Obstructive Sleep Apnea Can Affect Driving Ability

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Can Affect Driving Ability

People with untreated sleep apnea may be less alert behind the wheel and this could make them more vulnerable to the effects of sleep loss and alcohol than healthy drivers. Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which the tissues at the back of the throat temporarily collapse during sleep. This leads to repeated stops and starts in breathing during the night. The result of this is poor quality sleep which can, in turn, lead to daytime drowsiness. It’s estimated that traffic accidents related to obstructive sleep apnea cause 1,400 fatalities in the U.S. each year. In a study of 58 people on a virtual driving course, the drivers with sleep apnea had more trouble staying in their driving lane and were more likely to crash than their healthy counterparts. The same was true when they took a modest amount of alcohol; just enough to raise the blood alcohol level to 0.05, which is just below the legal limit.

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