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Sleep Apnea and Truck Driver Fatigue

Sleep apnea is a serious condition which can affect quality of sleep and can cause severe levels of fatigue during the day. Patients with this condition experience interruptions in their breathing – sometimes many times per hour – or periods of shallow breathing during sleep.

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If breathing is interrupted, the patient may snore or snort awake multiple times during the night, waking up repeatedly. If breathing becomes too shallow, a patient will move from deep, restful sleep to a lighter sleep which is not as refreshing.  In both cases, patients may feel very tired during their day and may even fall asleep during regular activities.

Of course, for truck drivers, this chronic condition can be especially dangerous because drivers are operating heavy commercial trucks – which can weigh up to 80,000 fully loaded—on highways at high speeds. Any loss of concentration or fatigue can lead to errors which result in a collision. If a driver falls asleep at the wheel, they can lose control of their vehicle and crash into much smaller passenger cars, possibly causing serious injury and fatalities.

The Challenges with Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea may be difficult to detect. It has no obvious signs and no blood test can be used to diagnose it. The biggest symptom – daytime fatigue – can be easily dismissed or blamed on a hectic work schedule. In many cases, sleep apnea may be noticed because a patient’s partner notices snoring or sudden jolts out of sleep. However, truck drivers are on the road often and it may take some time before anyone notices a problem.

Another issue with sleep apnea is that the patient often does not remember any sleep problems which occurred in the night. Even if a patient jolts awake during the night, they may not fully wake up and may not remember in the morning. This may mean people who have the condition wake up after a full night sleep and assume everything is fine because they have gotten a specific number of hours of rest.

Another challenge with sleep apnea is that it is a chronic condition. It will not get better on its own and may become more serious over time. Fatigue may worsen if the condition is not addressed and untreated apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart problems, heart attacks, obesity, strokes, diabetes, work accidents, traffic accidents, and heart failure.

The Risks for Truck Drivers

Unfortunately, truck drivers have many of the risk factors for sleep apnea. Many truck drivers have irregular schedules and may face challenges getting to sleep because they are on the road. In addition, truck drivers have sedentary jobs, which puts them at risk of obesity and sleep apnea.

Fortunately, there is treatment available. Lifestyle changes, weight loss, mouth pieces, breathing devices and surgery can help address the condition and can help patients with sleep apnea get quality rest.

If you have been injured in a car accident or truck accident in Miami or anywhere in South Florida, you may wonder whether fatigue or sleep apnea played a role. If you would like answers about whether you have a claim in your case, contact Flaxman Law Group for a free consultation.