Categorized | Sleep Apnea

Commercial Drivers and Sleep Apnea


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Some reports say that between 1 and three commercial drivers are living with and driving with un-diagnosed obstructive sleep apnea.  While these drivers get older, it usually becomes worse and it is more prevalent in men compared to women. 

When sleep apnea happens, it is due to an obstruction of airflow.  Some patients have a large uvula, other people have a narrow jaw which can also lead to a blockage of the airway.  What is difficult for patients to understand is how dangerous this can be.  Some of the common factors which lead to sleep apnea are physiological, others are based on things like obesity.  With commercial drivers, 42% have a BMI (Body Mass Index) over 30 which is a very strong predictor of sleep apnea.

Neck circumfrence is also a easy way to guess if a patient has high potential for sleep apnea or not.  With so much extra flesh which can float down and into the airway, it makes it much easier to have sleep apnea.  But, everyone should realize that a patient does not need to be very obese patient, even average sized patients can have high risk factors for sleep apnea.

Some patients with sleep apnea have the following symptoms:

  • snoring
  • sleepiness
  • fatigued during the day
  • constant headaches throughout the night and sometimes during the day

Apnea is defined as a stop of airflow for more than ten seconds.  That’s right, a stop in airflow completely

Hypopneas are defined as a slow down or decrease in the airflow for 10 seconds or more.  Also, depending on which sleep lab or sleep doctor you are talking with, the definition of a hypopnea may vary slightly.

During an apnea event, there is a quick buildup of carbon dioxide and this in turn arouses the brain and causes the muscles in the throat to wake up.  Thankfully this happens, otherwise people would essentially die during these events.

When commercial drivers are trying to get their work done each day, the effects of obstructive sleep apnea can cause all sorts of problems with their physical work.  Falling asleep at the wheel is one of the biggest concerns for obvious reasons.  As sleep apnea has become more and more prevalent and in the news and media, testing and treatment for this condition is becoming more well known which in turn is helping out the general public.  To think that your city bus driver might be at high risk of sleep apnea is a scary thought.

4 Responses to “Commercial Drivers and Sleep Apnea”

  1. feather pillow says:

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    G’Day! Ihaveosa,
    In addition to your post I was wondering, My husband is 46 years old.He is about 300 lbs and refuses to change his diet.His brother died at age 44(possibly a heart attack)and his father had diabetes and died from a heart attack at 49.My husband’s ankles,legs,and feet have started swelling about 5 months ago.They are even swollen in the morning.He says the tops of his feet hurt from the skin being so tight.He goes to the doctor once a year for a physical.They put him on a cholesterol (statin) as a preventative because of family history.He snoars terribly with periods of apnea.He had a sleep study and they wanted to do surgery but he refuses.I told him he needed to go back to the doctor since it was actually a few months late for his annual check up.He said he “doesn’t want to know what is wrong.” That is exactly what his brother said when he needed to have an additional medical test to obtain a commercial drivers license. He died the following week.We have a 3 year old son, what can I do? Know what is wrong with my husband?
    Cheerio

  2. Frank says:

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    For sure, he needs to go back and talk with his doctor to find out how severe is OSA is, the doctor should then explain all the different options to him about treatment, surgery is only one of them, and hopefully the doctor will explain the consequences of not treating the OSA too. I wish you and your husband the best.

  3. Joe says:

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    My question is once the doctor finds that you have OSA can you apply for disability? I ask this because I’ve apply for different jobs and they require medical exam, and in the exam shows that I have OSA.

  4. Frank says:

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    There is often a very small chance you will be eligible for disability because OSA is VERY treatable. It is not a condition that is without very effective treatments like some other diseases or syndromes.

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