understand the role of sleep apnea in collisions

Sleep Apnea and Truck Drivers: A Public Health Issue with Private Consequences

Sleep disorders can have a severe impact on your physical and mental health. Good sleep is the cornerstone of mental and physical functioning, and sleep disorders can slowly chip away at your health. Sleep apnea is particularly dangerous because it’s hard to detect unless you have someone else watching out for you.

Sleep apnea is particularly risky for truck drivers, due to the demands they face every single day at work. It’s important to understand the role of sleep apnea in collisions and take action if you are hurt in a crash. To learn more about your legal options after a collision, call Bailey Javins & Carter at 800-497-0234 to set up a consultation with our Charleston truck accident attorneys.

An Overview of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is marked by short pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. Because of how it works, sleep apnea often causes heavy snoring. In fact, this is often the sign that finally sends those with sleep apnea to the doctor. There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central. 

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the throat muscles relax too much and central sleep apnea happens because the brain does not effectively remind the muscles to breathe during sleep. Among truck drivers, you’ll primarily find obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea can seriously decrease your quality of life. The low quality of sleep you get with sleep apnea can lead to mental fog, interrupted sleep, daytime sleepiness, and poor cognitive functioning.

How Sleep Apnea Affects Truck Drivers

Unfortunately, truck drivers are disproportionately affected by sleep apnea. Sleep apnea often affects those with irregular sleep patterns, minimal physical activity, and long periods spent sitting—all of which afflict truck drivers. Sleep apnea is also more common among overweight individuals, and an above-average amount of truck drivers fit into this category.

As it progresses, sleep apnea can affect truck drivers in a variety of ways. It puts an enormous strain on the cardiovascular system since the body’s oxygen levels drop every time the individual stops breathing. As a result, they may be at greater risk of heart attacks, strokes, and hypertension.

There is also a substantial body of research linking sleep apnea to metabolic syndrome, Type II diabetes, and insulin resistance. These issues can compound and worsen the already lower quality of life caused by sleep apnea.

Safety Issues

It’s no secret that sleep apnea can lead to significant safety problems on the road. Daytime sleepiness is dangerous for anyone, but it’s particularly hazardous for someone who spends ten or more hours on the road every day. Fatigued drivers are at greater risk of making unsafe decisions and failing to avoid obstacles on the road. Microsleeps, which last just a few seconds, are another possibility. Microsleeps cause thousands of accidents every single year.

Sleep apnea’s effects on other parts of a truck driver’s health can also be dangerous on the road. Imagine a driver who suffers a stroke or heart attack while behind the wheel—they will struggle to call for help or stop the truck, and anyone in their path is in danger.

Regulatory Measures

The FMCSA has strict regulations for every part of the trucking industry, and that includes truck drivers’ health. Truck drivers are now required to undergo a medical examination to ensure that they are healthy enough for the demands of this career. Medical examiners look into a variety of health measures, including risk factors for sleep apnea.

Some companies have taken it upon themselves to tackle this problem head-on. They offer or require sleep apnea screening for drivers, which allows them to put only the safest drivers on the road.

Once a driver is diagnosed with sleep apnea, they may still be able to drive. However, they must go through treatment and keep their metrics within allowable levels to be safe to drive.

Injured in a Truck Accident? Contact Bailey Javins & Carter

If you’ve been involved in a truck accident in Charleston, the team at Bailey Javins & Carter is here for you. Get in touch with us now and set up your free consultation. You can reach us at 800-497-0234 or contact us online to get started.