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Commercial Drivers With Sleep Apnea May Not Admit To Drowsiness

A new study has found evidence that commercial drivers might lie about sleep apnea problems because they are fearful of losing their job.

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes a person’s breathing to be disrupted as they sleep. As a result, they frequently do not get a restful night’s sleep, which can have a variety of severe consequences. People with sleep apnea may experience headaches and drowsiness when they are awake. They may also suffer from depression.

For people whose jobs require them to be on the road frequently, sleep apnea can be a major problem. A driver suffering from sleep apnea is at risk of causing an accident. Commercial drivers, such as bus drivers, taxi drivers and truck drivers, can lose their job if it is believed that sleep apnea affects their performance.

A new study looked at sleep apnea sufferers in two groups. They focused on 37 commercial drivers and 74 people who did not drive as part of their job. The study found that the commercial drivers rated their level of sleepiness during the day several points lower than the non-commercial drivers. In other words, the commercial drivers indicated they were not as tired as the non-drivers.

The study also discovered that commercial drivers were less likely to receive treatment for their condition; however, they had more spontaneous trips to sleep clinics. Researchers believe this could mean the commercial drivers did not have control of their symptoms and were suffering more than they claimed.

Researchers hypothesized that the commercial drivers were downplaying their symptoms for fear of losing their jobs. Because they had more unexpected visits to sleep clinics than the non-commercial drivers, researchers concluded that the drivers were struggling more with their symptoms.

If commercial drivers cannot feel safe admitting to problems caused by sleep apnea, they may never get the treatment they need. They also put themselves and others on the road at risk.

Source: U.S. News, “Bus, Truck Drivers May Downplay Sleep Troubles,” September 5, 2012.

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