Can We Measure Sleepiness and Sleep Deficiency?

Is not the color and the size of our under-eye circles enough to tell just how much sleep-deprived are we? How do we measure sleepiness or sleep deficiency? Read on to find out!

Written by:


, Sleep Researcher
Last Updated: Thu, October 3, 2019
Fact checked by:

Marko Jevtic

, Sleep Specialist

Is not the color and the size of our under-eye circles enough to tell just how much sleep-deprived are we? Or the fluttering of our eyelids is not too obvious? How do we measure sleepiness or sleep deficiency, when they are not even physical things and represent very individual feelings and conditions? For example, two persons can sleep for 8 hours straight, but one will get sleepy sooner than the other one.

Since scientists started paying so much attention to sleep, more and more sleep mysteries began showing up and finding a way to measure what seems unmeasurable appears to be one of them. In today’s post, we are going to see what is considered for these two conditions and in which ways are researchers trying to find out how to measure sleepiness and sleep deficiency.

Sleep Deficiency

Sleep deficiency is considered to be the same as sleep deprivation, which is not a mistake, but sleep deficiency is a somewhat broader term which covers consequences of the lack of sleep (sleep deprivation), poor sleep quality caused by some sleep disorder or sleep-wake phase disorders.

Since it is widely known that people in the US are not getting enough sleep, sleep deficiency has become a common health problem for people of all ages and gender. It has been estimated that around 7% to 19% of people are not getting enough sleep time each day, 40% of adults have fallen asleep during the day without intention at least once in a month. And, another worrying fact is that 50 to 70 millions of Americans are having some type of a chronic sleep disorder. Clearly, sleep hygiene has been very neglected among people in the US.

But, sleep deficiency is not a standalone problem, since it usually triggers other health-related issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney problems, obesity or depression. It also interferes with our daily chores, job, school, social life, driving, etc. It can cause problems with memory, stress, learning, focusing, and it will also mess up your emotions, mood, and judgmental abilities. So clearly it is not as naive as it may seem at first. It is a myth that sleeping is overrated because it is actually underrated.


We all feel sleepy once we start approaching our bedtime, we begin to yawn, our eyelids are fluttering, and our mind is halfway to the dreamland already. And that is a healthy, usual way of feeling sleepy, but sleep-deprived people are experiencing a much harder type of fatigue and sleepiness called excessive daytime sleepiness, which usually tends to become chronic. Although sleepiness occurs as a consequence, at the same time it is also a cause of many other issues that can appear such as mood swings, stress, and depression.

The problem is that many Americans are willfully limiting their sleep time, which sounds ridiculous at first, but when you think about it, people are under constant pressure of working hard and providing for them and their families, and as a consequence, they are constantly sleep-deprived, and the primary symptom of it is sleepiness. Some other causes of acute or chronic sleepiness can be jet lag, working in shifts, or simply skipping a night of sleep in order to catch up with work or exams.

Sleepiness is just like sleep debt hanging around our neck, and once you get it, it seems impossible to get rid of it since it is hindering our daily life, it affects our ability to focus, work or think clearly. Sleepiness is especially dangerous for drivers since it can be so easy to fall asleep behind the wheel, and drowsy driving has been recognized as responsible for more than 100.000 collisions on the road each year.

Some people try dealing with sleepiness by drinking too much coffee during the day, but that just closes them in an enchanted circle. Coffee will keep you awake, but it will also probably postpone your desired bedtime, causing you to go to sleep later even though you have to wake up in the morning, you will not feel rested, and you will already be sleepy once you wake up. There is no such thing as a cure for sleepiness, in order to get rid of it you have to solve the primary problem which caused it. Many sleep disorders can mess up our sleep routine and then cause excessive daytime sleepiness, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, insomnia, are just the most common ones.

How Can We Measure It?

Well, as we mentioned previously, it can be hard to determine the level of sleep deficiency, and sleepiness since both categories are highly individual and depend on many different factors. So although there are some ways which can nearly determine the current state, it can never be precisely estimated as it can change in a few minutes.





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She would be a morning person if mornings started at noon. Art historian, taurus, coffee lover, traveler, F1 fan who hates to drive, and well experienced insomniac with one life goal, to sleep like a coala for up to 20 hours per day.

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