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Association between Sleep Disordered Breathing and Nighttime Driving Performance in Mild Cognitive Impairment

  • Nathan Cross (a1) (a2) (a3), Zoe Terpening (a1), Shantel L. Duffy (a1) (a2) (a3) (a4), Simon J.G. Lewis (a1) (a2) (a3) (a5), Ron Grunstein (a2) (a3) (a5), Keith Wong (a2) (a3) (a5) and Sharon L. Naismith (a1) (a3) (a4)...

Objectives: The effect of sleep disordered breathing (SDB) on driving performance in older adults has not been extensively investigated, especially in those with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between severity measures of SDB and a simulated driving task in older adults with and without MCI. Methods: Nineteen older adults (age ≥50) meeting criteria for MCI and 23 age-matched cognitively intact controls underwent neuropsychological assessment and a driving simulator task in the evening before a diagnostic sleep study. Results: There were no differences in driving simulator performance or SDB severity between the two groups. In patients with MCI, a higher oxygen desaturation index (ODI) was associated with an increased number of crashes on the simulator task, as well as other driving parameters such as steering and speed deviation. Poorer driving performance was also associated with poorer executive functioning (set-shifting) but the relationship between ODI and crashes was independent of executive ability. Conclusions: While driving ability did not differ between older adults with and without MCI, oxygen saturation dips in MCI were related to worse driving performance. These results suggest that decreased brain integrity may render those with SDB particularly vulnerable to driving accidents. In older adults, both cognition and SDB need to be considered concurrently in relation to driving ability. (JINS, 2017, 23, 502–510)

Corresponding author
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Sharon L. Naismith, Healthy Brain Ageing Program, 94 Mallett Street, Camperdown NSW 2050, Australia. E-mail:
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