Truck Drivers with Untreated Sleep Apnea are Crashing at Five Times Higher Rate

A recently published study alerts commercial truck drivers about the risks of untreated sleep apnea. In a study conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, University of Minnesota with Morris, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and colleagues, it was found out that drivers who failed to follow an obstructive sleep apnea treatment had a higher risk of avoidable road collisions compared to those truck drivers who were treated.

The report said that an estimated 20 percent of large truck crashes were due to sleepy driving, which had caused 9,000 to 220,000 fatalities and serious injuries respectively. Stefanos Kales, the senior author of the study and associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School, said that “OSA is the most common cause of excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue, which has been linked with adverse impacts on attention, working memory, vigilance, and executive functioning .“ Kales stressed that mandating screening, diagnosis and treatment would reduce accidents and deaths. Despite having a regular examination, there are no mandatory standards for OSA screening and diagnosis, he said.

Co-author Charles Czeisler chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said that other diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia and premature deaths are also known risks, which are also increasing for people with untreated OSA. Thus, “regulatory agencies, across the globe owe it to truck drivers and to the motorists who share the road with them to require objective screening, diagnostic testing, and treatment adherence monitoring for all commercial drivers.”

OSA, according to the report, “a disorder in which sleep is disrupted by repeated stops and starts of breathing.” However, such ailment is treatable by a machine that is designed to deliver pressurized air through a face mask that fits the nose, keeping the throat open during sleep, promoting uninterrupted breathing.

The research data was taken back to 2006, comparing the 2,016 drivers with no reported OSA versus 1,613 drivers with OSA. The study concluded that those drivers who failed to adhere to the treatment – CPAP, provided by the company, had a higher rate, estimated five times fold, to encounter preventable crashes than those who followed the OSA treatment.


Truck drivers who fail to adhere to sleep apnea treatment have higher crash rate,

Author: Amabelle Equio, Ph.D candidate in Nursing at Silliman University, Health, Fitness, Medical Writer, Photography Enthusiast.

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1 thought on “Truck Drivers with Untreated Sleep Apnea are Crashing at Five Times Higher Rate

  1. Pancho Cham Reply

    My brother is a truck driver, and when he comes to visit I feel that he was something wrong about his sleep patterns. I don’t know if he has sleep apnea, but I will let him know to get checked so he can be more aware. This way he will be less inclined to drive tired, and maybe even prevent an accident.

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