Find yourself starting to fall asleep at the wheel? Is staying awake and alert throughout the day a challenge? Before you chug another cup of coffee and blast the air conditioning, you might consider looking into the common sleep disorder called “sleep apnea”.
Sleep apnea is a disorder that affects more than 12 million Americans annually. Sleep apnea is a condition that causes the soft tissue in the back of your throat to collapse, making breathing more difficult and sometimes halting it altogether for minutes at a time. These short episodes can occur anywhere from 5 times an hour to over 100 times an hour during sleep. Because this condition interrupts the natural sleep cycle, it can cause irritability and excessive exhaustion during the day.
According to the FDA, factors that put someone at high risk for sleep apnea include:
- “being overweight, as extra fat tissue around the neck makes it harder to keep the airway open,
- being over age 40,
- having a family history of sleep apnea, and
- having a nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum, allergies or sinus problem.”
For truck drivers sitting at the wheel for over 11 hours of the day, tiredness is already inevitable. For truck drivers who also suffer from sleep apnea, driving in an exhausted state is guaranteed. At Fleet Oil and Truck Supply, we want to make sure your daily drive is as easy and safe as possible. For your health and the safety of others, consider looking into this common sleep disorder that affects not only a person’s work performance, but overall health.
If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, below are several tips that might ease the symptoms of the condition and help you stay alert and awake at the wheel.
- Weight loss
Easier said than done for those sitting behind a wheel for over half the day. Simple changes like healthy eating and exercising for a few minutes during pit stops can help drop some extra weight and make sleep easier and safe driving more attainable.
- 2) Avoiding substances that increase drowsiness
Drinking alcohol and taking medicines that increase drowsiness can make the possibility of a blocked airway during sleep more likely, making the effects of sleep apnea more apparent the next day.
- 3) CPAP Machine
A common treatment for sleep apnea, a CPAP machine will use a facial mask to push air through the airways to keep them open, preventing continuous interruptions during sleep.
- 4) Using an oral appliance
One way to help treat sleep apnea without going through an extensive surgery is to wear an oral appliance, similar to a mouth guard, that causes the jaw to be pushed forward during sleep to maintain open airways.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “untreated sleep apnea can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and diabetes, increase the risk of heart failure, make irregular heartbeats more likely, and increase the chance of having work-related or driving accidents.”
If you are taking other medications to treat conditions such as anxiety and severe pain, these may be making your sleep apnea worse. Always consult your physician before being tested for sleep apnea.
If you find you’re struggling not to fall asleep at the wheel or completing long driving days is getting more difficult, consider looking into being tested for sleep apnea so you can ensure you’ll stay alert at the wheel and maintain safety for you and other drivers around you. For other ways to maintain safe driving, check out these Highway Safety Tips for Professional Truckers.