Sleep Apnea Is A Real Concern Among Us All
One of the most serious medical conditions that truck drivers can face is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can be a dangerous health condition to attend with as a truck driver. Not only is the driver at risk, but the general public as well. Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that disrupts a person‘s breathing when they are asleep.
People that have a mild form of this condition can stop breathing in their sleep several times a night and folks with a severe form of it can stop breathing a couple hundred times. This shorts the brain oxygen and the body is not getting enough rest because that person never reaches “rem” sleep.
While this sleep apnea guide is geared to all drivers, the same facts go for the common Joe. Sleep apnea can affect us all. Understanding how sleep apnea works, how to deal with it and how to treat it can end up saving your life, driver or not.
Types of Sleep Apnea
There are two main types of sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
This is the most common form of sleep apnea. This is caused when the airways are blocked usually by some soft tissue in the back of the throat. This tissue can collapse while a person is sleeping causing the blockage. Most people that have obstructive sleep apnea are overweight or have a high bmi. However, some people just have loose skin in their airways from bad genetics.
Central Sleep Apnea
There is no blockage in a person’s airway. Instead the brain is unable to signal the muscles in the body to instruct them to breathe. This is due with some problems with the respiratory system.
Effects of Sleep Apnea if it is Untreated
There are a number of negative effects that sleep apnea can have on a person’s health if it is left untreated. Sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure. This can put a person at an increased risk of having a stroke. A person can also be at risk for heart failure. This is due to the irregular beating of the heart. A person is also at an increased risk of having a heart attack. A person is also at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Untreated, sleep apnea puts a person at risk for depression and headaches. Those that have ADHD will notice that their symptoms are worse if they also have sleep apnea. A truck driver is also at risk for a decrease in their driving performance and an increased risk for getting into an accident. At night the body did not have a chance to recover which leads to increased feelings of tiredness as well as decrease in attention.
How Sleep Apnea Affects Driving
Sleep apnea can affect the ability to stay away, focus, and reaction time. Truck drivers are already pushed to their limits sometimes and sleep apnea can make driving unsafe. It is even possible to fall asleep while driving. According to the FMCSA a person can still driver with sleep apnea but for truck drivers they may not be able to operate their trucks. The FMCSA states that if a person is not medically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle due to sleep apnea they may lose their commercial license. If a truck driver seeks treatment for this medical conditions and once they are cleared by a doctor they can regain their medically qualified to drive status. In most cases sleep apnea can be treated by a medical professional. Each states does have its own laws and regulations for driving with sleep apnea but is all states it is considered to be medically unsafe.
If a truck driver shows any signs that they are suffering from sleep apnea they can not longer operate a commercial vehicle. It is a serious safety issues. A truck driver must seek medical treatment from a doctor. They should not be driving if this condition is left untreated. They are putting themselves and innocent people at risk for an accident. If a driver is able to complete treatment and comply with treatment they can return to work.
Those at Risk for Sleep Apnea
There are some factors that put a person at risk for developing sleep apnea. Males are more likely to develop this condition than females. Those that are overweight are also at a great risk. People over the age of 40 are more likely to develop this condition. If a person has large tonsils, a large tongue, and a small jawbone they are more likely to have trouble sleeping. Those with a family history of sleep apnea are at an increased risk. Gastroesophagal reflex condition also increases the risk for developing this condition. Those that have nasal obstructions due to a deviated septum, sinus issues, or allergies are at a great risk for sleep apnea.
If a truck driver experiences some of these warnings signs they should go to a doctor and get tested for sleep apnea. Some of these signs include loud snoring. Another sign is chocking or gasping for air while sleeping. If a person wakes up with a bad headache in the morning or nausea it may be a sign of sleep apnea. If a person suddenly has a decreased in their sex drive or sudden impotence it may be time to visit a doctor. If a truck driver is excessively tired during the daytime or other hours they would typically be alert they may have sleep apnea. When a person is not sleeping they often get irritable. Sudden irritability and increased feelings of depression can be warnings signs of sleep apnea. If a person cannot get a good night’s sleep they should visit a doctor. This includes disturbed sleep and waking up several times during the time. If a person is noticing problems with their memory and a lack of ability to concentrate this may be a sign of sleep apnea. Many people wake up once during the night to urinate . This is not uncommon. If a person is waking up frequently at night with the urge to urinate this may be a sign of sleep apnea.
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
When a person goes to the doctor they may be sent to a sleep center for testing. Here sleep with be monitored. A person may have to spend the night at the center to determine if they are suffering from sleep apnea. They should also be honest with the doctor about their family and medical history as well as the symptoms they are experiencing.
Sleep Apnea Treatments
Treatments may vary a little by the patient. If a person is having moderate or severe sleep apnea they will often have a more intensive treatment than a person suffering from slight sleep apnea. A doctor may recommend continuous positive airway pressure. This treatment is also known as CPAP. This is where a mask is worn over the nose and the mouth when a person is sleeping. The mask is attacked to a machine that will deliver constant air flow to the nose. This will allow a person to have a regular breathing pattern when they are sleeping. This is one of the most common forms of treatment.
A dental device can also be used to keep the airways open when a person is sleeping. It is specially designed for each person by a dentist that specializes in sleep apnea treatments.
There are some things that a person can do to reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea on their own. If they are overweight losing weight can help reduce the symptoms. Sleeping pills and alcohol should be avoided. A person can try sleeping in a different position to improve their breathing. Smoking causes the upper airways to swelling. Quitting smoking can reduce this swelling and allow a person to improve their breathing when they are sleeping.
If these treatments are not effective a person can have surgery to reduce a deviated septum. They can also have some of the soft tissues removed from their throat. This will increase the width of the airway allowing a person to breathe easier. They can have surgery to correct any oral or facial problems that may be causing sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition for truck drivers. They need to have this sleeping condition treated right away so they are not a safety threat to others on the road. Sleep apnea should be treated so the truck driver can once again operate with safety in mind.