Most professional chauffeurs love what they do and enjoy being behind the wheel. But driving is a complex skill, and the ability to drive safely can be affected by changes in a driver’s physical, emotional and mental health. One very common condition that affects many drivers is sleep apnea, a disorder that can be a dangerous threat to health and safety.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million American adults have sleep apnea. It is a condition in which breathing is interrupted during sleep, resulting in a decrease in the oxygen level in the blood. The body reacts by partially, and sometimes completely, awakening every time breathing stops. This can occur
literally hundreds of times during the course of an eight-hour sleep, making it impossible to get the necessary deep sleep everyone needs to wake fully rested. Untreated
sleep apnea can cause fatigue, poor reaction times, difficulty concentrating and, for drivers, the risk of falling asleep at the wheel. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, drivers who are fatigued are involved in at least twice as many accidents as those who are not.
What Are The Risks?
Chronic and severe snoring is the most common sign of sleep apnea and, while many more men than women are affected, women can also develop the disorder. Being overweight, age, smoking and alcohol use are major risk factors for sleep apnea. Those affected can suffer from depression, irritability and learning and memory difficulties. Left untreated, symptoms can escalate to high blood pressure, heart attack, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia and stroke.
Diagnoses And Available Treatments
If you suspect you have sleep apnea, you should see a doctor. You may be a candidate for a sleep study, one of the most common methods of diagnosing the condition. It requires an overnight stay at a sleep center to monitor your sleep state, eye movement, muscle activity, heart rate, respiratory effort, airflow and blood oxygen levels. Depending on the severity of the diagnosis, treatment can include the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, which is a mask that fits over the nose and/or mouth and gently blows air into the airways to help keep it open during sleep. There are other appliances available, and your doctor will be able to tell you which one is the best for you. You can help yourself by keeping your weight down, avoiding alcohol and quitting smoking. These factors can be very effective in reducing sleep apnea.