Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by the cessation of breathing many times during sleep. With shallow breathing and breathing that repeatedly stops often hundreds of times per night, many of the body’s organs do not get enough oxygen. Those who suffer from sleep apnea often experience extreme fatigue during the day from the lack of restful sleep.
Truckers who have sleep apnea present a dangerous problem on the roads. The demands of a trucker require him/her to stay awake for long periods of time. Sleep deprivation coupled with untreated sleep apnea put drivers at serious risk for driver fatigue. A study done by the Large Truck Crash Causation Study found that fatigue is associated with 13 percent of all truck crashes annually and 28 percent of single vehicle truck crashes. Further, a recent study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and sponsored by the FMCSA and the American Trucking Association found that 28 percent of truckers suffered from sleep apnea.
Because of the growing problem of sleep apnea among truckers, legislation has passed that addresses sleep apnea testing and regulations. Although sleep apnea testing is not mandatory for all truckers, those with symptoms should consider testing. Some of the common risk factors of sleep apnea include snoring, a BMI above 30, being over 40 years old, fatigue during the day, and smoking.
To prevent fatalities and treat sleep apnea, there are simple at-home tests that can be taken to diagnose sleep apnea. It will be necessary, however, to follow-up with a medical professional to determine a treatment plan. There are also some lifestyle modifications that can help with sleep apnea. Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the biggest modifiable risk factors. Giving up smoking and alcohol is another crucial risk factor. Changing sleeping positions may also help improve breathing during sleep. Elevating the head of the bed 30-45 degrees and avoiding sleeping on your back can also make a difference in the severity of sleep apnea.