Study objectives: To examine the relationship of gender to subjective measures of sleepiness, including the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), in a community-based population.
Design: A cross-sectional study.
Setting/participants: Multicenter Sleep Heart Health Study participants (N = 6.440, 52% women) recruited from ongoing cohort studies.
Measurements: Scores from the ESS, Sleep Heart Health Study daytime sleepiness and feeling unrested questions, polysomnography results (respiratory disturbance index at 4% desaturation), as well as data on difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep, insufficient sleep, sedative use, alcohol use, cardiovascular or respiratory disease, frequent awakening due to leg cramps.
Results: Women reported feeling sleepy as often as men did (odds ratio [OR] = 1.06; confidence interval [CI], 0.86-1.32), but women were less likely to have an ESS score > 10 (adjusted OR = 0.77; CI, 0.66-0.90) and more likely to report feeling unrested (adjusted OR = 1.39; CI, 1.14-1.69) than men. In men, the ESS score was more strongly correlated with reports of feeling unrested or sleepy compared to women.
Conclusions: Men and women answer questions on sleepiness differently. Findings indicate that using the ESS to detect subjective sleepiness is more likely to identify men with sleepiness. Since the ESS is more strongly related to other subjective measures in men, the ESS may be a more sensitive measure of subjective sleepiness in men than in women.