Age-related effect of sleepiness on driving performance: a systematic-review

Serena Scarpelli, Valentina Alfonsi, Maurizio Gorgoni, Milena Camaioni, Anna Maria Giannini, Luigi De Gennaro

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Several studies highlighted that sleepiness affects driving abilities. In particular, road traffic injuries due to excessive daytime sleepiness are about 10%–20%. Considering that aging is related to substantial sleep changes and the number of older adults with driving license is increasing, the current review aims to summarize recent studies on this issue. Further, we intend to provide insights for future research. Methods: From the 717 records screened, ten articles were selected and systematically reviewed. Results: Among the selected articles, (a) five studies investigated sleepiness only by self-reported standardized measures; (b) two studies assessed sleepiness also using a behavioral task; (c) three studies obtained objective measures by electroencephalographic recordings. Conclusions: The available literature on the topic reports several limitations. Overall, many findings converge in evidencing that older drivers are less vulnerable to sleep loss and sleepiness-related driving impairments than young adults. These discrepancies in sleepiness vulnerability between age groups may be ascribed to differences in subjects’ lifestyles. Moreover, it has been hypothesized that older adults self-regulate their driving and avoid specific dangerous situations. We believe that an easy protocol to objectively evaluate the vigilance level in elderly and young adults is required, and further studies are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1090
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Aging
  • Driving
  • Drowsiness
  • EEG
  • Older adults
  • Sleepiness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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