Sleep Apnea Dangers in Truck Drivers

January 24, 2021
Avatar for Kelley MingusKelley Mingus

We already know that sleep apnea is a dangerous sleep disorder, responsible for the worsening of many conditions including diabetes, depression, heart disease, certain cancers, and more. This sleep disorder is categorized as a condition where the affected person stops and restarts breathing during the night. This causes snoring and repeated waking throughout their sleep cycle. It also can cause low blood oxygen levels.

But one side effect of sleep apnea may be especially dangerous to some sleep apnea sufferers: excessive tiredness. In a recent article in Transportation Topics, the magazine discussed the dangers of long-distance truckers who suffer from sleep apnea. These dangers include a higher risk of preventable accidents, a higher risk of reported accidents, and a higher risk of moving violations.

Long-distance truckers often drive for longer shifts than the average 8-hour shifts many of us work, sitting for long periods of time. Researchers noted that many truckers do not get regular exercise, and some are overweight or obese. They also have a lack of healthy meal options at fast-food restaurants and truck stops, further contributing to weight problems.

These weight issues, combined with a sedentary lifestyle increase a truck driver’s risk of sleep apnea, especially obstructive sleep apnea.

Unfortunately, the study noted that many truckers do not realize they have sleep apnea, nor do those who suspect having it seek treatment for the disorder because they do not want to be treated for the condition with a CPAP machine.

Still, researchers in the study (which was conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute) believe long-distance truck drivers especially should be screened for sleep apnea to rule out any potential dangers.

The good news is truck drivers who do have sleep apnea no longer have to rely on the old standby CPAP machine. There are other options available for treating sleep apnea including customized sleep orthotics that position the airway open. These orthotics are generally better received because they are more comfortable and less awkward than a CPAP device.

If you are interested in learning more about sleep apnea and custom sleep orthotics, please contact Dr. Mingus for a consultation.