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Steven M. Lee, PC

Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea in Truck Drivers Can Result in Fatal 18-Wheeler Wrecks

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Getting a good night's sleep can be a challenge for many of us, but even more so for individuals who work long or odd hours like truck drivers. Even when they finally get to rest for a few hours, they may still wake up a bit fatigued and not feeling quite 100 percent. Unfortunately, that does not matter to many employers and truckers need to get back on the road again to make their delivery, possibly hundreds—or thousands—of miles away.

Although this general feeling of being tired all the time may seem "normal" to many truck drivers, it is not. There is also a chance it is not necessarily stemming from the quantity of sleep, but rather, the quality. One major killer of quality sleep is a condition called sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that disrupts sleep by affecting a person's breathing. Throughout the night, a person with sleep apnea will take shallow breaths and even stop breathing for a few seconds. When the breathing stops or becomes shallow, a person will usually transition from a deep sleep to a light sleep, which greatly affects their ability to recharge properly during the night.

Why Truck Drivers Should Care About Sleep Apnea

Anyone can suffer from sleep apnea, but the average truck driver tends to fit the description of the highest risk groups: overweight, male, and between the ages of 40 to 60-years-old. Smoking, drinking alcohol, diabetes, and acid reflux can also impact whether or not a person suffers from sleep apnea.

If a truck driver does not have a partner that they regularly share a bed with, they may have no idea that they are exhibiting signs of sleep apnea while they are asleep; the most common signs are snoring and making choking sounds. Because of this, many trucker sleep apnea cases go untreated because they just assume their fatigue, headaches, irritability, depression, mood swings, and dry mouth are the result of their job and lifestyle—not sleep apnea. When a truck driver with sleep apnea hits the road in their 18-wheeler every day, they are putting their life and the lives of others at risk due to their fatigue and possible inability to operate their vehicle safely.

Truck drivers who are suffering from the above symptoms and do not have testimony from someone who has observed them sleeping still have options for figuring out if they have sleep apnea. One way is to set up a video camera and tape yourself sleeping for a few nights. If you notice major snoring or choking, make an appointment with your doctor and even bring the video in if you like. You could also participate in a local sleep study, though that may take more time than you have available in your work schedule.

Do you have any tips to share for truck drivers who may be suffering from sleep apnea? Please leave your advice in the comments section below.

Category: Truck Accidents and DWI Accidents

Steven M. Lee
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Houston Attorney at Law

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