Study objectives: Sleepiness is a key symptom in
obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) and can be objectively assessed
with a multiple sleep latency test (MSLT). We studied the terms that
patients prefer to describe their symptoms—sleepiness, fatigue,
tiredness, or lack of energy—and how these terms relate to objective
Setting: University-based sleep laboratory.
Patients: Consecutive OSAS patients referred for diagnostic
polysomnography and an MSLT.
Methods: Data were
obtained from sleep studies and questionnaires.
Results: Subjects included 117 men and 73 women, with a
mean (± SD) age of 49 ± 13 years, an apnea and hypopnea rate of
32 ± 28/h of sleep, and an MSLT mean sleep latency of 7 ± 5 min.
Subjects more frequently reported problems with fatigue, tiredness, and
lack of energy than sleepiness (57%, 61%, and 62% vs 47%). When
required to select the one most significant symptom, more patients
chose lack of energy (about 40%) than any other problem, including
sleepiness (about 22%). Objective measures of sleepiness and apnea
severity showed little or no association with any symptom, but female
gender showed significant associations with each.
Conclusions: Complaints of fatigue, tiredness, or lack of
energy may be as important as that of sleepiness to OSAS patients,
among whom women appear to have all such complaints more frequently
than men. The diagnosis of OSAS should not be excluded based only on a
person’s tendency to emphasize fatigue, tiredness, or lack of energy
more than sleepiness.