Woman driving a car with a cup of coffee in her hand

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New research project aims to assess the effectiveness of ‘caffeine-naps’ for drivers with obstructive sleep apnoea

A new Loughborough University-led project will assess whether a ‘caffeine-nap’ can counteract sleepiness among drivers who suffer with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).

Government figures show fatigue was a contributory factor in 1,195 collisions during 2021, yet there is a gap in evidence for what OSA patients – a demographic at increased risk of driver sleepiness - should do if they feel tired while driving.

Professor Ashleigh Filtness, an expert in Transport, Human Factors and Sleep Science in the School of Design and Creative Arts, will evaluate the efficacy of a ‘caffeine-nap’ - where drivers have a caffeinated drink and a 15 minute nap - as a countermeasure to driver sleepiness for OSA patients.

The project, funded by The Road Safety Trust, will result in an evidence-based recommendation for best practice, which will then be disseminated to OSA patients, physicians and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

Professor Filtness said: “Sleepiness is a natural part of everyday life. All people get tired every day so all drivers should know what to do if they become tired when driving.

“Having a caffeinated drink and a 15 minute nap, if possible, helps to temporarily alleviate tiredness. This countermeasure of a ‘caffeine-nap’ has been evaluated in laboratory settings, however, it is not known how or if drivers put this advice into practice in the real world.

“Additionally, while this advice is likely to be appropriate for the vast majority of people, for some its efficacy has not been tested and it could be that alternative advice may be more effective.

“One such group is OSA patients. OSA patients would routinely be advised to sleep on their side and use a continuous positive air pressure machine while sleeping, neither of which is practical when having a nap in a vehicle.

“This project will undertake a focused investigation to develop appropriate guidance for OSA patients and their physicians. Being alert when driving is everyone’s responsibility, so it is important that we all have access to accurate information to help manage driver sleepiness.”

Sonya Hurt, chief executive of The Road Safety Trust, added: “Driver fatigue causes hundreds of collisions a year. It is a really serious issue.

“This project can play a big role in alleviating risk for drivers who suffer with OSA, through establishing the best practice for so-called caffeine-naps.”

More on the project can be found on The Road Safety Trust website and in the introductory video from Professor Filtness below. 

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 23/110

The Road Safety Trust

The Road Safety Trust is dedicated to achieving zero deaths and serious injuries on UK roads. To achieve this, The Road Safety Trust provides funding for practical measures, research, dissemination, and education. It works with others to use the wealth of knowledge and understanding about what works to keep road safety high on the national and local agenda and influence policy change. It shares new knowledge from research and practical interventions across the road safety and wider community to raise awareness and encourage implementation. For more information visit: https://www.roadsafetytrust.org.uk

Loughborough University 

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2023 QS World University Rankings – the seventh year running – and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2023, 10th in the Guardian University League Table 2023 and 11th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023.
Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’, and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 over 90% of its research was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.