Subjective and objective sleepiness in monozygotic twins discordant for chronic fatigue syndrome

Sleep. 2004 Aug 1;27(5):973-7. doi: 10.1093/sleep/27.5.973.


Study objective: To examine the association of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) with measures of objective and subjective sleepiness.

Design: Monozygotic co-twin control study.

Setting: Academic medical center.

Patients and participants: Twenty monozygotic twin pairs discordant for CFS.

Interventions: N/A.

Measurements and results: All twins completed an Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), 4 Stanford Sleepiness Scales (SSS), and underwent a standard 4-nap multiple sleep latency test. We compared the ESS scores, average SSS scores, and average sleep latency in CFS and healthy twins. The CFS twins reported more sleepiness as measured by mean scores on the ESS (10.9 vs 8.2; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.3-5.5; P = .03) and the SSS (3.4 versus 2.1; 95% CI = 0.7-1.9; P < .001). The mean sleep latency on the Multiple Sleep Latency Test was not significantly different between the CFS and healthy twins (8.9 vs 10.0 minutes; 95% CI -4.4-1.7; P = .33). Mean SSS scores increased among the CFS twins and decreased among healthy twins from nap 1 to nap 4 (P < .001). The individual ESS scores and mean sleep latencies on the Multiple Sleep Latency Test were negatively correlated for all the twins (Pearson's r = - 0.40; P = .01), with a slightly stronger association among the healthy twins (Pearson's r = -0.42, P = .07) than the CFS twins (Pearson's r = -0.36, P = .15).

Conclusions: CFS twins reported significantly more subjective sleepiness than their healthy co-twins despite similar nonpathologic mean sleep latencies on the Multiple Sleep Latency Test. Patients with CFS may mistake their chronic disabling fatigue for sleepiness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diseases in Twins* / epidemiology
  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence / diagnosis
  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence / epidemiology
  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence / physiopathology*
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / epidemiology
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Polysomnography
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Twins, Monozygotic