Multimodal assessment increases objective identification of hypersomnolence in patients referred for multiple sleep latency testing

J Clin Sleep Med. 2020 Aug 15;16(8):1241-1248. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.8470.


Study objectives: The multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) has limitations when evaluating disorders of hypersomnolence with unknown etiology. Alternative measures of hypersomnolence may objectively identify pathology in patients with complaints of daytime sleepiness that may not be captured by the MSLT alone. This study evaluated the impact of a multimodal hypersomnolence assessment relative to MSLT in patients with unexplained hypersomnolence.

Methods: Seventy-five patients with unexplained hypersomnolence were included in the analyzed sample. Polysomnography was performed without prescribed wake time, and the psychomotor vigilance task and pupillographic sleepiness test were completed between MSLT nap opportunities. Presence or absence of hypersomnolence for each assessment was defined using a priori cutpoints. Proportions of patients identified as hypersomnolent using the multimodal assessment relative to MSLT alone were evaluated, as well as the sensitivity and specificity of ancillary hypersomnolence measures relative to MSLT as a gold standard.

Results: The multimodal assessment more than doubled the proportion of patients identified as having objective deficits relative to MSLT ≤ 8 minutes alone. The combination of excessive sleep duration, lapses on the psychomotor vigilance task, and impairments on the pupillographic sleepiness test also had perfect sensitivity in identifying all patients identified as sleepy by the MSLT across 3 different MSLT cutpoints (5, 8, and 10 minutes).

Conclusions: These data demonstrate the insufficiency of the MSLT as a singular tool to identify objective pathology in persons with unexplained hypersomnolence. Further efforts to refine and standardize multimodal assessments will likely improve diagnostic acumen and research into the causes of these disorders.

Keywords: hypersomnolence; multiple sleep latency test; psychomotor vigilance test; pupillography; sleepiness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence* / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep Latency*
  • Sleepiness
  • Wakefulness