Sleep apnea sufferer? Don’t drive after poor sleep

May 23rd, 2009 - 4:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, May 23 (IANS) People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) shouldn’t drive after poor sleep or alcohol exposure as it increases the chances of accidents, according to latest research in Australia.
Sleep apnea happens when enough air cannot move into your lungs while you are asleep or when there are pauses in breathing.

Andrew Vakulin, doctoral candidate at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health, and colleagues investigated the effects of sleep restriction and moderate alcohol exposure on patients with OSA regarding performance on a simulated driving task.

Driver sleepiness is already known to contribute to about one in three car accidents, and OSA patients are known to be at greater risk. However, the extent to which OSA exacerbates the effects of normal sleepiness or alcohol consumption on driving ability was not previously known.

“We found that patients with OSA had a significantly poorer performance on the driving task after sleep restriction or alcohol exposure, even though the alcohol dose was clearly within the limits imposed by most state laws,” said Vakulin.

Patients with OSA were recruited following a standard diagnostic sleep study at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health prior to commencement of treatment. A total of 38 OSA patients and 20 healthy individuals tested.

All subjects completed a 90-minute mid-afternoon simulated driving course after normal sleep (about eight hours), sleep restriction (about four hours) and consumption of


After sleep restriction, OSA sufferers performed significantly more poorly on steering than the 20 healthy individuals.

OSA patients were also more likely to crash than control subjects after undergoing both sleep restriction and alcohol exposure, said an Adelaide Institute release.

These findings were presented on May 19 at the American Thoracic Society’s 105th International Conference in San Diego.

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