Sleep Apnea is a major problem among commercial truck drivers. Sleep Apnea is a condition in which breathing repeatedly starts and stops due to a collapsed airway. The upper throat muscles help to keep the airway open. This allows air to flow naturally into the lungs. These muscles normally relax during sleep but the throat remains open enough to let air pass. However, some people have narrow throats that may completely close during sleep. This causes brief pauses in breathing that can last at least 10 seconds or more and can occur up to 400 times each night. Individuals can momentarily wake up with a loud snore, a snort or even a choking sound which can cause breathing to resume. Sleep apnea is an ongoing condition which usually results in poor sleep quality for those that suffer with it. Sleep apnea is potentially a very serious sleep disorder that often goes unrecognized and undiagnosed and negatively affects the overall health of truck drivers.
There are three types of sleep apnea:
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form which occurs when throat muscles relax. This is caused by the airways becoming narrowed or blocked. Oxygen levels are lowered during this obstruction. When your brain senses this inability to breathe your body will briefly awake so that normal breathing can resume.
Central sleep apnea is rare and occurs when the brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. This often causes individuals to wake up with shortness of breath. These individuals often have difficulty going back to sleep.
Complex sleep apnea is a combination of both central and obstructive sleep apnea. This means that your airways could become narrowed or blocked and your brain could also fail to send the proper signals to the muscles which control breathing.
Symptoms which may be indicative of sleep apnea include loud snoring, restless sleep, daytime sleepiness, snorting, forgetfulness, long pauses in breathing, waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat,frequent nighttime urination, morning headaches, insomnia, irritability, depression, mood swings, inability to concentrate and choking or gasping during sleep.
It is important to point out that these although these symptoms may be indicative of sleep apnea, they could also be indicative of anxiety and stress so it is important to get an accurate diagnosis. Help with anxiety for truck drivers is available to drivers which are stressed. If it is sleep apnea it should be treated because if left untreated it can cause you to get a poor nights sleep. If sleep apnea regularly occurs you will experience daytime sleepiness, slow reflexes and poor concentration. This can lead to an increased risk of being in accidents. Sleep apnea can also lead to serious health problems. This can include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and weight gain. Treatment has helped many be able to control the symptoms and get good quality sleep which will allow them to wake up refreshed each day.
Sleep Apnea was initially treated by performing a tracheostomy which is the process of cutting a hole in the neck to insert a breathing tube. Although this was the recommended treatment prior to the invention of the CPAP machine it was also dangerous. Tracheostomy had many side effects including fatal infections. Some lives were saved, but many other lives were lost.
The most common method of treating sleep apnea today is by using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. The CPAP machine was invented in l981 by Colin Sullivan in Sydney, Australia. CPAC machines are used to insure healthy breathing and to alleviate associated symptoms. Many people have problems with CPAP machines because of problems with the mask and may have to try different masks to find a comfortable fit.
Adjustable airway pressures devices are another option if CPAP is a problem for you. Units are available which supply bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP). These are designed to provide more pressure when you inhale and less when you exhale.
Surgery offers another option for treating sleep apnea. Different surgery techniques are available which remove excess tissue from your nose or throat that may be vibrating and causing you to snore, or that may be blocking your upper air passages thus causing sleep apnea.
These techniques are often used in combination with lifestyle changes. Some of the lifestyle changes include improving overall truck driver’s health. This includes eating a healthy trucker’s diet and treating conditions such as losing weight if you are overweight or quitting smoking if you smoke. Truck drivers should take time to exercise several times each week. There are a variety of exercises for truck drivers. There are also many types of portable exercise equipment that can be kept in the truck and available for a workout. Truck drivers could also consider using a variety of natural remedies for sleep apnea. In addition to this medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease should be treated.
Sleep apnea is more common in people who are overweight. Many truck drivers are overweight or obese due to poor eating habits and a lack of exercise. Truck drivers should take time to exercise several times each week. There are a variety of exercises for truck drivers. There are also many types of portable exercise equipment that can be kept in the truck and available for a workout. Truck drivers also have irregular sleep patterns due to irregular work schedules. Truck drivers with sleep apnea can be dangerous while on the road because it leads to daytime drowsiness which can potentially be fatal for both truck drivers and others on the road.