Whenever the issue of driver fatigue comes up in trucking circles, sleep apnea is often on the agenda. Researchers have reported that nearly 30 percent of commercial truck drivers have some degree of sleep apnea. Meanwhile, nearly 5 percent of truckers have a severe case of the disorder.
To educate truckers and motor carriers about sleep apnea, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has dedicated a section of its website to the disorder. FMCSA’s Spotlight on Sleep Apnea includes a variety of information and resources developed by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). In addition to information on diagnosis and treatment of the condition, the site includes a poster, fact sheet and quiz that carriers can use to educate their drivers. The site also includes a Sleep Diary that anyone can use to help identify factors that may be contributing to sleep problems.
Left untreated sleep apnea puts an individual at greater risk for a variety of serious medical conditions, including high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. In addition, the repeated sleep disturbances caused by the disorder often result excessive daytime sleepiness – a major risk factor for motor vehicle accidents. As such commercial motor vehicle drivers diagnosed with moderate to severe sleep apnea are considered medically unqualified until they have been successfully treated for the disorder.
Sleep apnea is often successfully treated through lifestyle changes, medical treatment or a combination of the two approaches. Lifestyle changes shown to reduce sleep apnea problems include weight loss, avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills, quitting smoking and sleeping on your side or stomach. Common medical treatments include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices, oral appliances and surgery.