Relationship of Quality of Sleep in Adolescents and Young Adults to the Driving Performance
Introduction: Sleep deprivation is a major cause of motor vehicle accidents, and can impair the human brain as much as alcohol. It has been estimated that between 16% and 60% of all motor vehicle accidents are caused by sleep related problems. Adolescents and young adults frequently complain of sleep disorder symptoms and suffer from chronic sleep deprivation. There is an absence of evidence in existing literature regarding the impact of sleep disturbances on the driving function in young, novice drivers compared to that in young adults.
Materials and Methods: This study is a prospective cohort study of two subject groups: young adults with driving experience of less than 36 months, and young adults with driving experience of greater than 36 months). Each subject served as its own control. The enrolled subjects are 16 – 26 years old, right-handed, with normalor corrected vision. Participants with a chronic or acute ongoing health condition which might affect the study results were excluded. Study procedures utilized were: polysomnography, multiple sleep latency test and driving simulator testing.
Results: Repeated-measures MANCOVA revealed that driving experience, objective sleepiness (as measured by the Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT)), interaction between driving experience and depressive symptoms (as measured by The Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale Revised (CESD-R)), and interaction between depressive symptoms and objective sleepiness had statistically significant effects on driving performance.
Conclusion: Unexpectedly, more experienced drivers made more driving errors and were responsible for a greater number of accidents. Mood and ongoing sleep deprivation emerged as two key factors that impacted driving performance more than level of experience. This may represent the impact of a less-regulated post high school lifestyle, as compared to more structured high school schedule. The study findings aid in confirming that functional impairments related to sleepiness previously observed in adult study populations are also replicated in adolescents and young adults.