• By Vivien Williams

Sleepy Truckers: How Sleep Apnea May Impact Safety

March 21, 2016

trucks on asphalt highway in a rural landscape at sunset

Truck drivers who don't stick to their sleep apnea treatments have a five times greater risk of serious, preventable crashes. That's according to a new study from the University of Minnesota Morris published in the journal Sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. The condition is associated with many health issues, including daytime sleepiness. Study authors estimate that up to 20 percent of large truck crashes are due to drowsiness behind the wheel. They say commercial truck drivers should be screened regularly for sleep apnea, and, if they have it, they should be required to treat it to continue driving.

Dr. Clayton Cowl, chair of Preventive, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine at Mayo Clinic, published an earlier study that found sleep apnea to be a serious issue for commercial drivers. He says, "This new study confirms what we already know: that the health of truck drivers impacts safety. By nature of their profession, many truckers live a sedentary lifestyle, which produces a downstream effect. They are at risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea, high blood pressure, diabetes, congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension. Health care providers should be aware of this when commercial truckers go in for exams to make sure the drivers are properly screened and treated. Then we'll see a decrease of accidents on the road."

Dr. Cowl believes all drivers - not just truckers - should take steps to stay safe and alert on the roads. And, if they have OSA or other health issues that impact safety, they should see their health care provider to address them.

Watch Dr. Cowl discuss obstructive sleep apnea and truckers.
Journalists: Broadcast-quality video sound bites with Dr. Cowl are in the downloads. B-roll of trucks traveling on the highway is also in the downloads.

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