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Sleep apnea's effect on truck drivers

Sleep apnea is a prevalent condition that prevents people from getting a good night's sleep. In the middle of the night, people's breathing will temporarily stop, causing them to wake up momentarily only to fall right back to sleep. Some people with sleep apnea wake up dozens of times throughout the night without even realizing it. While only about one to two percent of the American population suffers from sleep apnea, it can be found in nearly a third of commercial truck drivers

The reason this is so problematic is that people with sleep apnea often fall asleep during the day because they are so exhausted from the previous night. President Trump recently rejected legislation that would have required truck drivers to take sleeping exams before getting a truck driver job. Falling asleep at the wheel increases the risk of a truck accident, so it is the responsibility of drivers and companies to remain vigilant. 

Why are truckers more prone to developing sleep apnea?

It is confusing to think about how many truckers have sleep apnea when comparing those numbers to that of the general population. However, it helps to understand the various risk factors that can increase the likelihood of someone having the condition. 

  • Obesity
  • Male gender
  • Oversized uvula, tongue or tonsils
  • Smoking
  • Over 40 years old
  • Large neck circumference

Driving commercial trucks is a largely sedentary job. Many truckers also eat on the road, meaning their diets are higher in salt and fat. While every case is different, these could be important factors in pinpointing the root cause of the problem. 

Why is more not being done?

While federal regulations are currently up in the air, many trucking companies are not paying the medical costs associated with screening truckers for sleep disorders. A single sleep test is expensive, especially if a trucker has to pay out of pocket. A lot more good would be possible if more truckers were aware they suffered from sleep apnea. 

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