What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea, also called sleep apnea syndrome, is a disorder that causes you to stop breathing during sleep. It affects up to 18 million Americans of all ages, and 80% of those people are undiagnosed. Should you suspect you have sleep apnea, it’s important to consult with your doctor right away for a proper diagnosis so you can begin the best treatment plan.

Sleep Apnea and Professional Truck Drivers

For Professional Truck Drivers, untreated sleep apnea has been shown to impact focus, slower reaction times, and may also contribute to daily headaches. One study paid for by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) stated that almost 28% of Professional Truck Drivers have mild to severe sleep apnea. These Professional Truck Drivers with sleep apnea are at least five times more likely to be in a wreck, costing the Trucking Industry over $15.9 billion a year, and also risking lives. Sleep apnea causes a lack of blood flow to the brain, and this lack of oxygen can cause Professional Truck Drivers the same level of drowsiness as that of the legal blood alcohol limit according to studies. 

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

If you have sleep apnea, you are more likely to have one or more of these common symptoms: Tiredness during daytime hours, as more than half of people with sleep apnea, feel sleepy during normal waking hours. Snoring loudly enough to wake others up, as this can be a sign that you’re breathing shallowly while asleep. Feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep because your breathing was cut off so many times throughout the night. Lastly, morning headaches are a symptom.

Causes of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea, which makes up about 90 percent of cases, occurs when soft tissue in your throat collapses or becomes weak. A few other key reasons that lead to sleep apnea are enlarged tonsils, a large tongue, excess weight around your neck and throat area, and any obstructions in your airway. Other factors include smoking, being overweight or obese, age over 50 years old, excessive alcohol use, allergies, and nasal congestion. In rare cases, it can be caused by throat or mouth injuries from abuse or trauma. In adults over 65 years of age, it’s considered a normal part of aging. Some rare conditions can also block your airway when you sleep. For example, a tumor might press on your neck and throat. In some cases, it’s caused by an endocrine disorder such as Cushing’s syndrome. Your neck anatomy also plays a role: People who are overweight or obese usually develop obstructive sleep apnea because excess fat around their neck softens and narrows their airways. In addition, men tend to have larger necks than women and face a higher risk of developing sleep apnea.

Consequences of Sleep Apnea

People with obstructive sleep apnea have frequent episodes of complete or partial upper airway obstruction during sleep. This interrupts normal breathing and oxygen delivery to vital organs, which can lead to cardiovascular complications such as heart attack and stroke. In addition, it has been linked to depression, obesity, and memory problems. If left untreated, sleep apnea could lead to more serious health issues. In particular, those who have been diagnosed with moderate to severe sleep apnea report: excessive tiredness during waking hours; insomnia; frequent headaches; restless legs and limb movements; and snoring. Additionally, research has shown that people with untreated sleep apnea experience increased levels of high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar (hyperglycemia), which can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Treatments for Sleep Apnea

While CPAP are considered to be among the most effective treatments for sleep apnea, other options exist. Some people who don’t use a machine during sleep have found relief through oral appliances that reposition their lower jaw forward or mandibular devices that stabilize their tongue or cheekbones. Other patients are cured simply by losing weight.

For Professional Truck Drivers who suffer from sleep apnea, a travel CPAP machine may be a great option. Studies show that the use of a CPAP mask and machine can reduce work-related problems associated with sleep apnea, and the use of one can also result in savings on medical costs, reduction in accidents, and an increase in productivity. Many trucking companies recommend utilizing travel CPAP machines, especially for long-haul truck drivers who have obstructive sleep apnea. Travel CPAP machines are light in weight and portable, saving space, and still delivering powerful therapy while on the road.

Final Thoughts

At Fr8 World Logi$tix we recognize the most valuable asset of the Trucking Industry is not trucks, freight, etc, but our Professional Truck Drivers. With that said, we want each one of you to be healthy and enjoy a good quality of life. No one should suffer from sleep apnea, as there are lifestyle changes that can prevent this illness, i.e. eating healthier, exercising, drinking less sweet beverages, weight loss, etc. To learn more about Sleep Apnea contact NORD (American Sleep Apnea Association) at www.rarediseases.org or ASAA American Sleep Apnea Association at www.sleepapnea.org

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