The Dangers of Sleep Apnea for Commercial Drivers

semi truck driving on desert highway

See why sleep apnea testing and treatment are so imperative for commercial drivers, with some additional insight into sleep apnea risks and the potential solutions available.

The Dangers of Sleep Apnea for Commercial Drivers

Commercial drivers play an essential role in keeping our economy moving, tirelessly navigating the roadways over long stretches to ensure our goods and products make it to their destination on time.

The safety of both these drivers and everyone on the road with them relies on their attentiveness and alertness behind the wheel. However, a pervasive yet often undetected health issue threatens to compromise this safety – sleep apnea.

Here, we'll delve into why sleep apnea testing and treatment are imperative for commercial drivers while shedding light on sleep apnea risks and the potential solutions available.

Understanding Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a dangerous yet often overlooked health disorder characterized by intermittent pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. This chronic condition disrupts sleep patterns and can lead to poor sleep quality and excessive daytime fatigue.

Many individuals who suffer from sleep apnea are unaware of their condition, as it predominantly manifests during sleep. Often times, a partner or family member notices the signs and encourages seeking medical attention.

The Unique Risk of Commercial Drivers

Studies show that almost 28 percent of commercial truck drivers suffer from mild to severe sleep apnea – a statistic that underscores the significance of addressing this issue within the industry.

However, commercial drivers face a unique challenge in identifying sleep apnea, as the nature of the job requires many of them to spend nights on the road alone. This means there is rarely someone nearby to help notice and call out the telltale signs of sleep apnea. This is why it’s especially important for commercial drivers to undergo sleep apnea testing – whether or not they suspect they might have it.

Risks of Untreated Sleep Apnea

Untreated sleep apnea poses a wide variety of risks, especially for commercial drivers. Sleep apnea increases the risk of:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Heart failure
  • Irregular heartbeats (known as arrhythmias)
  • Erectile dysfunction

All of these threats are significant, but perhaps most alarming is the connection between untreated sleep apnea and car accidents. Statistics indicate that commercial drivers with untreated sleep apnea are five times more likely to be involved in a crash, underscoring the urgency of addressing this issue for the safety of everyone on the road.

Regulations and Testing

The Department of Transportation (DOT) acknowledges the potential dangers of sleep apnea among commercial drivers. While sleep apnea testing isn't explicitly mandated for truck drivers, DOT medical examiners may require drivers to undergo sleep tests if they suspect the presence of sleep apnea.

Drivers are required to undergo regular medical examinations to maintain their Commercial Driver's License (CDL), during which medical examiners assess whether any medical condition, including sleep apnea, could compromise a driver's ability to operate a vehicle safely.

Treatment Options and Compliance

Fortunately, most cases of sleep apnea can be successfully treated. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy is a common and effective treatment method that significantly alleviates sleep apnea symptoms.

Most patients see immediate results from CPAP therapy, including:

  • Increased daytime energy
  • Better sleep
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Easier weight loss

CPAP therapy involves wearing a mask during sleep, which delivers a steady stream of air to keep the airways open, preventing interruptions in breathing. Drivers diagnosed with moderate to severe sleep apnea can achieve CDL sleep apnea compliance by undergoing CPAP therapy and demonstrating compliance through monitoring.

Compliance typically involves using CPAP for at least four hours per night at least 21 nights per month, as defined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Undergo Easy Home Sleep Apnea Testing with WorkSTEPS Sleep

Drivers can quickly qualify for CDL renewal by testing for sleep apnea with WorkSTEPS Sleep. Our home sleep test is not only the most advanced, but it also uses the least equipment, allowing you to test comfortably in your own bed in just one night.

Order an FDA-approved home sleep apnea test kit today to get yours with free delivery.

By acknowledging the prevalence of sleep apnea among commercial drivers and promoting sleep apnea testing and treatment, we can enhance road safety, protect lives, and ensure the continued efficiency of our transportation industry.

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Newsletter written by WorkSTEPS CMO Dr. Ben Hoffman and WorkSTEPS’ expert medical team.