According to new research, there is a direct correlation between sleep apnea and an increased risk of a motor accident. The latest study shows that sleep apnea patients who had excessive daytime sleepiness along with 5 hours or less of sleep were 2.5 times more likely to be involved in a car accident compared to the general population. Additionally, sleep apnea patients who were being treated for sleep apnea with a sleep device decreased their motor vehicle incidents by a whopping 70%. That’s a tremendous improvement.
Study results are published in the March issue of the journal SLEEP.
“Excessive daytime sleepiness is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, which can cause you to awaken in the morning feeling tired and unrefreshed despite a full night of sleep,” said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler. “Effective identification and treatment of sleep apnea is essential to reduce avoidable, life-threatening accidents caused by drowsy driving.”
The risks of sleep apnea and driving related accidents are not just dangerous to the driver with sleep apnea but to the other drivers, their passengers and even public transportation passengers. In the last five years, crashes involving an Amtrak train in South Carolina, a Long Island Rail Road train, a New Jersey Transit train and a Metro-North train in the Bronx have resulted in multiple deaths, hundreds of injuries and tens of millions of dollars in property damage. Undiagnosed or untreated sleep apnea was blamed in each case.
The AASM reports that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common sleep disease afflicting at least 25 million adults in the U.S. Sleep apnea warning signs include snoring and choking, gasping or silent breathing pauses during sleep. This has an impact on not just the patient experiencing the sleep apnea but their family members, their work and colleagues and the drivers that drive in the fast lane next to them. One study found that 20 percent of American truck drivers admit to falling asleep at traffic lights. Some sleep experts are calling for sleep to be the new worker’s right.
“I think of sleep like the new worker’s rights: We’re being worked to the point that we’re not sleeping, and it’s having physical detriments on our health and wellbeing,” Daniel Gartenburg. Daniel Gartenberg is currently working on research funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Aging and is also a TED resident.
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