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What Commercial Drivers Should Know About Their Sleep Apnea Risk

One of the most notable side effects of obstructive sleep apnea is that it greatly increases daytime drowsiness. When your airways close off during the night, the lack of oxygen forces your body to wake up to restart the breathing process. Most people don’t even realize that they woke up during the night, but they will feel tired the next day due to the interruptions that kept them from getting a deep sleep.

Those who don’t receive treatment from sleep apnea are more likely to fall asleep during everyday activities. While this isn’t a big concern while watching TV, excess fatigue could also cause you to fall asleep while at work or on the road. Such accidents could easily turn deadly.

A new study puts the risk that commercial drivers face from obstructive sleep apnea in even greater perspective, highlighting the need for CPAP treatment.

High Risk For Obstructive Sleep Apnea Among Commercial Drivers

semi truck

Study findings were recently presented by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, in which roughly 20,000 drivers were screened using the STOP-Bang method. This testing methodology evaluated driver symptoms and risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea, such as snoring, body mass index, neck circumference, age, and observed snoring and apnea.

The screening revealed that 49 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers are at risk for obstructive sleep apnea. Based on the findings, researchers believe that potentially over 30 percent of commercial drivers on the road have either diagnosed or undiagnosed sleep apnea.

The risk for developing obstructive sleep apnea is believed to stem from other challenges associated with long-haul driving. Long hours on the road with minimal opportunities for sleep and mostly unhealthy food options make excess weight gain far more likely, which in turn increases the risk for obstructive sleep apnea.

When a driver’s sleep is consistently interrupted by sleep apnea episodes, they fail to get the quality sleep they need to drive safely the next day. Over time, the compounding effects of this fatigue makes drivers far more likely to fall asleep at the wheel, greatly increasing the risk for a serious accident.

Warning Signs of Sleep Apnea

sleeping man

Because sleep apnea poses such serious risks for commercial drivers, knowing the warning signs of this condition is of the utmost importance.

Thankfully, the STOP-Bang screening process that was used for the study provides good guidelines for your own self-assessment.

  • S — Snoring history. If you snore loudly almost every night (to the point that you can be heard through doors or your spouse complains), you may be more likely to have sleep apnea.
  • T — Tired during the day. Frequent tiredness and fatigue during the daytime is a common outcome of sleep apnea.
  • O — Observed stoppage of breathing while asleep. This is one of the most common ways someone discovers they have sleep apnea. Their spouse observes that they stop breathing, or that they wake up choking or gasping for breath.
  • P — High blood pressure. Sleep apnea and high blood pressure are interrelated, with each condition often worsening the other. Those being treated for hypertension may also have sleep apnea.
  • B — BMI. Overweight or obese individuals are more likely to have sleep apnea.
  • A — Age. The older you get, the more likely you are to develop sleep apnea.
  • N — Neck circumference. A wider neck circumference has been linked with an increased risk for obstructive sleep apnea.
  • G — Gender. Men are more likely to experience obstructive sleep apnea than women.

If you meet some or most of these criteria, there is a good chance that you are experiencing obstructive sleep apnea.

Getting Treatment

CPAP machine

If you suspect that you have obstructive sleep apnea, you should schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist. Sleep specialists can go beyond a basic screening by having you do an overnight stay at a sleep lab. Your breathing is constantly monitored while you sleep so doctors can determine if you have sleep apnea, and if so, how severe your condition is.

Sleep study results are used to prescribe CPAP therapy, which is the most common and effective form of treating sleep apnea. CPAP machines provide a steady flow of pressurized air throughout the night. This constant source of air keeps the airways from collapsing, preventing sleep apnea episodes and allowing users to enjoy uninterrupted sleep.

CPAP pressure settings are determined based on the results of your sleep study. A sleep specialist can also help you determine which type of CPAP mask is best for your needs based on factors like sleep position, breathing habits, and comfort preferences.

Though using a CPAP machine can take some getting used to, it will make all the difference for your sleep quality and energy levels.

Get Help From No Insurance Medical Supplies

Many truck drivers are considered independent contractors — and as a result, they may not have as good of insurance coverage as they would as a full-time employee at a business. Some may not have insurance coverage at all.

If these situations apply to you, getting the CPAP equipment needed to treat sleep apnea may seem like a financial impossibility — but not with No Insurance Medical Supplies on your side.

We provide discounts on CPAP machines from leading brands such as ResMed and Philips Respironics, as well as additional CPAP necessities like masks and tubing. Financing is also available on purchases over $500 so you can make affordable monthly payments.

For truck drivers, good sleep can directly affect your livelihood, your own safety, and the safety of those on the road around you. Don’t wait to get the sleep apnea therapy you need!


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