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RESEARCH AND BRIEFINGS

Obstructive Sleep Apnea - A Dangerous Road for Drivers

 


What is OSA?

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition which is characterized by pauses or gaps in the breathing due to a partial blockage or closure of the upper airway during sleep. This causes repeated sleep disturbances and possible complete awakenings. When asleep, the person’s back throat muscles relax, causing repeated stops and starts in breathing. It sometimes reduces oxygen levels and can be accompanied by loud snoring. The Mayo Clinic calls sleep apnea a “potentially serious sleep disorder” because people stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, often for a minute or longer and as many as hundreds of times during a single night. It leads to poor sleep quality and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Background

According to medical research, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) has caused crashes (with the risk being increased twofold to sevenfold)1 resulting in thousands of deaths and injuries each year.2,3 Large truck crashes tend to be severe because of the size, weight, and speed of these vehicles4. OSA is causing some general drivers and commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators to fall asleep at the wheel or to suffer from lack of alertness because of sleep deprivation. In many instances, sleep apnea is undiagnosed and untreated. Not only may OSA increase the risk of a driver being involved in a crash, but it also increases the possibility of that individual having significant health problems such as high blood pressure (hypertension), heart attacks, stroke, and mood disorders.