Driving a truck or any other type of vehicle has its risks. But when you drive on the road near a truck, the risks of a fatal accident are very real.
That’s because 28% of commercial truck drivers suffer from mild to severe sleep apnea. This high rate is according to a study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Yet this rate could be higher since most drivers do not know they have sleep apnea. And their doctors often do not diagnose them with the disorder.
In a landmark study Sleep Journal published in March, 2016, scientists at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health made a big discovery. They found drivers who fail to get treatment for sleep apnea have a fivefold increased risk to cause a preventable crash. A crash that could kill other drivers and their children. Think about that for a minute.
Stefanos Kales, senior author of the study, said “It’s estimated that up to 20% of all large truck crashes are due to drowsy or fatigued driving, which would account for almost 9,000 fatalities and up to 220,000 serious injuries.”
One such truck driver - 59-year John Ray Carpenter from Minnesota - faces up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine for charges of vehicular homicide of a 31-year-old man driving a pickup truck in October 2015. 4 Carpenter said he had "blacked out." He also stated "he has spells every-once-in-a-while that cause him to think his eyes are open when they are not."
The U.S. Department of Transportation declared Carpenter "medically unqualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle" because of a condition (sleep apnea) that causes him to "fall asleep or lose consciousness while driving."
You May Have Sleep Apnea and Not Know It
Truck drivers are at a high risk for sleep apnea. But anyone can have the sleep disorder and not know it. Here’s why.
Sleep apnea is a disorder in which your breathing pauses or you breathe in oxygen with shallow breaths when you are asleep. 5 So you are unaware these repeated stops and starts of breathing is happening. This can occur between one and over one hundred times per hour. Sometimes the pauses can last for a few seconds. Other times the pauses can last for several minutes.
Your airway – which involves your nose, mouth, throat and windpipe – may narrow or close. This in turn reduces or prevents the amount of oxygen that enters your body. And it lowers your blood oxygen levels. When this happens, your brain disrupts your sleep to allow you to breathe again.
But these disruptions affect both the quantity and quality of sleep. Plus, they also affect your sleepiness during the daytime. In fact, sleep apnea is the most common cause of daytime sleepiness.
Biggest Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea
Two major factors impact the prevalence of sleep apnea.1 Age and degree of obesity. As your age increases, so does the risk of sleep apnea. As you increase your weight, you also increase your risk of sleep apnea.
But there’s also one more vital factors of risk. That is the number of hours of sleep you have over consecutive nights.
As you decrease the number of hours of sleep, you increase your risk of sleep apnea. Waking up early causes you to abruptly stop your sleep. This in turn causes increased risk of daytime sleepiness. The key here is daytime performance of truck drivers depends not only on the severity of sleep apnea, but also on the average amount of sleep duration.
Surprisingly, self-reported sleepiness is NOT a good indicator of sleep apnea. But there is an easy way to find out if you have sleep apnea.
An Easy, Low Cost Solution to Sleep Apnea
With effective treatment, you can reverse the risk of sleep apnea. The key is to find out if you have sleep apnea. Plus, to learn what if any risk factors you have for its development.
In the recent past, you’d have to go to a sleep laboratory to get tested overnight. But thanks to a new innovative technology and service by VirtuOx, you can take a simple test at home while you sleep in your own bed. With just a sensor on your finger, nose and a small device on a belt around your chest, VirtuOx can tell if you have sleep apnea.
VirtuOx sends the home sleep testing device to your door. It comes with complete instructions and a toll-free technical support line 24/7, if you should need it. After you wake up the next day, you just ship it back in the pre-paid priority mail envelope. Then in three days, your doctor will get the report of your results. It’s that easy.
Plus, its low cost. In fact, it’s between 10% to 33% of the cost of an in-lab study. So you can save money with added convenience.
There are two ways you can get the test. One is through your doctor. The other is by a doctor over the phone.
Mandatory Testing of Truck Drivers
The risk of truck drivers with sleep apnea also extends to liability risk for fleet owners. 6 The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires a motor carrier to not permit a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle if he or she has sleep apnea. So it makes sense that every fleet owner to require yearly sleep apnea tests for all of its drivers. Those drivers who are found to have sleep apnea could get treated and then drive.
“Mandating screening, diagnosis, and treatment would reduce large truck and bus accidents, and therefore deaths and injuries among the motoring public.” Kales said.
One effective way to screen is through a Berlin questionnaire.
VirtuOx is the leader in home sleep tests and pulse oximetry.
Click the link below to get more information plus to receive a FREE Report…