Insomnia, hypnotic drugs and traffic safety

  • Joris C. Verster
  • Monique A.J. Mets
  • Tim R.M. Leufkens
  • Annemiek Vermeeren


Sleep medication helps patients who suffer from insomnia to fall asleep and maintain asleep, but unfortunately hypnotic drugs often have residual effects that may affect daily activities such as driving a car. Epidemiological studies show that patients who use sleep medication are at increased risk of becoming involved in traffic accidents. These studies show an increased traffic accident risk for patients using benzodiazepine hypnotics or zopiclone.

This chapter reviews the experimental studies assessing the effects of various hypnotic drugs on driving ability. On-the-road studies confirm that benzodiazepine hypnotics and zopiclone significantly impair driving ability the morning following bedtime administration, whereas the Z-drugs zolpidem and zaleplon do not affect driving performance when taken as recommended. Impairment was dose dependent and most prominent in benzodiazepines with a relative long half-life.

Epidemiological studies show that tolerance to the impairing effects on driving ability of hypnotic drugs develops slowly. However, experimental evidence from on-the-road driving studies on the effects of chronic use of hypnotics is currently lacking. Also, the impact of untreated insomnia on driving should be examined in future studies.

Current hypnotics all act at the GABA receptor which may explain their residual effects on driving performance. Various newly developed hypnotic drugs have a different mechanism of action and may therefore be devoid of residual effects on driving performance.


Hypnotic Drug Traffic Accident Risk Simulated Drive Performance DVVRFLDWHG ZLWK VKRZ WKDW 
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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag/Switzerland 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joris C. Verster
    • 1
  • Monique A.J. Mets
    • 1
  • Tim R.M. Leufkens
    • 2
  • Annemiek Vermeeren
    • 2
  1. 1.Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences, Department of PsychopharmacologyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Experimental Psychopharmacology Unit, Department of Neuropsychology and Psychopharmacology, Faculty of PsychologyMaastricht UniversityThe Netherlands

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