The multiple sleep latency test

Handb Clin Neurol. 2019:160:393-403. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-64032-1.00026-6.


The measurement of daytime sleepiness is important in the evaluation of patients with excessive sleepiness. The multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) is an objective test that measures the tendency to fall asleep under controlled conditions. It is based on the notion that sleep latency reflects underlying physiological sleepiness. The MSLT consists of four to five naps given 2h apart during the day, following a standardized procedure. The mean sleep latency from all naps is used as the measure of sleepiness. The test has been shown to be valid and reliable and is part of the diagnostic criteria for narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia. However, the MSLT is affected by numerous variables including insufficient sleep, drugs, activity, and arousal level. Adherence to the established protocol is necessary to limit the effect of these extraneous factors on the MSLT. While the test is a valuable and widely used diagnostic tool for narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia, the use of MSLT in other sleep disorders is not well established.

Keywords: Idiopathic hypersomnia; MSLT; Narcolepsy; SOREMP; Sleepiness.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence / diagnosis*
  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Narcolepsy / diagnosis
  • Narcolepsy / physiopathology
  • Polysomnography / methods*
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / diagnosis
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / physiopathology
  • Sleep Latency / physiology*
  • Sleepiness*