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Risky Driving Behaviors Rise as Common Sleep Disorders Worsen

Summary: Obstructive sleep apnea can impact your driving behavior, according to a new study. People with sleep apnea who experienced eight additional interruptions of breathing per hour had a 27% increased risk of doing dangerous actions while driving, such as speeding, hard braking or sudden acceleration.

Source: WUSLT

People with sleep apnea wake up tired in the morning, regardless of how many hours they sleep. The condition causes them to briefly stop and start breathing again dozens or even hundreds of times a night. While these breathing interruptions often don’t wake people with apnea, they prevent them from falling into a deep, restorative sleep.

A new study puts a figure on the dangerousness of such chronic fatigue, at least with regard to driving. For every eight additional pauses in breathing per hour, the odds of doing an unsafe driving action like speeding up, suddenly braking or accelerating suddenly increase by 27%, according to a study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Older people are more likely to develop sleep apnea. They are also more likely to be seriously injured or killed in a car accident. The results, available online in the journal Sleepsuggest that screening for sleep apnea in older adults and treating it, if needed, can help older people continue to drive safely longer.

“The percentage of older adults with mild sleep apnea is 30% to 50%, but if these adults don’t have daytime sleepiness or other signs of impairment, they may not seek medical attention,” said co-senior author Brendan Lucey, MD, associate professor of neurology and director of the University of Washington Sleep Medicine Center.

“However, these results suggest that we might want a lower threshold for assessing sleep apnea in older people and tracking their breathing interruptions. If their condition worsened by just eight interruptions per hour, this could have significant negative effects. their conduct and their risk of serious injury.

People 65 and older are the most responsible drivers on the road. They respect the speed limits. They drive defensively. They avoid driving at night, in bad weather and in unfamiliar places. But the changes that often come with age, such as worsening vision, slower reflexes and, yes, difficulty sleeping, can undermine even the safest habits.

Lucey teamed up with driving researcher Ganesh M. Babulal, Ph.D., OTD, assistant professor of neurology and co-lead author of the paper, to study the relationship between sleep apnea and driving behaviors at risk. Participants were recruited from ongoing studies at the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the University of Washington (Knight ADRC).

Babulal and Lucey monitored the driving and sleeping habits of 96 elderly people under real-life conditions. They used a commercially available home test to identify people with sleep apnea and measure its severity. Less than five breathing interruptions per hour is considered normal, five to 15 is mild sleep apnea, 15 to 30 is moderate, and more than 30 is severe.

To assess driving habits, researchers installed a chip developed by Babulal and colleagues in participants’ personal vehicles and monitored their driving for a year, focusing on episodes of hard braking, sudden acceleration, and sudden acceleration. ‘speeding. In total, they collected data on more than 100,000 trips.

Participants were also evaluated by Knight ADRC researchers for cognitive impairment and molecular signs of early Alzheimer’s disease.

Although all of the participants were cognitively normal, about a third had brain changes indicative of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers found that the frequency with which drivers performed dangerous maneuvers behind the wheel increased alongside the frequency with which their sleep was interrupted at night, whether or not their brains showed signs of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study puts a figure on the dangerousness of such chronic fatigue, at least with regard to driving. Image is in public domain

“We didn’t have cameras in the vehicles, so we don’t know exactly what happened that caused someone to, say, brake hard,” Babulal said.

“But it could be something like a red light that they didn’t realize was red until they got close and had to hit the brakes. The more tired you are, the less you have to go. focus on the task at hand, especially if it is new and constantly changing.”

The study helps untangle how risk factors associated with aging, such as lack of sleep and Alzheimer’s disease, put older people at risk while driving, and could help efforts to find ways to maximize years of safe driving, the researchers said.

“Driving always carries the risk of crashes, and older adults are at risk of more serious injuries than younger adults if they get into a crash,” Babulal said.

“But we can’t just tell them to hand over their keys. When older people stop driving, they lose much of their independence and mobility, which is often associated with negative social and health outcomes. What we want to understand is what puts them at higher risk so that we can intervene and help them stay behind the wheel, safely, for as long as possible.

About this sleep apnea research news

Author: Press office
Source: WUSTL
Contact: Press office – WUSTL
Picture: Image is in public domain

Original research: Free access.
“Adverse driving behaviors are associated with sleep apnea severity and age in cognitively normal older adults at risk for Alzheimer’s disease” by Brendan Lucey et al. Sleep


See also

This shows a brain scan

Adverse driving behaviors are associated with sleep apnea severity and age in cognitively normal older adults at risk for Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology accumulates for decades before cognitive decline begins. Cognitively normal individuals with biomarker evidence of AD brain pathology (i.e. biomarker+ or preclinical AD) can be differentiated from individuals without AD brain pathology based on naturalistic driving data, such as acceleration or hard braking and speed, measured using on-board data loggers.

Older people are at increased risk of injury and death from road traffic crashes, and stopping driving is also linked to negative health outcomes. Identifying potentially modifiable risk factors that increase driving risk can prolong safe driving into old age. Sleep apnea is associated with adverse driving behaviors at all ages.

In this study, we hypothesized that high-risk driving behaviors would be associated with increased severity of sleep apnea and AD pathology.

We found that higher severity of sleep apnea measured by a home sleep apnea test was associated with a higher incidence of adverse driving behaviors, even after controlling for several confounding factors (β= 0.24 ± 0.09, p

This association was independent of AD biomarker positivity (i.e., increased t-tau/Aβ42 report). Increasing age was associated with a higher likelihood of high-risk driving behaviors in people with Alzheimer’s disease brain pathology (β= 0.12 ± 0.04, pβ= −0.06 ± 0.03, p

These results suggest that adverse driving behaviors linked to a higher rate of traffic accidents in older adults are associated with sleep apnea severity and AD pathology, even in people without the disorder. cognitive.

Further studies are needed to determine whether treating sleep apnea decreases high-risk driving behaviors and therefore road accidents.