INTRODUCTION: Intensive care unit (ICU) patients are known to experience severely disturbed sleep, with possible detrimental effects on short- and long- term outcomes. Investigation into the exact causes and effects of disturbed sleep has been hampered by cumbersome and time consuming methods of measuring and staging sleep. We introduce a novel method for ICU depth of sleep analysis, the ICU depth of sleep index (IDOS index), using single channel electroencephalography (EEG) and apply it to outpatient recordings. A proof of concept is shown in non-sedated ICU patients. METHODS: Polysomnographic (PSG) recordings of five ICU patients and 15 healthy outpatients were analyzed using the IDOS index, based on the ratio between gamma and delta band power. Manual selection of thresholds was used to classify data as either wake, sleep or slow wave sleep (SWS). This classification was compared to visual sleep scoring by Rechtschaffen & Kales criteria in normal outpatient recordings and ICU recordings to illustrate face validity of the IDOS index. RESULTS: When reduced to two or three classes, the scoring of sleep by IDOS index and manual scoring show high agreement for normal sleep recordings. The obtained overall agreements, as quantified by the kappa coefficient, were 0.84 for sleep/wake classification and 0.82 for classification into three classes (wake, non-SWS and SWS). Sensitivity and specificity were highest for the wake state (93% and 93%, respectively) and lowest for SWS (82% and 76%, respectively). For ICU recordings, agreement was similar to agreement between visual scorers previously reported in literature. CONCLUSIONS: Besides the most satisfying visual resemblance with manually scored normal PSG recordings, the established face-validity of the IDOS index as an estimator of depth of sleep was excellent. This technique enables real-time, automated, single channel visualization of depth of sleep, facilitating the monitoring of sleep in the ICU.