Sleep apnea is a condition in which the sleeper experiences obstructed airways repeatedly during sleep. Some people may have obstructive sleep apnea, in which blockages in the upper airway reduce or stop airflow. Others may have central sleep apnea, in which the brain stops sending signals for the need to breathe. Sleep apnea suffers may experience interrupted sleep and feel more tired during the day.
As someone whose career relies on the ability to safely operate heavy equipment, it is clear how sleep apnea could be dangerous. Sleep interruptions due to this condition could make a commercial driver unfit to be behind the wheel. Studies on the rate of sleep apnea among truck drivers shows disturbing trends and correlations that could put lives at risk. Get the facts on sleep apnea and commercial trucking here.
3 Risk Factors for Developing Sleep Apnea
Although anyone could develop obstructive sleep apnea, certain factors can increase the likelihood of getting this condition. Some have to do with age, while others relate to lifestyle. Your chances of developing sleep apnea increase if you have a family history of this condition or of snoring, a large neck circumference, large tonsils, and a small lower jaw. The following, however, are three of the most prevalent risk factors:
- Men are up to three times more likely than women to develop sleep apnea, according to the Mayo Clinic. Central sleep apnea is more frequent in men than women. However, women may increase their risk if they are obese.
- Being overweight has one of the most significant correlations with sleep apnea. Obesity impacts sleep apnea by constructing one’s airways with extra fatty deposits around the neck. Obesity can obstruct breathing while a person tries to sleep.
- Middle-age. Sleep apnea is more common in middle-aged and older adults than younger people. As sleepers age and develop conditions such as congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, the need to take sedatives, the risk of sleep apnea increases.
All three of these risk factors are prevalent amongst employees in commercial truck driving. The trucking industry today is mostly male, with the number of female workers driving trucks hovering only around 4-6%. Obesity is more common in truckers than other types of workers (69% vs. 31%, respectively), due to long hours sitting and having to settle for unhealthy meals on the road. Most truck drivers are middle-aged as well, with millennials statistically reluctant to join the trade. Thus, the most common factors in truck driving and sleep apnea are one in the same.
The Dangers of Sleep Apnea in Truckers
The rate of sleep apnea in truckers puts everyone on the road in danger. It’s a common enough problem that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the organization in charge of commercial trucking safety, has a page dedicated to the condition. Although President Trump recently canceled the requirement for sleep apnea screening in truck drivers, it is still a serious safety risk of which everyone should be aware.
As a truck driver, learn how to recognize the symptoms of sleep apnea and seek help if you believe you have this condition. You can manage sleep apnea and avoid drowsy driving. As a driver, pay attention when driving around truckers in Texas. Signs of a drowsy driver include drifting between lanes, coming to sudden stops, and driving off the road.
Keep your distance from commercial trucks and call the police to report the vehicle if you see signs of erratic truck driving behaviors. If you get into an accident with a trucker who has sleep apnea, the company could be liable for your damages. Contact a lawyer for more information.