Many of us only think about trucks when we pass them on the road. But they are an integral part of our daily lives, especially with the increase of online shopping over the last year. Unfortunately, the long hours and grueling schedules of the professionals who drive these trucks may be putting them at risk of a number of health conditions, including sleep apnea.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition defined by brief periods of paused breathing while sleeping. There are three types of sleep apnea:
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type and occurs when the muscles at the back of your throat relax while you sleep. These muscles support your soft palate. When they relax, your airway narrows or closes completely, reducing the amount of air you are getting. Your brain can sense when the levels of oxygen in your blood fall and will wake you up in order to reopen your airway.
The process of waking up is so quick many do not remember it happening. It is common for those with obstructive sleep apnea to experience this cycle of waking up and falling back asleep five to 30 times an hour all night long.
In addition to episodes of not breathing, symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Dry mouth
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty paying attention
Truck Driver Study
This 2020 study was conducted by researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute with the goal of getting an accurate number of commercial vehicle drivers who have the potential of developing obstructive sleep apnea.
Using the STOP-Bang method of identification, the researchers were able to determine that 49% of the 2,000 commercial vehicle drivers who were recruited into the study were at risk for developing obstructive sleep apnea.
The STOP-Bang assessment is a screening tool used to gauge a patient’s risk of sleep apnea. The STOP section of the assessment includes four questions related to snoring, tiredness, observed apnea and blood pressure. The Bang section adds four more questions to the overall assessment related to body mass index, age, neck circumference and gender.
Why Are Truckers More Likely to Develop Sleep Apnea?
A lack of exercise and low availability of healthy food while on the road can cause drivers to become overweight, putting them at risk of developing a number of health conditions, including sleep apnea.
The researchers hope that their study can prompt drivers to be more aware of their health risks and take measures to promote a healthier lifestyle while spending so much time on Highway 75. To learn more about sleep apnea or to schedule an appointment with a sleep professional, contact Eastern Oklahoma ENT today.