Background Sleep apnoea can result in traffic accidents, and the British Lung Foundation's (BLF) “Snoring and Sleep Apnoea” and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency's (DVLA) “Think! Tiredness can kill” leaflets are commonly used to inform patients about this. We wished to assess the impact of such knowledge on the general understanding and motivation of patients undergoing formal assessment for sleep apnoea in a sleep clinic.
Methods In a prospective survey, patients were provided with the above leaflets when they underwent the sleep study, and completed a structured questionnaire when attending the results clinic several weeks later.
Results 125 consecutive patients (92 male) with a mean (SD) age of 51 (14) years, BMI of 33.6 (6.9) and Epworth Sleepiness Scale of 10 (6) completed the questionnaire. 51 (41%) were eventually diagnosed with significant obstructive sleep apnoea/hypopnoea syndrome (OSAHS) requiring referral for continuous positive airway pressure therapy. 105 patients (84%) read the BLF leaflet and 91 (87%) assumed they understood about sleep apnoea from it. 28 (27%) believed they had sleep apnoea, 26 (25%) believed they did not, while the remainder (48%) were unsure. Although 28 (27%) became more worried about themselves, 56 (53%) were more keen to undertake the tests but 5 (5%) were not. 92 participants (74%) were current drivers and 84 (91%) read the DVLA leaflet. Only 10 of these (12%) thought they might have a disorder that could impact on their driving abilities although 38 (45%) were concerned they might not be allowed to drive in future. However, only 4 (5%) were discouraged to undertake the tests because of this. Overall, most patients (80%) found these leaflets informative and easy to understand.
Conclusions These leaflets appear to improve patients' understanding of OSAHS and its implications, particularly regarding driving. Although they can engender concern and anxiety among some, the majority of patients felt motivated to undertake the tests. Improving the level of patient education and awareness through such leaflets may positively influence their involvement in overall management, potentially improving compliance and outcomes in the long term.