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  • Writer's pictureAmber Carmen Arroyo, PhD

How CPAP can keep you safe on the road

Did you know untreated sleep apnea can increase your chances of getting into a car accident? Sleep apnea causes breathing to stop during sleep, which causes oxygen levels to drop. Without enough oxygen at night, it can cause excessive daytime sleepiness. This reduces alertness, attention, and makes it difficult to stay awake and focus while driving [1].

People with untreated sleep apnea are up to seven times more likely to be involved in a car crash than those without sleep apnea [2]. People with both sleep apnea and excessive daytime sleepiness are at an even higher risk and are up to 15 times more likely to be involved in a car crash than those without sleep apnea or excessive daytime sleepiness [2].

CPAP reduces risk of car crashes

Fortunately, using CPAP can significantly reduce the chances of a motor vehicle accident in people with sleep apnea. Using CPAP reduces the number of pauses in your breathing at night and reduces excessive daytime sleepiness during the day [3]. This is because CPAP delivers continuous pressure to keep your airway open during sleep. This allows your body and brain to receive the oxygen and sleep it needs to be alert during the day.

Studies show that for people with sleep apnea, using CPAP significantly reduces their risk of getting into a car accident, sometimes reducing their risk by up to 70% [4]. Indeed, people who use CPAP have a lower rate of car accidents than people who have not treated their sleep apnea with CPAP [5].

CPAP not only improves your mental and physical health, but it also reduces your risk of getting into a car accident. Using CPAP reduces excessive daytime sleepiness, which improves cognitive function, attention, and reaction time. This, in turn, helps people with sleep apnea stay alert and focused on the road to keep themselves, their passengers, and community members safe while driving [2].


  1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (n.n.) Drowsy driving. Retrieved from

  2. Pack, A. I., & Pack, A. M. (2019). Improvement in road safety with CPAP treatment of obstructive sleep apnea: A critical review. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 43, 187-193.

  3. Kushida, C. A., Nichols, D. A., Holmes, T. H., Quan, S. F., Walsh, J. K., Gottlieb, D. J., … & Guilleminault, C. (2012). Effects of continuous positive airway pressure on neurocognitive function in obstructive sleep apnea patients: The Apnea Positive Pressure Long-term Efficacy Study (APPLES). Sleep, 35(12), 1593-1602.

  4. Liu, L., Kang, R., Zhao, Y., Zhang, R., Huang, Z., & Luo, J. (2015). Effect of continuous positive airway pressure on dirivng performance in patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome: A meta-analysis. Sleep & Breathing, 19(1), 21-27.

  5. Barbe et al. (2013). Effect of continuous positive airway pressure on the risk of road accidents in sleep apnea patients: Randomized controlled trial. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 187(11), 445-452.


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