Summary Identifying predictors of subjective sleepiness and severity of sleep apnea are important yet challenging goals in sleep medicine. Classification algorithms may provide insights, especially when large data sets are available. We analyzed
polysomnography and clinical features available from the Sleep Heart Health Study. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale and the apnea–hypopnea index were the targets of three classifiers: k‐nearest neighbor, naive Bayes and support vector machine algorithms. Classification was
based on up to 26 features including demographics, polysomnogram, and electrocardiogram (spectrogram). Naive Bayes was best for predicting abnormal Epworth class (0–10 versus 11–24), although prediction was weak: polysomnogram features had 16.7% sensitivity and 88.8% specificity;
spectrogram features had 5.3% sensitivity and 96.5% specificity. The support vector machine performed similarly to naive Bayes for predicting sleep apnea class (0–5 versus >5): 59.0% sensitivity and 74.5% specificity using clinical features and 43.4% sensitivity and 83.5% specificity
using spectrographic features compared with the naive Bayes classifier, which had 57.5% sensitivity and 73.7% specificity (clinical), and 39.0% sensitivity and 82.7% specificity (spectrogram). Mutual information analysis confirmed the minimal dependency of the Epworth score on any feature,
while the apnea–hypopnea index showed modest dependency on body mass index, arousal index, oxygenation and spectrogram features. Apnea classification was modestly accurate, using either clinical or spectrogram features, and showed lower sensitivity and higher specificity than common
sleep apnea screening tools. Thus, clinical prediction of sleep apnea may be feasible with easily obtained demographic and electrocardiographic analysis, but the utility of the Epworth is questioned by its minimal relation to clinical, electrocardiographic, or polysomnographic features.