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“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.”

– Dr. Nathaniel Watson, President, American Academy of Sleep Medicine

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You’d be forgiven for thinking that sleep apnea only affects the person whose sleep is disturbed at night. But if that person is a commercial truck driver, who logs many miles behind the wheel, and whose safe operation of a big rig over long distances requires a good night’s rest, then you realize that sleep apnea affects everyone.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder that affects millions of Americans. According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep apnea causes a person to experience pauses in breathing, often many times per hour. These pauses cause the sleeper to “wake up” a bit, perhaps not fully awake, but enough to disturb sleep. Those who have sleep apnea tend to be fatigued during the day.

This is an obvious problem when it comes to driving a big rig.

Study Published in the Journal Sleep

CBS News reports that there is a high crash risk in truckers who go untreated. Researchers looked at roughly 1,600 truckers with sleep apnea and a control group of truckers who did not have the disorder.

Truckers with sleep apnea were given CPAP therapy (continuous positive airway pressure therapy), which keeps the airways open during the night. Those who maintained their treatment with the CPAP machine were involved in crashes at roughly the same rate as the control group.

But those who did not maintain their treatment were “much more likely” to get into a serious accident.