

Wanted: a better cut-off value for the Epworth Sleepiness Scale

Wiener klinische Wochenschrift > Ausgabe 9-10/2018
MD PhD Karin Trimmel, Dr. Magdalena Żebrowska, MPH Marion Böck, Andrijana Stefanic, Daniel Mayer, MPH Gerhard Klösch, MD Prof. Eduard Auff, MD Assoc.-Prof. Stefan Seidel



Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) is the main complaint in many neurological sleep disorders, such as idiopathic hypersomnia, narcolepsy, or obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea syndrome (OSAS). The validity of the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) as a screening tool for EDS remains controversial. We therefore investigated (1) the interrelation of the ESS total score and the mean sleep latency (MSL) during the multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) and (2) the diagnostic accuracy of the ESS total score to detect EDS in patients with the chief complaint of subjective EDS.


A total of 94 patients (48 males) with subjective EDS were included in this study. Regression analyses and ROC curve analyses were carried out to assess the predictive value of the ESS score for MSL.


The ESS score significantly predicted a shortened MSL (p = 0.01, β = −0.29). After dichotomizing into two groups, the ESS score predicted MSL only in patients with hypersomnia or narcolepsy (p = 0.01, β = −0.33), but not in patients with other clinical diagnoses (e. g. OSAS; p = 0.36, β = −0.15). The ROC curve analyses indicated an optimal ESS cut-off value of 16 with a sensitivity of 70%; however, specificity remained unsatisfactory (55.6%).


Our results suggest that the predictive value of the ESS score in patients with subjective EDS is low and patient subgroup-specific (superior in hypersomnia/narcolepsy vs. other diagnoses) and that the commonly used cut-off of 11 points may be insufficient for clinical practice.

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