Muscat, Oct 27 – Daytime sleepiness is fairly common among young Omani drivers, a study investigating prevalence of sleepiness has found. The study took place at the Sultan Qaboos University Hospital between May and July 2014. A total of 492 private vehicle drivers were part of the study, of which 50.4 per cent were male. It was found 124 Omanis (25.2 per cent) experienced daytime sleepiness while driving at least once per month. The findings of the study, conducted by Dr Mohammed al Abri from the Department of Clinical Physiology at SQU Hospital and researchers from SQU and the Hospital, were published in the May 2018 issue of SQU Medical Journal.
Sleepiness while driving is fairly common among private car drivers in Oman, with just over a quarter of the drivers reporting they experienced daytime sleepiness at least once a month. Male drivers reported significantly greater daytime sleepiness compared with females (33.5 per cent versus 18 per cent). Young males were found to carry a higher risk of daytime sleepiness while driving compared with females. Multiple factors were observed to contribute to daytime sleepiness among drivers. However, no gender difference was noted in terms of average nocturnal sleep duration. There was a significant link between daytime sleepiness while driving and sleep deprivation, BMI and snoring.
Among those who reported sleepiness while driving, a majority had fewer than six hours of sleep per night (69.3 per cent) and were overweight (59.1 per cent). The proportion of those with daytime sleepiness doubled among those who snored compared with those who did not snore (36.2 per cent versus 16.4 per cent). Sleepiness and fatigue can decrease mental alertness and increase the likelihood of errors and unintentional injuries among children, adolescents and adults. In particular, fatigue and daytime sleepiness have been shown to impair cognitive function while driving, which results in a higher risk of road traffic crashes.
Extended work shifts can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle and therefore heighten the risk of occupational injuries and motor vehicle crashes. Nocturnal sleep deprivation and poor sleep hygiene are well-known causes of daytime sleepiness and tiredness, particularly among the young.
In addition to lack of sleep, there is evidence to suggest sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) can trigger excessive daytime sleepiness. Car crashes are one of the most common causes of mortality among young people in Oman, with sleepiness while driving being a leading cause.
Almost two-thirds of the sample had inadequate nocturnal sleep duration of fewer than six hours per night, with a significant association between nocturnal sleep deprivation and daytime sleepiness while driving.
A previous study found 57.6 per cent of Omani adolescents had fewer than seven hours of sleep per night. This lack of sleep could be due to social or work-related reasons, particularly in a society where most social events take place late at night.
Almost half of the participants in the current study had an Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) score of fewer than 10, indicative of a greater propensity towards daytime sleepiness.
There was a significant association between sleepiness while driving and ESS score.
These findings suggest this scale could potentially be used as a screening tool to assess daytime sleepiness among driving licence aspirants. The paper also reported an OSA prevalence of 10.6 per cent, with a significant association between OSA and sleepiness while driving.
In a commentary on sleepy drivers, written in the same issue of SQU Medical Journal, Dr Nabil al Lawati from the Department of Medicine, Royal Hospital, Muscat, underscored the need for similar studies confirming the actual magnitude of the problem of sleepy driving in Oman using objective tools.
“In the study conducted by Dr Mohammed al Abri and colleagues, data were subjectively collected using self-reported tools; it is therefore likely the obtained results underestimate the true magnitude of the problem,” Dr Nabil observed.
According to Dr Nabil, the medical community should initiate nationwide campaigns advocating healthy sleep habits and raising public awareness of the risks associated with sleep deprivation, both at the individual as well as societal levels.
“It is high time sleep medicine professionals join hands with law enforcement authorities and non-governmental organisations in Oman to create a common platform and work on preventing and dealing with the critical health-related and socioeconomic consequences of sleep deprivation, especially on the roads,” he noted.