Truckers are an essential part of our economy, and they are largely the reason for you getting that toaster you ordered online to your doorstep in as little as two days. In addition to working crazy hours and traveling up and down Interstate 5, they are also putting their health at risk. According to a 2020 study, commercial motor vehicle truck drivers could be at risk for obstructive sleep apnea.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder in which you stop breathing multiple times while you are sleeping. There are three main types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Central sleep apnea
- Complex sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type and occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. When these muscles relax, your airway can narrow or close. If you are not getting enough air, the level of oxygen in your blood lowers. This alerts your brain, which wakes you up so you can reopen your airways. While you may snort or gasp, it happens so quickly that you won’t remember it in the morning. This pattern can happen up to 30 times an hour, all night long, which prevents you from getting a restful night’s sleep.
Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain stops sending a signal to your breathing muscles. This type of sleep apnea is rare.
In addition to episodes of not breathing throughout the night, symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Dry mouth
- Daytime sleepiness
The study, which was conducted by researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, screened 20,000 commercial truck drivers to determine if they showed potential for sleep apnea. They used the STOP-BANG questionnaire, as research has determined it is an effective screening tool for obstructive sleep apnea. This assessment tool uses information about snoring, tiredness, observed apnea, hypertension, body mass index, age, neck circumference and gender to determine the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.
The researchers were able to identify 9,382 drivers who showed a potential of having obstructive sleep apnea. This connection is attributed to truckers have a lack of exercise and access to healthy food while working.
Being aware of the risk of developing this sleep disorder can help truckers take measure to live a healthier lifestyle.
To learn more about sleep apnea or to schedule an appointment with a professional, contact Oregon Ear, Nose & Throat Center today.