How Obstructive Sleep Apnea Affects Truck Driver Performance

It is common knowledge that truck driving is a dangerous career with a high risk of accidents. Be that as it may, truck drivers suffering with sleep apnea are at an even greater risk of being involved in accidents. Recent studies have shown that truck drivers are at high-risk for sleep disorders including sleep apnea. Approximately 30% of truck drivers in the United States suffer with mild to severe sleep apnea.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has indicated that insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic. CDC recommends monitoring of sleep quality, sleep duration, disorders and behaviors in order to show its health impact on Americans. This is a major concern for those in the transportation industry including truck drivers. This is because sleep disturbances compromises mood, performance and alertness which can result in a drivers inability to pay attention to their surroundings including road conditions. This increases the risk of accidents which often result in death or injuries. Over 100,000 vehicular accidents and 1,500 deaths annually are caused by sleep deprivation.

Sleep Apnea and CPAP

Obstructive sleep apnea is (OSA) is a condition where your breathing stops for short periods of time when you are asleep. It is characterized by pauses or decreases during breathing while you are asleep as a result of the airway being narrowed, blocked, or floppy whereby the muscles have become too relaxed. While it is normal for throat muscles to relax like all other muscles when we are asleep if you have OSA, the throat muscles are too relaxed and floppy during sleep which results in a narrowing or a complete blockage of the airway.

Obstructive sleep apnea causes a person to stop breathing on and off throughout the night. This causes the driver to wake up without having a good night’s sleep. This disrupted sleep leads to daytime sleepiness which increases the risk of accidents. Excessive daytime sleepiness is one of the key symptoms of OSA. Truck drivers with OSA typically wake up exhausted as opposed to being rested.

Insufficient sleep results in sustained wakefulness. This results in a condition similar to alcohol intoxication which causes an impairment of diver performance. Truck drivers which drive with untreated sleep apnea are impaired in their abilities as it is equivalent to driving with a 0.5 to 0.8 blood alcohol level. A 0.5 equivalent blood alcohol level can result from up to 15 hours of sustained wakefulness. Some drivers have benefited with the use of natural methods to treat sleep apnea.

Truck drivers are tested for sleep apnea. Testing involves a sleep study which can be done in a sleep lab. A sleep study can also be done as a home sleep test based upon the physicians judgement. In this case a driver can wear a portable testing device overnight and download it to their physician the next day. A sleep test can be a good indicator of whether one has sleep apnea.It is very important that testing be done so that the driver can receive the best device to treat their sleep apnea.

The information on this page and other health information pages on this site are for general information only. This information  is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for medical advice.. We suggest that you review the information and consult with your own health practitioner for specific information and suggestions concerning your specific health needs.