Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)

Driving and 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.

Once you are being successfully treated for OSA, you’ll be able to drive safely again as long as you follow the advice below.

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.

Informing the DVLA

You must stop driving and tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if you’re diagnosed with OSA and feel sleepy during the day.

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
  • You’ll usually get a decision from DVLA within six weeks about your safety to drive

Car or motorcycle driving licence holders

If you drive a car, you must stop driving until your symptoms are under control.

If you show your treatment is effective and your symptoms are under control, your licence should not be affected.

Bus, coach or lorry driving licence holders

The same applies to bus, coach and lorry drivers, but in addition you will be assessed regularly, usually every year, by a sleep specialist.

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Last medically reviewed: May 2016. Due for review: May 2019

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.