The National Transportation Safety Board and other investigators from other agencies are citing sleep apnea as a contributing factor or even chief factor in a number of transportation truck accidents. Trucking accidents, bus accidents, train accidents, boating accidents, aviation accidents, and other accidents have all been linked to the disorder. Now, the federal government and some experts want new regulations which would screen pilots, sailors, truck drivers, bus drivers, and other operators of heavy equipment and vehicles for the disorder.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder which causes a patient to very briefly stop breathing or lose breath in his or her sleep. This can cause the patient to get inadequate rest due to interrupted sleep. Some patients have their sleep interrupted hundreds of times a night, causing a bad quality sleep. During the daytime, sufferers of sleep apnea may feel fatigued and may have a harder time concentrating that those who are able to get a full, restful sleep.
The National Transportation Safety Board has cited a number of trucking accidents caused by sleep apnea. According to their findings, about 7% of adults have sleep apnea and may be unsafe behind the wheel as a result of it. Drivers who suffer from sleep apnea, like all fatigued drivers, may have slower response times and may fall asleep behind the wheel.
The problem with sleep apnea is that many adults who suffer from the disorder are not aware that they have it. Often, there are no symptoms of the disorder other than habitual drowsiness, but many people dismiss fatigue as the normal result of a full and hectic life. For many people, drowsiness becomes habitual and “normal” so that they do not even see fatigue as a symptom.
Often, sleep apnea is caused by an airway obstruction. As a result, many people who suffer from sleep apnea also snore in their sleep. Once detected, sleep apnea can be treated effectively by removing the obstruction causing the problem. If sleep apnea is not treated, it cause many health problems which can also be dangerous for truck drivers: high blood pressure, headaches, heart problems, memory difficulties, and weight gain.
The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that transport truck drivers be screened for sleep apnea annually during a physical check-up. The National Transportation Safety Board has made a similar recommendation to the Federal Aviation Administration regarding pilots in order to prevent aviation accidents. Regular screening would help uncover those adults who suffer from sleep apnea so that they can get treatment before the disorder causes an accident.