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Harvard Researchers Investigate Functional Screening Tool for Sleep Apnea in Professional Drivers

August 31, 2011

A new study investigating whether the psychomotor vigilance test (PVT) could be used as a tool to identify drivers at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) has been published online in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

In the study, by senior author Stefanos N. Kales, MD, MPH, and researchers from Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, commercial drivers and emergency responders took the PVT and were categorized as “microsleepers” if they showed discreet patterns of delayed reaction times. The results revealed that among 193 male participants, 15 (8%) were microsleepers, and microsleepers were significantly more obese than other participants. Obesity is considerably higher in commercial drivers than the general population, and is the predominant risk factor of sleep apnea which causes EDS.

Microsleeps from EDS in commercial drivers can lead to large truck and bus accidents causing injuries and deaths, therefor it is important to develop a tool that can be used commonly in an occupational health setting to identify when a driver needs a sleep evaluation to uncover and treat sleep problems like OSA, which would help prevent dangerous microsleeps and slowed reaction times while on the road.

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