Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a serious condition that affects men and women alike. This sleep disorder is familiar to anyone who has shared a bed with a partner who snores heavily and stops breathing at night. Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs when a person’s airway collapses, preventing much needed oxygen from reaching the lungs. Persons with severe sleep apnea may stop breathing up to 400 times in a night’s sleep causing the blood oxygen level to drop to dangerously low levels.
Several key factors contribute to a person’s risk of Obstructive Sleep Apnea. One of the leading indicators of a person’s risk of sleep apnea is the size of the person’s neck. Other factors include their age, a family history of OSA, the shape of their face and whether or not they use alcohol or smoke.
OSA can lead to high blood pressure, morning headaches, moodiness and depression. In addition, Obstructive Sleep Apnea places a person at risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Perhaps most concerning for Indiana drivers who share the roads with drivers of large trucks, is the reality that people with sleep apnea can experience extreme daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
Of even more concern, the Department of Transportation reports that as many as 23% of all truck drivers might be at risk of having sleep apnea and the many side-effects associated with this disorder. This means that nearly a quarter of all truck drivers on Indiana highways may have a hard time staying awake when they are behind the wheel.
This concern is confirmed by the The Large Truck Crash Causation Study. This study reports that 13% of all serious or fatal truck accidents on American highways were caused by truck driver fatigue. This is especially troubling when one considers that Sleep Apnea is easily treated with a portable device called a CPAP machine (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). The machine opens the wearer’s airway with pressurized air. It allows the sleeper to have a better night’s sleep and a continuous flow of oxygen to the body. This consistent oxygenation increases alertness during the day, reduces stress on the body, and may actually result in a loss of weight, decrease in blood pressure and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Many states have determined that sleep apnea is a disqualifying condition for truck drivers, meaning that the diagnosis of this sleep disorder could prevent a driver from renewing their permit to drive. The more severe the disease (the more times a person stops breathing throughout the night), the more at risk a driver will be for dangerous driving. If a truck driver has severe OSA, a medical professional must determine the driver’s fitness for his or her job. Treating the disease is the first step to better health for the driver and safer roads for everyone else.
Indiana personal injury attorneys encourage all truck drivers who experience daytime sleepiness to talk with their doctor concerning a possible diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea.
The Indiana truck accident lawyers at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson Kennedy LLP represent victims of truck accidents across Indiana. If you have been injured in an accident, speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer at our firm.