While reviewing a series of rules and regulations can be confusing, the short answer is no, sleep apnea testing is not mandatory in order to pass the mandatory medical examination required for CDL testing. While there is no overarching law that mandates sleep apnea testing for a CDL, you will want to check and make sure that any company you drive for doesn’t have their own, more stringent sleep apnea testing requirements.
What Does The Law Say?
While there is no clear law that mandates sleep apnea testing for CDL, you must pass a medical examination that states you are healthy enough to drive without risk of accident or injury. Ultimately, it is up to your medical examiner whether or not you are at risk for sleep apnea.
If the examiner determines you are at risk for potentially suffering from sleep apnea, they can insist that you receive sleep apnea testing in order to resume regular CDL work. If you are applying for your CDL, then you must undergo testing and, if positive, secure regular treatment before driving.
If you already have a CDL and the examiner wants you to get tested, then you can have your CDL suspended until you seek a diagnosis and possibly treatment for the condition.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a fairly common and easily treatable condition where your body obstructs your airway during sleep, pulling you out of the deep sleep, or REM, cycle. For normal adults, it’s common to stop breathing up to 5 times per hour. Mild sleep apnea reports 5 to 15 breathing anomalies per hour, and severe apnea means you can stop breathing 30 or more times per hour.
Many times, sleep apnea can be brought on by weight gain or having a large, thick neck. When your body relaxes during sleep, the muscles in your chest, neck, and head relax and can sag, obstructing your airway and messing up your normal breathing. While you may not even notice you are waking up several times a night, sleep apnea can result in more than just regular daytime fatigue.
If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to severe medical problems like Type 2 diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, heart attack, heart disease, and even certain kinds of cancer.
How Do I Get Tested for Sleep Apnea?
If your examiner or trucking company mandates sleep apnea testing, you have a couple options. First, you could undergo an in-lab sleep study at a sleep clinic or hospital. Second, you could take an at-home sleep test.
While in-lab tests are helpful for those who may suffer from more complex sleep disorders like insomnia or narcolepsy, sleep apnea is much more easily diagnosed and managed. Not to mention in-lab testing can be extremely awkward, uncomfortable, and expensive.
At-home sleep tests are fairly simple. You sign up with a home sleep testing provider who then sends you a sleep testing kit complete with instructions on how to use it properly. You wear the device for one full night of sleep, and then send it back to your provider for analysis.
If you found a certified and reliable provider, your results will be read by a board-certified sleep physician who can give you a clear diagnosis.
What Happens to My CDL if I Have Sleep Apnea?
Nothing! Well, nothing happens so long as you seek appropriate treatment for your sleep apnea. If you are diagnosed and refuse treatment, then you can be denied a CDL by either the medical examiner or your employer.
However, sleep apnea is an easily treatable condition and many truck and other CDL drivers are able to perform their jobs perfectly regardless of the severity of their sleep apnea. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea and your medical examiner reports that you are managing your condition, then you can regain your current CDL status.
Sleep apnea has many potential treatments depending on your specific case. Some opt for dental appliances or surgery, but the most common and effective sleep apnea treatment is the nightly use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or an automatic positive airway pressure (AutoPAP) machine. Simply wear the mask while you sleep to prevent airway obstruction and start getting deep, restorative sleep so you can be alert and aware on the roads.