In March of 2016, two different agencies within the Transportation Department put together a plan to test for sleep apnea in many of the country’s transportation professionals. The goal was to test both truckers and professional train operators for a condition called obstructive sleep apnea. This type of sleep apnea is one of the leading causes of preventable crashes. By knowing if train operators or truckers had sleep apnea, steps could be taken to prevent more crashes. However, as of August of 2017, this plan was scrapped by the regulators that originally came up with the plan.
The Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration worked together to come up with a plan to test for sleep apnea in professionals who work for them. They were working together to help create a baseline test that would help diagnose sleep apnea. It is well known that sleep apnea that does not receive proper treatment is dangerous. When you put a professional in charge of a large, moving object, who did not get enough sleep, people get put at risk. It is not just the driver who is at risk, either. The driver could harm others in their path, and cause crashes that lead to injury or even loss of life.
The National Transportation Safety Board can link numerous accidents directly to obstructive sleep apnea in the operators of the vehicles that caused the crashes. So, when they heard that two agencies were pushing for a screening test for sleep apnea, they were very happy. They went so far as to say they were disappointed when this plan fell through. Seeing the effects of obstructive sleep apnea first-hand allows them to have a unique opinion on this situation. The two original agencies were able to recognize the problems with undiagnosed sleep apnea. However, they did not feel as though blanket testing would do enough to stop the issues.
Ultimately, these two agencies thought that testing for sleep apnea is best left to the individual companies. That way, the companies could track the drivers and how their sleep apnea was treated. Each employee would be responsible for showing that their sleep apnea treatment was ongoing. That way, the employee would be working to keep his or her job. If there were blanket regulations put in place, this could stop some people who may never have had an issue from getting and keeping a job. However, when trucking and train companies do not test for sleep apnea, they are also putting people at risk on a daily basis.
Not only is the driver at risk when sleep apnea goes without proper treatment, but others are, too. If a trucker does not get solid sleep, then goes out driving, he or she could crash. They may fall asleep behind the wheel and careen into other vehicles. If that trucker is hauling something dangerous, such as a hazardous material, others could be affected outside of the crash as well. This type of spill could hurt people, wildlife, and even the environment.
The same goes for a train driver. He or she is responsible for cargo of some sort, from people to material goods. Some trains also haul dangerous materials. If any of these items crash, more than just the driver could end up hurt. By allowing a train driver to go out after a lackluster night’s sleep, they could crash into something on the tracks, jump the tracks entirely, or not slow or stop when the tracks need them to.
When sleep apnea does not get proper treatment, it can lead to driver’s falling asleep behind the wheel. It can also cause them to not notice small details that they would otherwise notice. Some drivers do not respond quickly enough to avoid an accident due to being overly tired as well.
Sleep apnea is treatable. There are a few different options when it comes to treating apnea. One option is trying to simply change the position you sleep in. Sometimes, sleeping on your side or stomach can help open airways more than lying on your back to sleep. If you try sleeping with something behind your back so you must be on your side, it could help you breathe better and get a better night’s sleep.
Another option to help treat sleep apnea is to get a mouth guard. This mouth guard is put into place to help hold the mouth open properly. This keeps the airway open, and allows for proper oxygenation during sleep. By getting a good flow of oxygen, people sleep more soundly, and wake more rested. By not getting woken up as much during the night, the person is able to react properly when put into unsafe situations. Plus, they are able to remain aware of anything that is out of place. Both of these are very important for anyone that gets behind the wheel and drives.
Here at the office of Mark Levy, DDS, we can help test for sleep apnea. It is not a condition you want to live with. It is a condition you want to get treated. The sooner you get treatment for it, the less likely you are to struggle with any of its consequences. There are things that can be done to help reduce the effects of sleep apnea. We specialize in custom mouth guards to help people overcome the effects of sleep apnea. If you want to get tested for sleep apnea, contact us. If you already know you have sleep apnea, and need help overcoming the struggles that come with having it, we can help with that, too.