Sleep Apnea and its effect on truck drivers

May 25 2021

There are more than 80 different sleep disorders and sleep apnea is one of them. It’s a sleep disorder that affects around 4% of the general population but affects as much as 35% of truckers. According to the FMCSA, 3 out of 10 truck drivers are affected by this sleep disorder. 

What is Sleep Apnea 

‘Apnea’ is Ancient Greek meaning ‘without breath’. Said with other words, it’s a disorder that causes pauses in breathing during sleep and prevents you from getting restorative, healthy sleep on a regular basis. This leads to fatigue and drowsiness during the day and increases the chance that a driver can fall asleep behind the wheel and cause an accident. 

There are three types of Sleep Apnea:

  1. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) is when a person’s brain does not send the proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
  2. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is when a person’s throat muscles relax as they sleep and collapse, blocking the airway.
  3. Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome (CSAS) is a combination of CSA and OSA.

Read more about the different types of this sleeping disorder here

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

  • Loud snoring
  • Morning headaches and nausea
  • Gasping or choking while sleeping
  • Loss of sex drive/impotence
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Irritability and/or feelings of depression
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Concentration and memory problems
  • Frequent nighttime urination

How to treat Sleep Apnea

 If you have these symptoms and believe you might have sleep apnea, you better talk to a sleep specialist about getting diagnostics. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, there are several ways of treatment

A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) – This is the most common remedy although not many people can get used to it because it’s blowing air into their face and find it hard to breathe. It’s a machine that delivers air pressure through a mask placed over your nose and/or mouth while you sleep. On another hand, it has been shown to be the best non-surgical method for sleep apnea treatment. It decreases daytime drowsiness and reduces the risk of heart failure. 

Oral Appliances– A device that you put in your mouth before going to sleep that is designed to help hold your airways open.

Tennis Balls- Some people simply sew a tennis ball on the back of their shirt. This stops them from sleeping on their back and prevents snoring. Snoring is a form of sleep disorder caused by disrupted breathing

More severe treatments include surgery or implants, although the most common way to relieve sleep apnea is to lose weight. Losing weight will lower your BMI, and improve your overall health.

If you are diagnosed with a sleeping disorder it doesn’t mean you are going out of service. There are lots of ways to lessen your symptoms. Read more safety tips for a professional truck driver.