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Study proves why truck drivers with sleep apnea must be treated

At some point or another, everyone has felt worn out and tired. The negative side effects of not getting enough sleep are well documented and include being easily distracted, feeling restless, clumsiness, making poor decisions and loss of coordination. Additionally, people who don’t get enough sleep are also at an increased risk of having high blood pressure, suffering a heart attack, being overweight and developing diabetes.

When it comes to maintaining good physical and mental health, there’s no doubt that sleep is a crucial component, however, it isn’t always lack of sleep that’s the problem. According to the National Sleep Foundation, an estimated eight million people in the U.S. suffer from a sleep disorder known as sleep apnea which, without treatment, makes it difficult to impossible to get a good night’s rest.

Experts contend that as many as 28 percent of commercial truck drivers in the U.S. suffer from sleep apnea and a recent study revealed the true public safety threat that these drivers pose. For the study, researchers at the University of Minnesota Morris reviewed the driving records of 1,600 truck drivers who had been diagnosed as suffering from the sleep disorder. These records were then compared against a group of commercial truckers who don’t have sleep apnea or were being treated for the disorder.

Based upon their analysis, researchers discovered that truckers who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, but have failed to obtain treatment are roughly five times more likely to be involved in a preventable traffic accident than drivers who either don’t have or are being treated for the disorder. The researchers’ focus on looking at preventable accidents is key as this data aligns with the known side effects of sleep apnea which include excessive daytime sleepiness and lack of concentration.

In response to growing concern about the high rate of commercial truck drivers who are suspected of suffering from sleep apnea, some trucking companies have began screening drivers for the disease. As this study shows, treatment options appear to be effective in combating many of the disorder’s negative side effects which appear to increase the likelihood of a driver causing or being involved in a traffic accident.

Source: MPR.org, “Asleep at the wheel? Study shows danger of truckers’ untreated apnea,” Lorna Benson, March 21, 2106

American Sleep Apnea Association, “Sleep Apnea,” March 24, 2016

American Academy of Sleep Medicine, “Sleep Deprivation,” March 24, 2016

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