What Is Sleep Apnea? Why Is It So Dangerous For Truckers?

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that prevents people from breathing properly while they sleep. It can happen to anyone at any age, but is more prevalent in obese males and females that are above 40 years old.

When left unchecked and untreated, victims stop breathing for anywhere between a few seconds to a few minutes. The implications of this are that the victims end up having their sleep interrupted by the need to wake up and breathe, and the brain gets inadequate oxygen, the results of which can be catastrophic. There are two types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
  • Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

Obstructive sleep apnea is quite common among truckers and has is a primary reason behind many truck crashes and accidents on the highway. With between 2.3 million and 4 million truck drivers expected to have anything from mild sleep apnea to severe sleep apnea, it is no wonder that there are valid and grave concerns about the role sleep apnea plays in the health of truckers.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Apart from the interrupted sleep patterns and the lack of oxygen, other symptoms of sleep apnea include high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, obesity, severe ADHD, heart attacks, depression, inability to concentrate, morning headaches or migraines, irritability, and dry mouth/ sore throat on awakening.

Is Snoring the Same Thing as Sleep Apnea?

Snoring alone is not necessarily a symptom of sleep apnea. Terribly loud snoring, however, with interrupted or seized breaths is a definite sign of sleep apnea. If your snoring is deafening and is audible from down the hallway, chances are that your body is struggling to get some air into it, which means you are suffering from sleep apnea.

The Dangers of Sleep Apnea to Truckers

Recent stats have shown that about 7% to 21% of all truckers suffer mild to severe sleep apnea. More accurately, a study by the Federal Motor Carrier safety Administration estimates that three out of every ten truckers suffer from sleep apnea.

Moreover, the underlying theme among all these truckers is that most, if not all, are obese or rapidly approaching obesity. This was observed during a study carried out by Harvard researchers. So, it is important for all truckers to do everything in their power to keep their weight in check.

Drivers who suffer prolonged sleep apnea are more likely to develop some associated medical conditions that will further worsen their ability to drive safely on the road. Apart from that, the lack of sleep during the night makes them extremely dangerous on the road as they could sleep off behind the wheels; the result of which can be catastrophic multi-car pileup along the highways.

While mandatory sleep apnea testing is not mandated for truckers yet, there are lawmakers who are pushing for the passage or the reality of such policies as they believe that it’ll help make the roads less dangerous for other road users.

What Can Truckers Do?

First, ensure that you have sleep apnea by seeing your doctor. If you often have one or more of the symptoms outlined above, chances are that you have mild to severe OSA. If that is the case, you need to get some treatment.

Then, change your lifestyle habits. Research and multiple studies have shown that drivers who suffer some OSA tend to have neck sizes of 16+ inches, have high blood pressure, tend to feel intensely fatigued, tend to fall asleep behind the wheels and are usually obese.

As you can see, most of these are directly or indirectly tied to an unhealthy lifestyle of smoking, drinking, eating loads of junk foods and sitting on your butt all day long. Drivers need to start eating healthy, exercise some more, lose weight, stop smoking and drink more water.

While all these may not necessarily get rid of the symptoms completely, it will eliminate them to a significant degree and could potentially resolve the health conditions completely. So, if you have OSA, get some help quickly.


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The writer, Oscar King, is an experienced trucker who has dealt with sleep apnea in the past, and knows what a struggle it can be. After correcting the condition, he was able to get his DOT physical certification reinstated, and found his doctor by going to You can learn more about Oscar by going to Google+.

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