How Sleep Apnea Leads to Trucking Accidents

How Sleep Apnea Leads to Trucking Accidents

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)  is an equal opportunity offender––it doesn't matter your age, gender, weight, or ethnic background, anyone can suffer from sleep apnea. But, while demographics don’t guarantee you will or won’t get sleep apnea, there are some factors that can increase your likelihood. 

For example, men more frequently suffer from OSA than women. Those who are overweight are more likely to develop OSA because of the pressure on the respiratory system. And, of all professions, truck drivers are more likely than any other to develop this sleep disorder. In fact, it’s been proven that truckers are 11X more likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea which can have very damaging and unsafe side effects. 

When Truckers Are At Risk of OSA

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common sleep disorder among truckers. OSA is marked by a closing or blocking of the airways during sleep. When this happens, the body takes measures to open the airways that can include coughing, choking, or “waking up” even though the sufferer may never fully, consciously wake up. 

When these apnea events occur, they interrupt the normal sleep cycle that allows you to wake up rested and alert. Not only that, but the few seconds of interrupted breathing starves your brain of oxygen and contributes to other health concerns like hypertension and heart disease. Ultimately, OSA compromises the amount and quality of sleep for any sufferer, truckers included. 

Even if your truckers are getting upwards of 10 hours of sleep a night, the deep sleep cycle is interrupted and they are not getting quality, restorative sleep. When the REM cycle is compromised OSA sufferers can experience excessive daytime fatigue, irritability, and drowsiness. All of these immediate side effects increase the risk of trucker accidents by an incredible 250% when compared to fully-rested drivers. 

Symptoms of OSA

If you or one of your company’s truckers believe you might be at risk for OSA, there are a few symptoms that could be telling: loud snoring, waking up gasping for air, or frequently waking up exhausted. 

Other symptoms vary but can include: 

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Type II Diabetes
  • Daily morning headaches
  • Difficulty remaining asleep through the night
  • Extreme daytime fatigue or sleepiness
  • Inattentiveness or problems focusing 
  • Brain fog
  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Short term memory problems
  • Depression
  • Self-Medication to sleep or manage headaches

Not only are all of these potential side effects of untreated OSA, more severe, long-term side effects include heart attacks, heart disease, stroke, and even certain types of cancer. 

DOT Physicals

One medical way to determine if you are at increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea is your Body Mass Index (BMI). This is part of the reason that current DOT physicals require physicians to take these numbers as part of their driver clearances.

If your neck is greater than 17-inches or 16-inches, for men and women respectively, or if your BMI calculation is >30, it’s possible your physician will order you to undergo a sleep study to determine if you have OSA. But don’t fret! There are easy, effective ways to undergo sleep testing from the comfort of your own home with a home sleep testing provider, like ApneaMed.

Home Sleep Testing & Testing Partnerships

Many believe sleep testing to be an overwhelming process, but it doesn't have to be. There are two sure-fire ways to undergo sleep testing: in a sleep lab or with home testing. Sleep lab testing can be expensive, uncomfortable, and take a long time for processing. For truckers, this isn’t a great option because many could be placed on a CDL hold until they pass or get treatment for a sleep disorder.

This is where home sleep testing becomes a great option for truck drivers. First, you get a sleep testing unit mailed to you, you get detailed instructions on using the unit for your recorded night of sleep, and you send it back the next morning. This is a quick process that allows you to undergo monitoring in your home and in your bed.

After you send your unit back to ApneaMed for testing, you’ll receive your diagnosis in 7 to 14 days as opposed to the 2 to 3 months it can take to get sleep lab results back. Make sure to talk to your trucking company’s Benefits Administrator or HR Manager about partnering with ApneaMed to include sleep testing.

If you currently work for a trucking company or manage trucking employees, you should seriously consider a partnership with ApneaMed. These are cost-effective partnerships that allow your employees to access sleep apnea home testing resources without having to delay their ability to work. Check with ApneaMed to learn more about the types of partnerships we offer and which might best meet the needs of your company and workers.

By making sure you or your employees are getting the restful sleep they need, you’re ensuring that the roads are safer for everyone on them. It’s imperative to reduce the number of traffic accidents by any means possible, so being alert and awake while driving is a great first step. If you believe you may be at risk for OSA, or you want to ensure the safety of your trucking employees, start learning more now and help us reduce these statistics today. 

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