Sleep Apnea: One Pathway to Drowsy Driving

NOTE: This article is part of a series investigating the definition of “impaired driving” as it occurs in society, traffic safety and driver safety professional networks.

Drowsy driving, sometimes called fatigued driving, has long been suspected of a great number of crashes.  Over the past several decades, greater study into the causes and effective treatments for sleep apnea have been completed, and now there is great emphasis on diagnosing and treating sleep apnea.

At Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s own website there are resources available, and a great overview of the problem:

“Sleep apnea is a major contributor to daytime drowsiness—a condition that could prove deadly for commercial truck drivers and everyone sharing the road with them. It is a condition where, during sleep, a narrowing or closure of the upper airway causes repeated sleep disturbances leading to poor sleep quality and excessive daytime sleepiness. Since excessive sleepiness can impact a driver’s ability to safely operate the commercial vehicle, it is important that drivers with sleep apnea are aware of the warning signs.”

At this site (click here) you’ll find resources tailored towards drivers, the industry at large and even tools like quizzes to test knowledge and awareness levels.

Statistics from the American Sleep Apnea Association report that sleep apnea affects 1 in 4 men and 1 in 9 women in the United States—accounting for an estimated 22 million individuals—with 80% of moderate and severe sleep apnea cases still undiagnosed.

Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to a myriad of serious health consequences, including increased mortality and an increased incidence of hypertension, stroke, heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiac rhythm problems, type 2 diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux disease, nocturnal angina, hypothyroidism, or neurocognitive difficulties.(1-7) In addition, individuals with untreated sleep apnea are 10 times more likely to die from a motor vehicle accident compared with the general population because of impaired driving performance.(8-9)

Whether your fleet of vehicles and drivers are regulated or not, sleep apnea is a significant wellness factor that can affect more than just motor vehicle crash rates.  Take time to learn more about this issue and consider how you might share this information with your drivers.

Web sites that provide a more thorough review of sleep apnea conditions and treatment options exist.  You may want to conduct further research at:

Notes:

  1. What is sleep apnea? National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sleepapnea/. Accessed May 23, 2012.
  2. George C. Sleep apnea, alertness, and motor vehicle crashes. Amer J Resp Crit Care Med. 2007;176:954-956.
  3. Obstructive sleep apnea. American Society of Anesthesiologists website. http://www.lifelinetomodernmedicine.com/Anesthesia-Topics/Obstructive-Sleep-Apnea.aspx. Accessed May 23, 2012.
  4. Yaggi HK, Concato J, Kernan, WN, et al. Obstructive sleep apnea as a risk factor for stroke and death. N Engl J Med. 2005;353(19):2034-2041.
  5. Obstructive sleep apnea. Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals Online Edition. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pulmonary_disorders/sleep_apnea/obstructive_sleep_apnea.html. Accessed May 23, 2012.
  6. Lin CM, Huang YS, Guilleminault C. Pharmacotherapy of obstructive sleep apnea. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2012;13(6):841-857.
  7. Marin JM, Agusti A, Villar I, et al. Association between treated and untreated obstructive sleep apnea and the risk of hypertension. JAMA. 2012;307(20):2169-2176.
  8. George C. Sleep apnea, alertness, and motor vehicle crashes. Amer J Resp Crit Care Med. 2007;176:954-956.
  9. Obstructive sleep apnea. American Society of Anesthesiologists website. http://www.lifelinetomodernmedicine.com/Anesthesia-Topics/Obstructive-Sleep-Apnea.aspx. Accessed May 23, 2012.
  10. http://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2012/December2012/Obstructive-Sleep-Apnea-An-Important-Wake-Up-Call
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s