When a gold standard isn't so golden: Lack of prediction of subjective sleep quality from sleep polysomnography

Biol Psychol. 2017 Feb;123:37-46. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2016.11.010. Epub 2016 Nov 24.


Background: Reports of subjective sleep quality are frequently collected in research and clinical practice. It is unclear, however, how well polysomnographic measures of sleep correlate with subjective reports of prior-night sleep quality in elderly men and women. Furthermore, the relative importance of various polysomnographic, demographic and clinical characteristics in predicting subjective sleep quality is not known. We sought to determine the correlates of subjective sleep quality in older adults using more recently developed machine learning algorithms that are suitable for selecting and ranking important variables.

Methods: Community-dwelling older men (n=1024) and women (n=459), a subset of those participating in the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men study and the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures study, respectively, completed a single night of at-home polysomnographic recording of sleep followed by a set of morning questions concerning the prior night's sleep quality. Questionnaires concerning demographics and psychological characteristics were also collected prior to the overnight recording and entered into multivariable models. Two machine learning algorithms, lasso penalized regression and random forests, determined variable selection and the ordering of variable importance separately for men and women.

Results: Thirty-eight sleep, demographic and clinical correlates of sleep quality were considered. Together, these multivariable models explained only 11-17% of the variance in predicting subjective sleep quality. Objective sleep efficiency emerged as the strongest correlate of subjective sleep quality across all models, and across both sexes. Greater total sleep time and sleep stage transitions were also significant objective correlates of subjective sleep quality. The amount of slow wave sleep obtained was not determined to be important.

Conclusions: Overall, the commonly obtained measures of polysomnographically-defined sleep contributed little to subjective ratings of prior-night sleep quality. Though they explained relatively little of the variance, sleep efficiency, total sleep time and sleep stage transitions were among the most important objective correlates.

Keywords: Aging; Machine learning; Polysomnography; Sex differences; Sleep quality.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Machine Learning
  • Male
  • Polysomnography / standards*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / diagnosis*