How Sleep Apnea Can Be Harmful on the Road
When asked, most people that drive at night will say that they have often nodded off for a split-second. What determines whether you crash or become startled as you awaken is a combination of luck and fate. Often, it is simply being too tired to stay coherent that leads to these problems, whether it be working a double or pulling an all-nighter to study for an exam, and other times it can just be the time of day. What isn’t spoken about enough is the troubles that can arise from sleep apnea. The condition in itself can lead to many dangerous health problems for millions of people around the world, but it can also lead to problems on the road. It can be what made it impossible for you to stay awake crash into a car, guardrail or telephone pole.
Before we look at how sleep apnea affects your life while driving, it is important to first examine what this condition is, what it means for your health, what it can lead to and what can be done to resolve the issue.
By definition, sleep apnea is when you have one or more pauses in your breathing while you sleep or shallow breathes at night. These pauses in breathe can range from as short as a few seconds to as long as several minutes and can occur as many as 30 times in an hour. When you wake up in the middle of the night and appear to be startled, it is because you were having an apnea for an extended period of time and your brain signaled to your body to breathe again.
Sleep apnea is something that is ongoing and causes your type of sleep to become light, which can lead to poor sleep quality. When this occurs, you will usually be tired during the day. It is a condition that can easily go undiagnosed, especially in single patients because they would be unable to determine that they had issues sleeping. It is only when a bed mate alerts you to the problems in your breathing that you might realize it is an issue.
Basic sleep apnea can also turn into obstructive sleep apnea or central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of apnea and occurs often in those that are overweight, but can also affect children the same. Central sleep apnea is the lesser experienced apnea, but it is still something that can cause health problems in your body.
When you have sleep apnea and it goes untreated, it can lead to several dangerous health conditions including high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, diabetes and heart attack. In some extreme cases, it can also lead to heart failure, lead to irregular heartbeats and increase the chance of having accidents at work or on the road.
There are a number of factors that are examined when looking at the correlation of driving and sleep apnea. Among those factors that appear to be the most prevalent to the condition would be boredom. There have been studies that have found that boredom while driving and sleep apnea are main causes of crashes, especially on long stretches of road without many curves and turns. This is a matter that can especially be dangerous for tractor-trailer drivers who are required to sleep for extended periods of time, but often don’t. When these drivers do get to sleep, if they suffer from sleep apnea and get a light sleep at night, they are likelier to fall asleep and cause a major wreck.
One of the leading experts in the field is Ram Dhillon. Dhillon took part in a study that examined 104 fatal accidents in 2002 in Lincolnshire, an area in England with more than 700,000 residents. They looked at what they could do to correct that problem in the area and reduced the number to 79 fatalities.
By making the dangers of sleep apnea known to the general public, the English city was able to reduce the number of deaths caused in car accidents. With sleep apnea, you never know when it can lead to dangerous situations for your body and life.
When you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, it doesn’t have to mean the end of your life in terms of great sleep. One of the most trusted and easiest methods to treat this condition is with a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP. This machine has a pump with a hose and facemask that you attach to your face at night. The machine pumps the air into your airways, keeping them open at night and in turn preventing the vibrations that lead to snoring.