Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)

Can I drive if I have obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)?

If you have OSA, you can be very sleepy so your ability to drive safely is affected.

If you’re sleepy, you’re less alert and react more slowly, your judgment and vision are affected and you can’t concentrate as well. Your mood might be altered too and you may become more aggressive behind the wheel. These problems increase if you’re driving at night.

Driving with OSA

Your doctor will suggest you stop driving if you’re so sleepy that it’s likely to have an adverse effect on your driving – whatever the reason.

If your job means you have to drive, you might be able to get assessed and treated more quickly. Many sleep clinics provide a fast-track service for people who drive for a living so your work is disrupted as little as possible.

When must I tell the DVLA?

You must tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if you’re diagnosed with OSA and feel excessively sleepy when you drive.

DVLA gives this advice:

  • You must tell DVLA if you hold a current driving licence of any type
  • You can tell DVLA by email or by downloading an SL1 form at gov.uk
  • You can also tell DVLA by post, fax, or phone
  • A third-party notification will only be accepted in writing and must be signed by the letter writer
  • Include your full name, address and date of birth
  • DVLA will send you an SL1 form so you can give details about your OSA. It also enables you to provide consent for DVLA medical advisers to ask the doctor who is looking after your sleep problem for information
  • It may take the DVLA some time to complete its enquiries. In the meantime you should speak to your doctor or specialist about driving

When can I drive again?

Once car or motorcycle driving licence holders are being successfully treated for OSA, they will be able to drive safely again. This may be reviewed every 3 years by a sleep specialist. This also applies to bus, coach or lorry driving licence holders. But these drivers will be assessed more regularly, usually every year, by a sleep specialist.

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Download our OSA information (PDF, 175KB)

Last medically reviewed: March 2019. Due for review: December 2020

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.