People Who Drive With Windows Down and Music Blasting May Have Major Health Issues


Drivers who roll down their windows, listen to loud music, chew gum, or sing may be suffering from a major snoring issue, according to new research. The study also implies that drinking too much tea or coffee to stay awake might be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Sleep apnea affects an estimated 20% of the population and can cause excessive daytime drowsiness, increasing the risk of vehicle accidents for those who are not treated. However, the vast majority of persons affected are ignorant of their ailment. Common symptoms include loud snoring, disrupted breathing during sleeping, and frequent awakenings.

“Fatigue or drowsiness may be responsible for up to one-fifth of all traffic accidents. In a media release, Dr. Akshay Dwarakanath from St James’s University Hospital in Leeds stated that many OSA patients drive for personal or professional reasons, and there is excellent evidence to show that certain patients are at an elevated risk of traffic incidents.

The study emphasizes the significance of identifying activities aimed at keeping alertness while driving as potential markers of OSA.

“Obstructive sleep apnea is of high public health relevance due to its high prevalence, symptoms that impair quality of life, and potential cardiovascular consequences,” says Dr. Esther Schwarz of Switzerland’s University Hospital Zurich. “In addition to choking, fragmented sleep, and unrefreshing sleep, possible symptoms include difficulty concentrating, tiredness, and a tendency to fall asleep during the day.”

The study included 119 untreated OSA patients and 105 non-OSA people. Participants were asked about their general and driving-related tiredness, alertness tactics while driving, and a history of driving events, including accidents.

The data show that sleep apnea sufferers are more likely to use awareness techniques while driving than their non-OSA counterparts.

Notably, approximately one-third of OSA participants commonly employed more than three coping techniques, which was not seen in non-OSA persons. Researchers also observed that OSA patients who used several techniques had more general and driving-related tiredness and a higher risk of crashing.

Sleep apnea patients commonly use tactics such as opening windows, drinking tea or coffee, and turning up the radio. Other coping strategies included singing or chatting to themselves, changing seats, chewing gum or eating, taking walking breaks, fidgeting or exercising, relaxing, and wiping their faces with cool water.

This study underscores the need for healthcare providers to ask about such tactics while evaluating a patient’s driving fitness.

Doctors are frequently requested to give recommendations on their patients’ ability to drive. This can be difficult since it can have a significant impact on a patient’s income, especially if they are a professional driver. However, doctors have a duty of care to dissuade patients from driving if they are at high risk of causing a crash.

Our findings imply that untreated OSA patients frequently employ coping mechanisms that may serve as proxy measures of drowsiness,” says Dr. Dwarakanath. “Asking about these strategies in the clinic may help doctors identify patients who are at risk of driving incidents and to advise appropriately.”

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