A recent article by The Columbian reignited the discussion about sleep apnea and truck drivers.
Since this is such an important issue for truck driver health, Class A Drivers wanted to make sure our audience knew the warning signs of sleep apnea and what to do.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Have you ever woken up before at least seven hours have passed? Do you find yourself taking micro naps during the day? Does your spouse complain about your loud snoring? If you answered yes to any of these, there’s a chance you may have sleep apnea.
In general, the disorder occurs when a person has trouble breathing in their sleep. The windpipe can close on itself and prevent the sleeper from taking their next breath – sometimes for up to 10 seconds.
Sleep apnea can also cause shallow breathing and loud snoring or gasping.
Without an adequate supply of oxygen reaching the brain during sleep, this disorder can include the following adverse symptoms:
- Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
- Vision Issues
- Hazy Alertness
- Micro Naps
- High Blood Pressure
- Lapses in Memory
If these symptoms go untreated, the long-term effects include heart problems or even death. These symptoms can have catastrophic results if a trucker ignores or refuses to treat their sleep apnea.
Truck Drivers Are High Risk for Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder. Men, women, and children can be afflicted. People who smoke, drink often, or are overweight are at increased risks.
Because of the sedentary lifestyle of a truck driver and the difficulty finding healthy meals on the road, truck drivers may find themselves at a specifically high risk of sleep apnea. And this endangers their well-being.
According to research conducted by the University of Minnesota Morris, truckers that do not treat their sleep apnea are 5 times as likely to crash.
When asked, Stephen Burks, lead author of the study, said, “To put our findings in context, if we look at 1,000 truck drivers each working for a year, the drivers with obstructive sleep apnea who refuse mandated treatment would have 70 preventable serious truck crashes, compared to 14 crashes experienced by both a control group and by drivers with sleep apnea who adhered to treatment”.
How Should Truck Drivers Identify Sleep Apnea
First, truck drivers should see their physician or make an appointment with a sleep specialist. Drivers can then go through a sleep test to test for apnea.
This is a relatively easy test that involves monitoring your vital signs while you are asleep. Sometimes you just need to stick a couple of tubes inside your nose and wear a pulse detector on your finger, and you can take the test in the comfort of your own bed when you go to sleep.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, modern treatment is both very easy and a bit of a hassle.
The most effective way to treat sleep apnea is to get a CPAP machine. This device, called a controlled positive airway pressure (CPAP), keeps you breathing. The CPAP provides continuous pressure with a constant flow of air, which keeps your airways open.
This is done by passing air from a machine through a tube and into a mask, which covers your nose or both your nose and mouth. While wearing a mask every night may be a hassle, it’s nothing compared to the constant drowsiness and long-term health problems that come with sleep apnea. And as a truck driver, keeping up with your sleep apnea treatment is also a safety consideration for the drivers you share the road with.
By most accounts, sleep apnea sufferers notice a difference overnight. For example, Bob Stanton, trucker in Chicago, was quoted by The Columbian reporting that “It was like night and day,” in regards to the difference in how he felt after sleeping.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, be sure to speak with your doctor about sleep apnea. This is an important step for your health, and you shouldn’t experience any downtime away from trucking.