Sleep apnea proves to be serious problem you can’t afford to ignore
To many, sleep apnea sounds much ado about nothing. It doesn’t seem to belong in the same nomenclature with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and other scary health issues. But don’t sell sleep apnea short; it is a serious problem.
In layman’s terms, sleep apnea means you stop breathing several times during each hour of sleep. Your body finally goes into survival mode and “wakes” you up to start breathing again. This may happen 20, 30, 40 or more times each hour. This is very much like someone constantly poking you to try to wake you up. It’s impossible for you to get the restorative sleep your body needs. Over a period of time it takes a real toll on your well-being.
There are three basic types of sleep apnea: the most common is obstructive sleep apnea (airways blocked by fatty tissues), central sleep apnea (the brain’s respiratory centers are imbalanced) and complex sleep apnea (a combination of both those forms).
Many drivers get caught up in the Big Brother aspect of potential regulations that could require screening and treatment for sleep apnea. We’ve all heard BMI (body mass index) and neck size figures that could trigger testing for commercial drivers. But what doesn’t get emphasized enough exactly why it’s important to be proactive with diagnosing sleep apnea.
After weeks of researching sleep apnea, visiting fleets and sleep clinics and talking with experts, I’ve seen why the condition is such a threat — undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea is a real health crisis. It can kill you — either directly by causing you to fall asleep while driving or indirectly by contributing to other health problems. In the best-case scenario, it may only shorten your life.
First and foremost, sleep apnea is not a trucker problem. Many people in all walks of life suffer from it. But truckers are at a higher risk than most because of their lifestyle.
And just because you think you sleep enough or sleep well, this doesn’t eliminate you from the sleep apnea pool. Almost everyone I interviewed for our upcoming April Fit for the Road story was in denial before being tested and treated. For those who favor self-policing instead of the government prying deeper into personal privacy, this lack of realization that there is a problem complicates things.
If you are overweight, snore, have morning headaches, are fatigued or sleepy during the times you are awake, these are signs you may need to be tested for sleep apnea. None of these symptoms are conclusive, but they are warning signs you shouldn’t ignore.
Amazingly, all the drivers who have gotten a handle on their sleep apnea tell me the difference is night and day. They report feeling great, having more energy and even enjoy a better sex life.
Whether your motivation is your personal health or satisfying likely government regulations in order to keep your CDL (hopefully it’s both), you need to arm yourself with good information about diagnosis and treatment. In addition to our comprehensive article in April, Truckers News also has scheduled a free webinar, “Sleep Apnea: A Wake-Up Call to Drivers,” (See Page 71) this month. We invite everyone to join us and sleep apnea expert Dr. Mark Berger for this informative event.
Sleep apnea is much more dangerous than its name may imply. While this disorder could threaten your livelihood, your very life could be at risk, and that’s much more important.
CSA 2010 Driver Rating System?
In our January cover story, “Maximum Exposure,” we reported that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration would roll out a rating system for drivers in 2011, as the agency has stated it planned to do. FMCSA seems have backed off on an official driver rating system for the time being.
Under the Frequently Asked Questions of the Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 website, FMCSA says this: “Do individual CMV drivers get an individual driver safety rating under CSA 2010? No. Under the new program, as it is currently constructed in the Operational Model test and planned for implementation, FMCSA will not rate or determine the safety fitness of individual CMV drivers beyond what is currently defined in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. This does not preclude FMCSA from developing a driver rating or safety fitness determination process at some time in the future.”
Even if a driver doesn’t have an official individual rating, drivers and carriers still will have a major impact on each other with heightened levels of record-keeping and enforcement under CSA 2010.