Why truckers must have sleep apnea treated

Drivers in Texas have good reason to fear being around truckers because a significant number of them suffer from sleep apnea. Though this sleep disorder affects only 4% of the general population, it's estimated that 35% of truckers have it. Obstructive sleep apnea, the most widespread among truckers, can have an especially negative impact on behavior.

OSA causes periodic blocks in the upper airway, stopping one's breathing for 5 to 10 seconds at a time and interrupting sleep. Those with OSA do not achieve much deep sleep or REM sleep, which are necessary for repairing the previous day's physical and mental fatigue. For this reason, individuals experience drowsiness during the day no matter how long they sleep.

Symptoms include loud snoring, continual gasping for air during sleep, morning headaches, high blood pressure, depression and problems with memory and concentration. Left untreated, OSA can contribute to heart attacks and stroke. Truckers, in particular, should undergo a sleep study once they suspect OSA. High levels of drowsiness in truckers raise the risk for a crash by 250%.

Treatments exist for mild, moderate and severe OSA, ranging from the wearing of a mandibular advancement device to the use of a CPAP machine. Fatty deposits around the neck and throat can collapse the airways, so losing weight is another treatment method.

When untreated OSA factors into truck accidents, it can provide good grounds for a claim from the injured party. Of course, injured parties may have contributed to their injuries, too, such as by failing to wear a seatbelt or violating a traffic rule. In such cases, victims might still be eligible for compensation as long as one's degree of fault is less than that of the defendant. To see how strong their case is, victims may consult a lawyer.

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