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People with Apnea More Vulnerable to Effects of Alcohol

Posted Nov 16 2009 10:00pm

Drinking and driving is always dangerous. Add a life-threatening sleep disorder and you have a recipe for disaster. According to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, patients with obstructive sleep apnea are more vulnerable than healthy people to the effects of alcohol while driving. The study, conducted by researchers at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health in Australia, followed 38 untreated patients with sleep apnea and 20 control participants. The participants were either allowed to sleep unrestricted, had their sleep restricted to four hours or ingested enough vodka to achieve a blood alcohol level of 0.05 g/dL. They then took part in a driving simulator that measured steering deviation, crashes and braking reaction time. The study found that patients with sleep apnea experienced a 40 percent increase in steering deviation compared with the control group. Patients with sleep apnea also crashed more frequently than control participants after normal sleep and even more after restricted sleep or alcohol consumption compared with the control group. If left untreated, symptoms of sleep apnea can include disturbed sleep and excessive sleepiness during the day. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, the first thing to do is see your doctor.

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