Drugs, driving and traffic safety in sleep apnea

  • Mark E. Howard
  • Melinda L. Jackson
  • Stuart Baulk


Sleep apnea affects 2–4 % of the population. It is characterised by repetitive episodes of brief upper airway obstruction during sleep, with associated arousal from sleep. Consequences of untreated sleep apnea include excessive daytime sleepiness and impaired cognitive functioning and driving performance. Sleep apnea is also associated with a number of co-morbidities, including hypertension, insomnia and cardiovascular disease. As such, many sleep apnea patients are on medications that can potentially affect their sleep apnea severity and daytime functioning, including driving performance. Centrally-acting depressant drugs, including alcohol, antihypertensives, narcotics and sedatives, can cause respiratory depression and worsen sleep apnea. They may increase sleepiness and further impair driving performance either through direct actions on the central nervous system or through increasing sleep apnea severity. This chapter describes the effects of sleep apnea on daytime sleepiness, cognitive functioning and driving performance, as well as the drugs affecting waking and nocturnal respiration.


Obstructive Sleep Apnea Sleep Apnea Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Central Sleep Apnea Crash Risk 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag/Switzerland 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark E. Howard
    • 1
    • 2
  • Melinda L. Jackson
    • 1
  • Stuart Baulk
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute for Breathing & Sleep, Department of Respiratory & Sleep MedicineAustin HealthMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.University of MelbourneDepartment of MedicineMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Centre for Sleep ResearchUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaide
  4. 4.Adelaide Institute for Sleep HealthRepatriation General HospitalDaw Park

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