Sleep apnea is an issue that affects 1 out of 3 truck drivers. Truck drivers who drive tired may be unaware of how much their lack of sleep affects their driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attributes 2.2% of all driving accident fatalities to drowsy driving. While there is not a law in place that requires truck drivers to get testing for sleep apnea. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, keep reading below to learn more about sleep apnea and how it can affects truck drivers.
What is Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that causes you to have pauses in your breathing or take shallow breaths during sleep. It is an extremely common issue that affects millions of people in the United States. If you snore loudly during the night or still feel tired after a full night’s rest, you might have sleep apnea.
According to Mayo Clinic, the main types of sleep apnea are:
- Obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax.
- Central sleep apnea, which occurs when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome, also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, occurs when someone has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
According to the Sleep Foundation, all three types of sleep apnea share certain common symptoms:
- Disrupted breathing in which a person’s respiration can become labored or even stop for up to a minute at a time
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Morning headaches
- Limited attention span or difficulty thinking clearly
- Many of these symptoms arise because of poor sleep and decreased oxygen levels that occur as a result of interrupted breathing.
- Some additional symptoms are connected to obstructive sleep apnea:
- Snoring, including snoring that is especially loud and involves gasping, choking, or snorting that may cause a person to briefly wake up
- Morning sore throat or dry mouth
- Frequent need to wake up to urinate
Causes and Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea occurs when the airway becomes blocked while sleeping. The following are some common causes of an increase in airway blockage:
- Being overweight
- Sedative medication
- Family history of sleep apnea
- Smoking cigarettes
- Sleeping on your back
- Nasal congestion
If you suspect you have sleep apnea, reach out to your doctor to get a treatment plan going. Avoiding treating your sleep apnea can result in losing the ability to operate a CMV.
Most often, treatment plans will require you to have a CPAP machine in your truck. The CPAP machine helps pump oxygen to you while you sleep. In addition to using the CPAP machine, your doctor may recommend exercising, losing weight, or using different oral appliances that help hold open your airways.
As a truck driver, it’s crucial to take care of yourself. Because trucking is such a difficult and demanding job, at times it can be challenging to take care of your health. Sleep apnea is a real issue in the trucking industry. We encourage all drivers to be aware of the symptoms and to get help if they suspect they have sleep apnea.