Objectives: To determine whether continuous eye blink measures could identify drowsiness in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) during a week of naturalistic driving. Design: Observational study comparing OSA patients and healthy controls. Setting: Regular naturalistic driving across one week. Participants: Fifteen untreated moderate to severe OSA patients and 15 age (± 5 years) and sex (female = 6) matched healthy controls. Measurements: Participants wore an eye blink drowsiness recording device during their regular driving for one week. Results: During regular driving, the duration of time with no ocular movements (quiescence), was elevated in the OSA group by 43% relative to the control group (mean [95% CI] 0.20[0.17, 0.25] vs 0.14[0.12, 0.18] secs, P =.011). During long drives only, the Johns Drowsiness Scale was also elevated and increased by 62% in the OSA group relative to the control group (1.05 [0.76, 1.33] vs 0.65 [0.36, 0.93], P =.0495). Across all drives, critical drowsiness events (defined by a Johns Drowsiness Scale score ≥2.6) were twice as frequent in the OSA group than the control group (rate ratio [95% CI] =1.93 [1.65, 2.25], P ≤.001). Conclusions: OSA patients were drowsier than healthy controls according to some of the continuous real time eye blink drowsiness measures. The findings of this pilot study suggest that there is potential for eye blink measures to be utilized to assess fitness to drive in OSA patients. Future work should assess larger samples, as well as the relationship of eye blink measures to conventional fitness to drive assessments and crash risk.
- Sleep disordered breathing