Untreated Sleep Apnea Makes Truck Drivers 5 Times As Likely To Crash

You probably know that things like alcohol, vision problems and texting are all risk factors for traffic accidents. But what about the seemingly innocuous condition of sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic disorder in which a person experiences pauses in breathing during the night, leading to poor sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness. It affects at least 25 million adults in the U.S., including more than 20 percent of commercial truck drivers, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The daytime sleepiness caused by OSA can make for dangerously fatigued drivers. Drowsy driving (from numerous causes, including OSA) is a factor in 328,000 crashes each year.

Drowsy truck driving, in particular, has been linked to a number of deadly accidents, like the infamous crash that injured Tracy Morgan in 2014 when a truck driver who had been up for 28 hours collided with Morgan’s limousine.

New findings from the Harvard School of Public Health reveal that sleep apnea among truck drivers is a major public health issue. In a study released this week, which looked at over 3,600 truck drivers, researchers found that drivers with untreated sleep apnea were five times as likely to get into preventable crashes as drivers without the condition.

“We were directly responding to the lack of data about sleep apnea directly related to commercial drivers,” Stefanos Kales, an author of the study, told The Huffington Post. “Regulating sleep apnea in commercial drivers has been surprisingly controversial, but we hope this data makes the risks clear.”

The study compared drivers with obstructive sleep apnea to drivers without the condition, from 2006 to 2010. Among the drivers with OSA, some were treating it with a pressurized-air device called APAP, and some left it untreated. —> Read More