Driving with windows down, loud music may signal sleep disorder: Study

London, Jan 22 (IANS) Love to drive with windows down, sip tea or coffee, or listen to loud music? You may be suffering from a sleep disorder, suggests a study by an Indian-origin researcher.

Frequently using more than three strategies, such as opening the window, drinking tea and coffee or turning up the radio, to stay alert while driving could be a sign of excessive sleepiness due to obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), revealed the study published in ERJ Open Research.

OSA causes excessive sleepiness and people with untreated OSA are at higher risk of collisions on the road.

Understanding the signals could help spot those with OSA who may be at a higher risk of a driving incident, the researchers said.

People with OSA often snore loudly, their breathing starts and stops during the night, and they may wake up several times.

Around one in five people are estimated to have OSA but the majority of sufferers do not realise they have a problem.

“Up to one fifth of collisions on the road may be caused by fatigue or sleepiness. Many OSA patients drive either for personal or for professional reasons and there is good evidence to suggest that some patients are at increased risk of collisions on the road,” said Dr Akshay Dwarakanath from St James’s University Hospital, Leeds, UK.

The research involved 119 people with OSA who were not yet receiving any treatment compared to 105 other people who did not have OSA.

Researchers found that people with OSA were more likely to use strategies to stay alert at the wheel compared to those without OSA.

Nearly a third of people with OSA said they frequently used more than three coping strategies. None of the people who did not have OSA used more than three coping strategies. Researchers also found that people with OSA who used more than three strategies felt sleepier in general, more sleepy while driving and were more likely to have experienced a crash (22.8 per cent compared to 2.4 per cent of OSA patients using fewer coping strategies).

The strategies mentioned most often by people with OSA were opening the window, drinking tea or coffee and turning up the radio. Other strategies were singing or talking to themselves, shifting positions in the seat, chewing gum or eating, stopping for a walk, fidgeting or exercising, stopping for a nap and stopping to wash their face in cold water.

“Doctors are often asked to make recommendations about their patient’s fitness to drive. This can be challenging as it can have major implications on a patient’s livelihood, particularly if they are a professional driver. However, there is a duty of care on doctors to discourage patients from driving if they are at high risk of causing a collision,” Dr Dwarakanath said.



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