What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a severe medical condition that's only now starting to be recognized as a potential time bomb on our roads. Unfortunately, It is sometimes seen as just a trend inappropriately focused on what was once considered just a common quirk … loud snoring. We now know that snoring could have been an indicator of more grave health issues. Conservative estimates by the World Health Organization are that as many as one hundred hundred individuals may be struggling with one or more types of sleep apnea. This can be associated with very special problems for workers within performance-related jobs and especially in the commercial trucking industry, air carriers and pilots, air-traffic control and other transport related industries along with other high-stress occupations.
A Hidden Killer?
What goes on during a sleep apnea occurrence is that soft tissues droop, or fall, blocking the airway, making it difficult, or impossible to inhale. Air sliding past the obstruction is what leads to the rumbling sound associated with snoring. The brain senses the actual drop of oxygen within the blood and 'wakes' a person up with a 'urgent situation' signal in order to breath. Most people go immediately back to sleep, unaware that they have woken up at all. For an average sleep apnea sufferer, this could happen 100 times a night, or more.
For me personally, my test readings showed that I had an average rate of apnea 'events' of 95 an hour. This rate was so hard to believe that I had to be shown the test sheets several times before I could accept it. What it mean is that I basically did not sleep all night because my body was continuously waking me up to get some air into my lungs. No wonder I was so tired all the time!
The effect of this constant waking is that it brings you from getting into the important phases of rest that your body and mind needs to remain healthy and alert. This causes you to wake up tired and listless, as well as feeling sleepy all day. With time, this can lead to severe health issues, for example, heart as well as circulation difficulties, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. This can mean that you are at greater risk of heart attack and / or stoke. The really bad aspect of sleep apnea is that 75% or even more of people struggling with the condition are undiagnosed.
Why do so many sufferers remain undiagnosed? From my personal reading on the subject there appears to be several possible reasons:
- symptoms of sleep apnea imitate so many other concerns;
- lots of people with diabetic issues and coronary heart trouble are strictly diagnosed and treated for these conditions with no effort to look for the underlying causes, and in many cases, the common medicines for these conditions can in fact aggravate sleep apnea;
- lots of people do not recognize it as a cause for their own problems. General knowledge of this serious sleep problem is just now starting to be available to a widening audience;
- and lastly silence – many transport workers would not report chronic fatigue for fear of losing their drivers licenses, work, or positions.
* Looking back now I can see my own sleep problems became worse when I started taking muscle relaxants in the form of antidepressants.
A Killer On The Job And On The Roads?
Without treatment sleep apnea can have a pronounced effect on daily operations, for example driving, operating equipment, as well as detail-work. A person struggling with the untreated condition can be as impaired as someone with a blood alcohol content of 0.1% or even more, which is sufficient in most locations to be considered driving while drunk. It is not possible at present to know the exact numbers for mishaps, especially deadly ones, which are caused by sleep apnea, simply because law enforcement officials do not list this as a cause.
Without an individual admits that they fall asleep at the wheel, the actual accident is going to be reported as being an improper lane change, speeding, or other driver error. Neverheless, one of the USA's leading specialists on sleep disorders, Dr. Charles Czeisler with the Harvard University School of Medicine, has realized that a minimum of one in 5 crashes of commercial vehicles is actually caused by sleep apnea.
So What Can I Do To Safeguard Myself?
Regrettably, there is little an individual can do regarding other drivers on the road but you can take care of your own health and that of your family. But if everyone would do that, the problem may improve significantly.
The first step would be to educate yourself regarding sleep apnea, and if you think you have sleep apnea, then
the second step is seek advice from a qualified medical expert.
If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea then which kind of sleep apnea you may have is not important. The treatment for all three types, typically, is easy, reliably inexpensive, and perhaps a few lifestyle changes that might be good for anyone, in any case. There are no costs medications, and usually no invasive methods (eg surgery) But if you follow the treatment prescribed then there should be a general enhancement in your enjoyment of living.
If you encounter any of these signs and symptoms then you need to see a doctor as soon as possible, and ask for a sleep study.
- chronic sleepiness and other sleep problems
- obesity (BMI of 30 or greater) age – over forty
- diabetic issues, high blood pressure, or any coronary heart, respiratory or circulation problems
- behavioral problems or ADD
- concentration and memory
- problems any ailment with no obvious cause
Keep in mind, your health is among the most important facets of your life. Without it, nothing else matters.
Disclaimer: the above information is drawn from personal experiences and personal research. It is not to be relied upon by other readers as referring to their personal situation or anyone else other than the author. Please see your health practitioner immediately if you think you may have sleep apnea.