Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology accumulates for decades before the onset of cognitive decline. Cognitively normal individuals with biomarker evidence of AD brain pathology (i.e. biomarker+or preclinical AD) can be differentiated from individuals without AD brain pathology based on naturalistic driving data, such as hard acceleration or braking and speeding, measured using in-vehicle dataloggers. Older adults are at increased risk of injury and death from motor vehicle crashes and driving cessation is also linked to negative health outcomes. Identifying potentially modifiable risk factors that increase driving risk may prolong safe driving in old age. Sleep apnea is associated with adverse driving behaviors across the age span. In this study, we hypothesized that high-risk driving behaviors would be associated with increased sleep apnea severity and AD pathology. We found that higher sleep apnea severity measured by a home sleep apnea test was associated with a higher incidence of adverse driving behaviors even after controlling for multiple confounders (β=0.24±0.09, p<0.01). This association was independent of AD biomarker positivity (i.e. increased t-tau/Aβ 42 ratio). Increasing age was associated with a higher likelihood of high-risk driving behaviors in individuals with AD brain pathology (β=0.12±0.04, p<0.01), but a lower likelihood in individuals without AD brain pathology (β=-0.06±0.03, p<0.05). These findings suggest that adverse driving behaviors linked to a higher rate of traffic crashes in older adults are associated with sleep apnea severity and AD pathology even in cognitively unimpaired individuals. Further studies are needed to determine if treatment of sleep apnea decreases high-risk driving behaviors and therefore motor vehicle crashes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberzsac070
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • driving
  • obstructive sleep apnea
  • older adults


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