Subjective sleep quality and its related factors were investigated in 869 (530 F, 339 M) 17-year-old adolescents, who were selected from the pupils of state-run secondary schools in the city of Pavia in the north west of Italy. The study was conducted cross sectionally, and it consisted of a questionnaire based survey. One hundred and forty-two subjects (16.5% of the whole sample, 19% of the females and 11.7% of the males) met the criteria chosen for definition as poor sleepers (namely, a complaint of 'non restorative nocturnal sleep', 'often' or 'always' over the previous 12 mo). A significant association was found between chronic poor sleep and (1) gender (female) (2) emotional factors, such as worries, anxiety and depression (3) poor sleep hygiene (4) arousal related parasomnia. Only 4% of poor sleepers took sleep promoting drugs (including benzodiazepines, homeopathic products and other medications), generally without seeking medical advice.