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Truckers and Sleep Apnea

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Quick Facts

What do commercial truck drivers and sleep apnea disorder have in common? Unfortunately, a lot. This may seem to be a rather odd combination but the increasing amount of trucking deaths and accidents each year is absolutely alarming. Mainly because the majority are un-reported and, more or less, unregulated.

Dr. Charles Czeisler of Harvard University Medical School says sleep apnea gets a lot less attention than other factors in deadly accidents involving tractor-trailers, but accounts for one in five crashes. Sleep apnea-the absence of breathing when sleeping-ultimately leads to prolonged fatigue, drowsiness and interrupted sleep. With an estimated 85 percent of cases gone undiagnosed, the results can be devastating. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator, the number of Americans who died in commercial truck crashes grew slightly to about 4,000 in 2011.

“I would argue that fatigue as a casual factor in truck-involved crashes is underreported, not over-reported,” said Don Osterberg, vice president for Safety for Schneider National Trucking. “Absent the commercial driver acknowledging that he or she fell asleep, law enforcement doesn’t record the crash as fatigue-related.”

What is also disturbing is when properly diagnosed, commercial drivers can very easily be treated to avoid this disorder but what is typically found is truckers are fearful of losing their jobs and the high cost of medical testing and prescriptions. (source: “Sleep Apnea: Hidden Cause of Wrecks” www.charlotteobserver.com

Dr. Michael J. Breus, a Clinical Psychologist Board Certified Sleep Specialist and self-titled, “The Sleep Doctor” recently submitted a piece for the Huffington Post, “Treatment for OSA is pretty straightforward. There's no magic pill, but there's the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine, or CPAP. This device, which forces the airway to stay open so breathing is possible, is the best we have right now for treating sleep apnea. Sleep becomes much more restful and solid; it also quiets the snoring that frequently accompanies that apnea. People who sleep with a snorer often rejoice, as data shows that sleeping with a snorer can steal about 1 hour of sleep. CPAP has others ways of saving lives; Because people who carry extra weight are more prone to OSA, it often helps to drop a few pounds. (I know, easier said than done.) Sometimes, just eliminating the weight factor can cure OSA. I don't dare suggest that the cliche rings true about truck drivers, but in a brief study conducted by the American Dietary Association back in 2007, 86 percent of the truck drivers surveyed were overweight, with more than half tipping the obese scale.”

If diagnosed with sleep apnea, Contour Products has a full line of comfort products designed to make CPAP Therapy easier and more effective for truckers - even on the road. This is especially true for long-haul truckers who use CPAP Therapy in their truck cabs.

Here are some surprising statistics from sleep4safety.com

  • “Drivers with untreated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, are one of the most dangerous threats out on our roads.
  • Driver fatigue is responsible for an estimated 100,000 motor vehicle accidents and 1,500 deaths each year.
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates the cost of drowsy driving is $12.4 billion per year.
  • Drivers suffering from untreated sleep apnea are at 6 times the risk for motor vehicle accidents.
  • Situational Performance (SA) of a person with untreated sleep apnea is similar to that of a person with a .06 - .08 Blood Alcohol Content level. Over 28% of truck drivers have sleep apnea.
  • 71% of a trucking company's injury/fatal crash costs are attributed to drivers with untreated sleep apnea.

Dr. Breus quotes “But for anyone -- trucker or not -- who has been diagnosed with OSA, seeking treatment can result in measurable results that go far beyond monetary rewards. There's something to be said for an enhanced quality of life. A better night's sleep. A more vibrant sex life. A stronger heart. An easier time controlling weight. And yes, all those things are related to an OSA-free life.

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