Truckers With Untreated Sleep Apnea Have Much Higher Crash Riskby Jana Ritter - Published: 3/21/2016
Sleep apnea is back in the news with a new study revealing that truck drivers with the condition who don't follow their regular treatment program are five times more likely to crash and are a public safety threat on U.S. roadways.
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It is the largest study of sleep apnea and crash risk among commercial motor vehicle drivers. The study involved 1613 truck drivers with obstructive sleep apnea and the same amount of control drivers who were matched by job experience and tenure with the trucking firm. The drivers diagnosed with sleep apnea were prescribed positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy and given an auto-adjusting machine that could be used both at home and in the truck sleeper berth while on the road. The objective treatment adherence data were downloaded from the PAP machine's internal memory chip for researchers to analyze. According to the findings, the rate of serious, preventable crashes was five times higher among truck drivers with sleep apnea who failed to use PAP therapy, compared with equivalent control drivers. However, the crash rate of drivers with sleep apnea who regularly used the treatment was similar to the control drivers.
"The most surprising result of our study is the strength and robustness of the increase in the crash risk for drivers with sleep apnea who fail to adhere to mandated treatment with positive airway pressure therapy," explains Stephen V. Burks, PhD, professor of economics and management and principal investigator of the Truckers & Turnover Project at the University of Minnesota, Morris. "The results of our study support the establishment of obstructive sleep apnea screening standards for all drivers through the commercial driver's medical exam."
"This study emphasizes that untreated obstructive sleep apnea is a pervasive threat to transportation safety," adds American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Nathaniel Watson. "It is critical for transportation companies to implement comprehensive sleep apnea screening and treatment programs to ensure that truck drivers stay awake at the wheel," he added.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder affecting at least 25 million adults in the U.S. The most common frequent warning sign for sleep apnea is excessive daytime sleepiness, which can manifest as drowsy driving. The first-line treatment option for obstructive sleep apnea is PAP therapy, which helps keep the airway open by providing a stream of air through a mask that is worn during sleep.