Comparing objective wakefulness and vigilance tests to on-the-road driving performance in narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia

Denise Bijlenga (Corresponding author), Bram Urbanus, Nick N.J.J.M. van der Sluiszen, Sebastiaan Overeem, Jan G. Ramaekers, Annemiek Vermeeren, Gert Jan Lammers

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Patients with narcolepsy or idiopathic hypersomnia (IH) are at increased risk of driving accidents. Both excessive daytime sleepiness, i.e. unwanted sleep episodes during the day, and disturbed vigilance are core features of these disorders. We tested on-the-road driving performance of patients with narcolepsy or IH coming in for a routine driving fitness evaluation and examined: (1) correlations between driving performance and the Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT), Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART) and Psychomotor Vigilance Test (PVT) as objective tests; (2) the predictive power of the MWT and SART for increased risk of impaired driving; (3) the best set of objective predictors for increased risk of impaired driving. Participants were 44 patients (aged 18-75 years) with narcolepsy type 1 (NT1), type 2 (NT2) or IH. They completed the MWT, SART, PVT, a subjective sleepiness questionnaire, and a standardised on-the-road driving test. The standard deviation of the lateral position (SDLP) was used as outcome measure of driving performance. The MWT had low correlation with the SDLP (ρ = -0.41 to -0.49, p < 0.01). The SART and PVT had low correlations with SDLP (ρ = 0.30 and ρ = 0.39, respectively, both p < 0.05). The predictive power of MWT for an increased risk of impaired driving was significant, but low (area under the curve = 0.273, p = 0.012), and non-significant for SART. We conclude that in our present group, none of the tests had adequate ability to predict impaired driving, questioning their use for clinical driving fitness evaluation in narcolepsy and IH. Real-time monitoring of sleepiness while driving seems more promising in these patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13518
JournalJournal of Sleep Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • fitness to drive
  • Hypersomnolence
  • sleepiness
  • traffic injury prevention
  • Idiopathic Hypersomnia/diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Narcolepsy/diagnosis
  • Wakefulness/physiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence/diagnosis
  • Sleepiness


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