Sleep Latency

Last updated: November 27, 2018

What Does Sleep Latency Mean?

Sleep latency is the lapse of time between an initial point of relaxation and the first sleep phase that ensues during circadian rhythm cycles. An accumulation of sleep debt contributes to the ability of an individual to attain immediate sleep latency, but this phenomenon carries health implications that compromises normal biorhythms. Sleep latency serves as an internal mechanism that triggers the biochemical response of the body to enter two main sleep phases called non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM).


WorkplaceTesting Explains Sleep Latency

The Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) is a standard criterion for measuring sleep latency. It is particularly useful in diagnosing candidates for narcolepsy or hypersomnia, where people are susceptible to erratic spells of drowsiness. A sleep technician monitors and tracks the course of nighttime sleep stages using biofeedback to gauge sleep latency variables that can impact sleep efficiency, representing the cumulative amount of time sleeping. Sleep latency metrics can provide a comparative analysis between a person receiving insufficient rest (sleep debt) or evidence of an actual sleep disorder, for example, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) causing intermittent daytime sleepiness.

A number of discrete factors can influence sleep latency including age, anxiety, depression, alcohol and/or caffeine consumption, obesity, and prescribed medications. The workplace poses environmental circumstances in which persistent stress and alternating shift schedules are culprits of sleep disorders. Companies are introducing sleep management resources that cover sleep disorder diagnosis and treatment options available to employees. This method brings sleep awareness to the forefront, especially with an aging workforce prone to sleep disorders that can lead to detrimental health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and hypertension.

Sleep latency is a manageable aspect of sleep efficiency involving consistent sleep hygiene that can offset sleep debt and potentially minimize health issues. The MSLT is a viable measure for assessing sleep latency with the outcome determining whether an individual completes the full circadian rhythm cycles. Although sleep debt expedites the sleep latency process, this can be a telltale indicator of a sleep disorder with etiological consequences requiring medical attention.


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