What You Need to Know About the Epworth Sleepiness Scale

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

When first seeking treatment for insomnia your doctor may ask you to self-administer a test known as the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. It's a questionnaire that contains eight questions that measure your level of sleepiness.

The test questions are comprised of scenarios in which you will have to rate yourself on a scale of 0 – 3 on the chances of you falling asleep in those situations. This requires meaningful judgement on your part, as the questions do not ask how often the scenarios do happen, but rather the chances of them happening. However, most individuals are pretty accurate in their answers.

The score you receive on the test is the sum of all eight questions. Your score can fall anywhere between 0 and 24. The higher your score, the higher your level of sleepiness.

The Epworth Sleepiness Test is not a diagnostic tool; rather it just provides an estimate of your general characteristics. It is a useful tool used by health providers to understand your personal sleep/wake health.

There are other methods available by which sleepiness can be measured, but this test only takes minutes to complete, it is an inexpensive way to get results, and it can be administered to anyone as it has been reproduced in many different languages.

The questions on the Epworth are fairly simple. They include:

What are the chances of you dozing off while doing the following:

  • Sitting and reading

  • Watching television

  • Sitting inactive in a public place such as a meeting or theater

  • As a passenger in a car for an hour without a break

  • Laying down to rest in the afternoon

  • Sitting and talking with someone

  • Sitting quietly after lunch with no alcohol

  • In a car, while stopped for a few minutes in traffic

You would use this scale to rate your answers:

  • 0 - would never doze or sleep

  • 1 - slight chance of dozing or sleeping

  • 2 - moderate chance of dozing or sleeping

  • 3 - high chance of dozing or sleeping

If you are taking the test and you are finding it hard to choose a number between 0 and 3, you can write down 1/2, 1½, etc, as answers. When the scoring is done the halves should be included in the total. If the sum total includes a half, the number should be rounded up.

This test is an easy way for physicians to learn about their patients’ sleepiness levels and it gives them another piece of the puzzle to work with when treating insomnia.

If you self administer the test at home and you score an 11 or higher, you are advised to seek out the advice of a doctor. Your sleepiness is above average and it should be investigated. Before visiting your doctor, you may want to prepare yourself with answers to some additional questions you're likely to be asked.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.