Sleep apnea is very common among truckers, and, unfortunately, very dangerous. Truck drivers who have sleep apnea are five times more likely to be involved in an accident than those without sleep apnea. To help combat this risk, regulators have proposed sleep apnea screening and treatment requirements for truck drivers similar to commuter rail drivers.

Now new research suggests that these measures might be very successful, because sleep apnea treatment reduces drivers’ risks to the level of drivers without sleep apnea.

female truck driver checking off her list in front of blue big rigs

Assessing Dangerous-Goods Drivers for Sleep Apnea

This study looked at 238 Italian truck drivers of dangerous goods (TDDGs). TDDG is a European designation for drivers that drive hazardous cargoes that are inflammable or toxic, such as gasoline or methane. They are subject to additional regulations, as similar drivers are in the US.

None of the drivers reported symptoms of sleep apnea, but when given a sleep test to diagnose sleep apnea, it was found that 100 of the drivers (35.7%) were sleep apneics. This is a little higher than most of the estimates for the general trucker population in the US.

Only the 24 drivers with severe sleep apnea (10%) were assigned to receive sleep apnea treatment in the form of CPAP.

The Impact of Treatment

At the beginning of the study, researchers looked at reports of past accidents and near misses for these drivers. They found that the drivers with severe sleep apnea were 4.75 times more likely to have accidents than their coworkers who didn’t have sleep apnea.

Drivers underwent CPAP treatment, with all 24 prescribed drivers maintaining the minimum treatment protocol of four hours a night for five nights a week for the study period of two years. When researchers reviewed the crash reports for the two years of the study, they found that truck drivers who had been treated had a near-miss accident rate comparable to drivers without sleep apnea. With only two accidents, there was not enough data to make statistical conclusions about the impact on accidents.

Serious Accident Risk Related to Sleep Apnea

Although this study looked at truck drivers, we know that sleep apnea puts all drivers at risk. Even those with a short morning commute may be at increased risk for dozing off behind the wheel because of sleep apnea.

If you find yourself drowsy during the day, especially when you’re behind the wheel, it may be time to consider sleep apnea treatment. Please call (248) 480-0085 today for an appointment with Detroit sleep dentist Dr. Jeffrey S. Haddad at the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness in Rochester Hills.