Sleep Apnea – Snore! A Story To Put You To Sleep

An estimated 858,900 Canadians over the age of 18 have been
diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, according to a 2009
Canadian Community Health Survey. And the National Commission
on Sleep Disorders Research now tells us that sleep apnea has been
connected to about 38,000 deaths per year. Yikes! Unfortunately,
many people do not realize that they suffer from this condition – it is
estimated that there are as many as half a million people suffering and
undiagnosed. This would include many truck drivers who suffer from
sleep apnea and just shrug it off, thinking that there’s nothing they can
do about it.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?
Do you often feel tired or irritable? Do you snore, and toss and turn
throughout the night? As defined in the 2009 Canadian Community
Health Survey, sleep apnea is a sleep-related breathing disorder
where the individual experiences pauses in breathing while sleeping,
on average for 10-30 seconds. It can happen several times during
your sleep, and it’s caused by the throat muscles relaxing and the soft
tissue in the back of the throat collapsing and closing up the airways.
These episodes can interrupt your ability to get a restful sleep and
leave you feeling sleep-deprived when you wake up. Even if you have
been in bed for six to eight hours, you wake up feeling as if you only
had two hours sleep. Over time, this can seriously impact your ability
to drive.
Paul Cote, Safety Director for Premier Bulk Systems in Ontario, is just
one carrier taking a pro-active approach. He has two drivers in his
fleet that suffer from sleep apnea. The company started by installing
inverters in the trucks to accommodate the power needs of a
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. Paul is now
looking into developing a program, but before he moves forward he
wants to make sure he and his staff are well educated on OSA and
understand the needs of the drivers who have to deal with it. His next
steps will be to educate his drivers and implement a formal program to
address the issue as a viable health and safety concern.
OSA in the transportation industry
Along with other industries, trucking has taken an interest in recent
reports on how sleep apnea can affect those who drive for a living.
The Fleet Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates that
as many as 28% of drivers with a commercial driver’s license may
have some type of a sleep disorder. Rui M. Fernandes, the author
of “Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Transportation”, states that, of some
5,000 driver deaths annually from traffic accidents, approximately 30%
are due to drowsiness and/or sleep apnea incidents. He also cites the
case of a lawsuit in Canada in 2004: A driver was acquitted in the
Alberta Provincial Court of a dangerous driving charge when his
vehicle rear-ended another vehicle, which was then struck by a
tractor-trailer. The accused’s defense was that he was unaware that
he suffered from OSA, with the potential to cause “micro-sleeps”, and
expert opinion indicated that the accused was likely experiencing a
micro-sleep seconds before the accident.
Time to wake up!
The Canadian Trucking Alliance has partnered with OSA Canada to
help combat this issue by delivering a full-service sleep apnea
program to commercial truck drivers. This includes screening, testing
and diagnosis, as well as access to treatment methods such as the
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine and breathing
mask. The full-service program provides a unique solution and,
potentially, a healthier and safer quality of life for fleet drivers.
When to see your doctor
If you are concerned about whether or not you suffer from OSA, here
are some signs and symptoms to watch for:
• unusual daytime sleepiness
• loud snoring followed by silent pauses and/or gasping or choking
during sleep
• morning headaches
• increased irritability or mood changes
• poor concentration or memory loss
• falling asleep while driving

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