We all know the importance of getting a good night's sleep. To perform and feel your best, U.S. adults are advised to sleep between seven to nine hours each night. However, it's not just the number of hours or quantity of sleep that matters, but also the quality of that sleep. For individuals with a sleep disorder called sleep apnea, a restful night's sleep can be an elusive dream.
According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, sleep disorder is defined as being "an involuntary cessation of breathing that occurs while the patient is asleep." In many cases, an individual may be completely unaware that he or she has the condition as the disruptions in breathing aren't sufficient to wake a person up. This doesn't, however, mean that an individual is sleeping soundly and the damaging effects of sleep apnea include fatigue, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and depression.
A recent study that was conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota Morris, examined the potential impact of sleep apnea within the commercial trucking industry. For the study, researchers compared the driving records of 1,600 commercial truckers who had all been diagnosed with the sleep disorder against those of truck drivers who did not have the disorder.
Among the drivers who had been diagnosed with sleep apnea, those who were following a treatment plan to combat the ill-effects of the disorder had crash rates similar to those without sleep apnea. However, the crash rates were five times higher for drivers who had been diagnosed with the disorder and who failed to abide by a treatment plan.
It's important to note that the crash data that were examined for the study related to accidents that were deemed to be preventable, meaning that a trained and experienced truck driver should have been able to avoid an accident. Some 28 percent of commercial truck drivers are believed to have sleep apnea and, from 2004 to 2013, nearly 9,000 people died in traffic accidents caused by commercial truckers who suffer from the disorder.
While some trucking companies have already taken steps to screen drivers for sleep apnea, the findings of this and other similar studies may compel the federal government to step in and mandate that commercial truckers are screened and treated for this serious sleep disorder.