Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder in which a person’s breathing is interrupted, sometimes repeatedly, during sleep. The interruption deprives the brain and other parts of the body of oxygen and it results in poor sleep quality.

If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to a host of other health problems that include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, and depression. It may also be responsible for poor performance in daily activities, like work. And the extreme daytime sleepiness it causes has been known to result in motor vehicle crashes.

A Concern for Safety

A study by the University of Pennsylvania  sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that 28 percent of commercial truck drivers have sleep apnea. Needless to say, sleep apnea can be potentially dangerous to these drivers and everyone else on the road.

In 2014, there were 846 deaths attributable to driver fatigue. Since sleep apnea affects daytime alertness and performance, regulators and carriers are looking toward requiring sleep apnea testing.

Why Are Truck Drivers Prone to Sleep Apnea?

It’s estimated that four percent of men and two percent of women in the general population have some form of sleep apnea, and yet 28 percent of truck drivers are afflicted. The risk factors for developing sleep apnea are:

  • Male
  • Obesity
  • Over 40 years old
  • Large neck circumference
  • Smoking

In other words, truck drivers historically have fallen into these categories.

Driving involves extended periods of sitting passively. Lack of physical activity can lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Lifestyle behaviors like smoking and fast-food diets are common among truck drivers. Irregular sleeping schedules often result in sleep deprivation. Essentially, driving for a living is an incubator for the development of sleep apnea. All of these unhealthy factors put truck drivers at greater risk for drowsy driving and accidents.

What Can Truck Drivers Do to Help Themselves?

With the driver shortages and high turnover in the trucking industry, companies must keep as many of their drivers on the road as possible. If a routine examination uncovers a sleep apnea condition, that driver will likely be relieved from driving until the testing is completed and a treatment program is implemented.

Some carriers are providing sleep apnea testing as part of their wellness programs, and drivers who are proactive to undergo testing have limited their downtime. Once diagnosed, sleep apnea can be treated with lifestyle changes and CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), which keeps the driver’s airflow consistent and regular during sleep. Sleep apnea testing and treatment can help ensure improved road safety for everyone.

For more advice on helping keeping your driving team as safe and as healthy as possible, contact a staffing expert at Contracted Drivers Services today.