Dangers of Driving With Sleep Apnea

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Posted on Saturday, July 2nd, 2022 at 4:10 pm    

A study released in the peer-reviewed journal SLEEP in 2015 found that people with untreated sleep apnea were 2.5 times more likely to cause a motor vehicle accident than the general population. This same study found a 70 percent reduction if the sleep apnea patient used CPAP therapy for an average of at least 4 hours per night.

The study’s principal investigator and senior author summarized their findings as follows: “This study provides strong evidence that obstructive sleep apnea patients have an increased traffic accident risk and that this risk can be modified if CPAP treatment is used adequately.”

In other words, the excessive daytime sleepiness common to people with untreated sleep apnea leads to an increased risk of falling asleep at the wheel. It is also important to note that a higher percentage of fall-asleep crashes result in fatalities than any other accident cause.

The Emerging Role Sleep Deprivation Plays in Car Crashes

Most people are aware of the most frequently cited reasons for automobile accidents. These reasons include speeding, alcohol use, bad weather, and aggressive driving. The role that sleepiness might play in accidents is not yet fully understood. Although sleep deprivation is the primary cause, it can also be caused by medication, alcohol, and circadian rhythm factors such as jet lag or a long shift at work.

One difficulty in ascertaining sleep’s potential role in a crash is that there is no simple procedure to measure a person’s sleepiness. If an investigator suspects alcohol as a factor, they can administer a blood alcohol content test. No such test exists to confirm if someone is sleep deprived.

Sleep’s role in auto accidents is also hard to determine because not all investigators are adequately trained in spotting the signs of sleep deprivation as a cause. It many times goes un-reported as a factor. Thus, the actual number of crashes caused by an untreated sleep disorder is unknown.

The American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) is behind efforts to educate Americans about the symptoms of sleep disorders. With more general awareness, disorders like sleep apnea might be more frequently diagnosed and treated.

The Importance of Sleep

Most Americans know that exercise and a proper diet are crucial to good health. Sadly, getting a good night’s sleep is often left out of the general health conversation. The fact is, a lack of proper sleep adversely affects almost every marker of health. Regarding the brain, a lack of sleep may cause irritability, forgetfulness, mood swings, and depression. A body that is sleep deprived may develop heart disease, obesity, and a compromised immune system.

Don’t Leave Your Sleep Apnea Untreated

Don’t leave dangerous sleep apnea untreated.  Take the first step on the road to getting the sleep you desperately need by calling the experts at Silent Night Therapy to schedule an evaluation and discuss how an oral sleep appliance might work for you.