Sleep is one of those basic needs we can't escape. But that doesn't mean we're planning our days to make sure we get our requisite hours of sleep each night. We live in a society where we're expected to burn the candle at both ends, and even our best attempts at sleeping well can fail with early morning meetings, last minute projects, late night social gatherings, children who need night time attention, sleep problems, a snoring roommate, or those trains blowing their horns throughout the night. What happens when we find ourselves suffering from too little or too light of sleep? Given that I seem to be unable to function on less than 9 hours a night, this question has always been of particular interest to me. In fact, I was so interested in sleep that decided to start researching the effects of on our close relationships. Given that I am in the midst of conducting this research, I thought it would be a good time to write a series of posts on sleep: what it is, how it works, and how bad sleep affects how we think, feel and act in our daily lives. I'll finish with a summary of my own research findings to-date.
To kick us off, I'm devoting this post to a few sleep scales so we can all figure out just how we're doing on the sleep-o-meter.
The Stanford Sleepiness Scale: Right now, how alert are you?
Sleep researchers at Stanford created a simple one-item scale to assess your current level of sleepiness.
This is a quick way to assess how alert you are feeling right now.
This simple seven –point Likert-type scale has descriptors ranging from “feeling active, vital alert, or wide awake” (score = 1) to “no longer fighting sleep, sleep onset soon and having dream-like thoughts” (score = 7). Choose the set of descriptors that best describes your feeling of sleepiness at the time this scale is administered (at the time of the sleep assessment/right now). If you go below a three (3-7) when you should be feeling alert, this is an indication that you have a serious sleep debt and you need more sleep.
I took this yesterday at about 3pm. I liked being able to actually think about and quantify my current level of sleepiness. However, I rated myself a 5 or 6 and per their instructions, soon after taking it I raced home and went to bed at 9pm.
The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index: How have you been sleeping lately?
This is a comprehensive sleep quality index that assesses how you have been sleeping over the past month. It asks questions such as:
During the past month...
What time have you usually gone to bed at night?
How long (in minutes) has it usually taken you to fall asleep each night?
What time have you usually gotten up in the morning?
How many hours of actual sleep did you get at night?
How much of a problem has it been for you to keep up enough enthusiasm to get things done?
___ No problem at all
___Only a very slight problem
___Somewhat of a problem
___A very big problem
How often have you had trouble staying awake while driving, eating meals, or engaging in social activity?
___Not during the past month
___Less than once a week
___Once or twice a week
___Three or more times a week
So how did you score? Are you sleep-deprived or wide awake? Do you tend to get enough sleep each night? How many hours of sleep do you think you need to feel rested the next day? Confession - I need about 9!