Driving is dangerous. From fender benders to multi-car freeway pile ups, there is always an element of danger on the road. And a good portion of these kinds of accidents happen because drivers are not alert and aware of the drivers around them—and drowsiness is a big part of the problem. An estimated 1 in 25 drivers over the age of 18 have reported having fallen asleep while driving in the last 30 days alone, and The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving is responsible for up to 6,000 fatal car crashes each year. While these statistics are a sobering reality, those who suffer from sleep apnea are at heightened risk of being involved in sleep-related automobile accidents.
Sleep Apnea Sufferers Are At High Risk
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is one of the leading causes of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS) in the United States. But many of those who suffer from the disorder—an estimated 80%—may not even be aware they have it. While it’s a very treatable condition, it can only be treated once it is diagnosed, putting many people at risk even if they think they’re getting the recommended eight hours a night. In fact, the results of a recent study found that patients with sleep apnea were almost 2.5 times more likely to be the driver in a car accident when compared with a control group of drivers in the normal population.
When you suffer from sleep apnea, the amount of time you’re spending asleep is compromised by breathing difficulties that result from apnea events, or blockages in your respiratory system. The condition prevents you from getting the proper air you need to remain in a deep sleep, also known as REM sleep. The average adult experiences up to 5 apnea events per hour, but anything over 5 an hour is cause for alarm.
Drowsy Driving is Dangerous Driving
The problematic lack of restorative, restful sleep associated with sleep apnea results in dangerous driving, decreased focus on the road, slowed reaction times, and poor decision making skills. All of these problems threaten you on the road every time you choose to drive drowsy, even if you’re not fully aware of your own sleep deprivation.
Fatigue prevents you from properly anticipating the behaviors of pedestrians and drivers around you, and makes you more prone to distractions like conversations, music, or even your own thoughts. Not to mention that slowed reaction times make you less able to avoid accidents in both metropolitan and residential areas. All of these risks can be summed up by the ultimate risk of exercising poor decision-making skills on the road—as well as poor decisions made before getting behind the wheel.
Luckily, sleep apnea is a very manageable disorder when paired with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or Automatic positive airway pressure (AutoPAP) treatment. However, you will only have access to these kinds of treatments once you’ve been diagnosed. Because CPAP and similar devices are listed as Class II medical devices, they are controlled and only given out with a prescription because you will need specialized pressure settings based on your severity of sleep apnea. Secondarily, prescriptions allow you to qualify for insurance to cover the cost of the equipment as well as ongoing equipment maintenance.
Getting Tested at Home
There are two standard methods for having yourself tested for sleep apnea: in-lab studies and at-home sleep tests. An at home sleep test is a great option available to those who may be suspicious that the sleep they’re getting is not optimal or who suspect that they may be suffering from sleep apnea. In-lab sleep studies are known to be pricey, awkward, and generally uncomfortable. If you are suspicious that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, a home sleep test is the best option to get some real answers and help protect yourself and others on the road.
With ApneaMed, home sleep tests are extremely easy to use and are typically faster than in-lab studies. Whereas you may have to wait weeks to get sleep lab results, ApneaMed has their board-certified sleep physicians analyze your results quickly, so you can get the treatment you need to start sleeping better, sooner. Once your results are in, one of our patient care representatives will contact you to review your treatment options and suggestions. This includes what kind of machine may best treat your sleep apnea as well as specific pressure settings for your level of severity.
Drowsiness and fatigue are central concerns when anyone gets behind the wheel, but what about those who depend on driving for their livelihood? While the effects of drowsy driving are a serious danger for the average driver, these risks are amplified for truckers and other CDL drivers responsible for hauling large vehicles across the highway. It’s been proven that truckers are at an increased risk for sleep apnea, and the nature of their work makes getting good quality sleep a necessity for their own safety and the safety of others on the road.
Because of the overwhelming prevalence of sleep apnea in the general population, ApneaMed offers home sleep test partner programs for medical offices and trucking companies who work with those who need to pass a medical examination in order to qualify for or renew a CDL. It is not necessary for you to treat CDL drivers exclusively to enter a partnership with ApneaMed. We partner with doctors offices, dental practices, medical examiners, and trucking companies to bring easy at home sleep testing to the people who need it most.
ApneaMed strongly believes that our partnership programs help businesses and doctors do the best by their workers and patients respectively. There are a few different partner program options that allow you to sign up for a plan that you believe would best serve your individual needs. If you aren’t sure which partnership program option is best for you and your organization, feel free to contact us directly to help determine which program best suits you.
Let’s make the road safer by getting sleep apnea sufferers the treatment they need today.