Interpreting your quiz results

The modified Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) assesses your sleep quality based on a series of questions about your sleep environment and habits.

Scores are based on a 0 to 3 scale across seven categories that affect sleep. The ‘global score’ (combined score) represents your overall risk of experiencing sleep problems.

Read more about the seven categories that affect sleep:

  1. Subjective sleep quality
  2. Sleep latency
  3. Sleep duration
  4. Habitual sleep efficiency
  5. Sleep disturbances
  6. Use of sleeping medication
  7. Daytime dysfunction

The categories are closely linked, so the techniques for trying to improve one may help with several.

Some techniques will be appropriate for some people, but not for others. Sleep problems can be caused by different things so it’s always best to discuss your circumstances with your doctor in order to work out what’s right for you.

1. Subjective sleep quality

This is how restful you feel your sleep has been. It is important because no matter how many hours that you are asleep, if you don’t feel rested, it will affect you during the day.

Poor sleep quality can happen for a number of reasons. Talk to your doctor about your sleep quality to help you find out what is causing the problem. Keeping a sleep diary might help you discuss sleep issues with your doctor.

2. Sleep latency

This is the length of time between going to bed and falling asleep.

If having trouble getting to sleep becomes a pattern, over time you may become more frustrated and anxious about your sleep. Each time you go to bed you continue to worry and this repeats the cycle.

A technique you may find helpful is to get out of bed if you are lying awake for 20 minutes or more — don’t watch the clock, just get out of bed when you feel you’ve been awake for too long. Try to do something relaxing to take your mind off of trying to fall sleep or anything that might be worrying you.

You could also try reading or another activity that you find relaxing. Avoid TV or the computer — the flickering light can stop you getting to sleep.

Go back to bed when you feel sleepy again. Over time this may help you fall asleep faster and get a better night’s sleep.

3. Sleep duration

This is the total length of time you spend asleep during the whole night.

The amount of sleep each person needs varies. For most adults, it’s usually 7 to 8 hours, but some people may need less and some more. Infants need about 16 hours a day, while teenagers need about 9 hours.

No matter how many hours you've slept, if your sleep quality is impaired you won't feel refreshed the next day.

Not sleeping for long enough could happen for a number of reasons. If you’re concerned about the length of time you’re sleeping, talk with your doctor about your particular situation.

4. Habitual sleep efficiency

This is the proportion of time that you are asleep over the total time spent in bed. This is slightly different to ‘sleep latency’ because it’s based on the all the time spent awake in bed, not just the time before falling asleep.

You may spend a number of hours lying in bed awake if you wake up often during the night and then have difficulty getting back to sleep. This may affect you the next day if it results in not getting an adequate number of hours of sleep per night.

This could happen for a number of reasons. The best thing to do is talk to your doctor about how much time you are asleep in the total time that you are in bed, so they can help you find out why you are having sleeping difficulties. You may also find it useful to keep a sleep diary and show it to your doctor.

The tips listed here might help to improve your sleep efficiency.

5. Sleep disturbances

These are conditions or factors that affect your sleep. Examples include being too hot or cold, stress, or being disturbed by noises such as a snoring partner or traffic outside. There are also many different health conditions, substances and medicines that can interfere with your sleep.

Try to find ways to minimise the disruptions you know about. This might include making sure that your room is a comfortable temperature, or trying ear plugs and closing doors and windows if outdoor noises are a problem. Try some of the other tips listed here to see if they improve your sleep.

If you’re still having problems talk to your doctor to fully investigate other possibilities. Some sleep disturbances require a health professional to thoroughly review your medical history, perform a physical examination or plan other investigations.

6. Use of sleeping medication

Sleeping medications (such as sleeping pills) can help you get to sleep but they can actually make the quality of your sleep worse. Sleeping medications include those that need a prescription from the doctor, herbal remedies and over-the-counter medicines.

Medicines, particularly those obtained by prescription, affect the sleep cycle and this can stop you from getting the deeper, more refreshing sleep you need. If you’re going to use sleeping pills, ensure that you do so in consultation with your doctor and only use them for the recommended duration.

If you regularly use medicines to help you sleep, it important to tell your doctor or pharmacist so they can help you decide on the best approach for you.

7. Daytime dysfunction

It is unlikely that you have a sleeping problem if your sleep is not affecting the way you function during the day. If you are having trouble concentrating during the day, doing everyday activities, or if you lack energy or feel sleepy during the day, you may have a sleeping problem.

Each of these issues could happen for a number of reasons. Talk to your doctor if you are worried about your sleep or the way you function during the day, to help you manage any problems.

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