Although similar responses to sleep loss are seen in testing performed by both a driving simulator and by real open-road driving, simulated driving produces slower average reaction times, higher self-reported sleepiness scores, and a higher number of inappropriate line crossings than in the real driving condition.
The study results are published in the December 1 issue of the journal Sleep.
The authors suggest that these variances may be due to lower levels of both visual stimulation and potential danger in the simulator.
The cross-over study involved 12 healthy men between 19 and 24 years of age who on four separate days drove for 12 hours: in the driving simulator after normal sleep of eight hours and after restricted sleep of only two hours, and on an open French highway after normal sleep and after restricted sleep.
“Reaction time and self-evaluation of sleepiness are more affected in a simulated environment,” the authors write.
“The observations seem to suggest that a simulator of the type used in the present study will produce results that may not be generalized to real-life driving.”
Sleep is the official journal of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. Go online to www.journalsleep.org.