Epworth Sleepiness Scale


Definition - What does Epworth Sleepiness Scale mean?

Epworth sleepiness scale (ESS) is a basic questionnaire designed to assess daytime sleepiness episodes in reference to general activities that might occur on an indefinite basis. The ESS test is comprised of a series of eight simple questions with each answer measured according to a standard four point scale ranging from 0-3. After scoring each answer independently, a cumulative number ranging between 0-24 is provided representing the average sleep propensity (ASP). A sleep clinician correlates ESS test results with an established normal range to ascertain to what degree an individual experiences daytime sleepiness.

WorkplaceTesting explains Epworth Sleepiness Scale

In 1990, Dr. Murray Johns introduced the ESS testing method as a general criterion for examining somnificity, or sleep propensity patterns, associated with varying levels of personal and social engagements from common daily activities over the course of time. For instance, a sedentary occupation is more likely to induce sleepiness compared to a job position that requires operation of heavy machinery.

While administering an ESS test can help determine the causal nature surrounding erratic sleeping habits during the day, supplementary test measures are usually recommended to qualify a patient’s candidacy for a sleep disorder. Because ESS is conducted as a general assessment tool, situations where an individual scores consistently above the normal range (high ASP) might require a more case-specific approach. For instance, employees suspected of narcolepsy or obstructive sleep apnea are likely to experience persistent, random occurrences of daytime sleepiness interfering with optimal job performance. As a result, a physician and sleep technician can coordinate a medical strategy using ESS testing reports for diagnostic analysis to track progress before and after treatment.

For this reason, an employee diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea can provide confirmatory evidence for their sleep disorder coupled with the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) apparatus to mitigate their condition. ESS documentation can bolster an employee’s claim that their sleep condition is a legitimate disability in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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