Untreated sleep apnea causes problems behind wheel: studies

Berlin – Motorists with untreated sleep apnea are more likely to make driving errors and fall asleep behind the wheel while driving, according to research presented April 12 at the Sleep and Breathing Conference.

Researchers from the University of Leeds and St. James’s University Hospital in Leeds, England, compared the driving performance and behaviors of patients with and without a diagnosis of untreated sleep apnea.

In one study, they compared participants’ performance on a 56-mile driving simulation course. Twenty-four percent of participants with untreated sleep apnea failed the test, compared with 12 percent who did not have the disorder.

In another study, about 35 percent of participants with sleep apnea reported they fall asleep behind the wheel while driving. In comparison, 12 percent without the disorder admitted to doing so.

The Sleep and Breathing Conference was hosted by the European Respiratory Society and the European Sleep Research Society.