When you get on the train or the bus for your daily commute does it cross your mind: Did the driver get enough sleep last night?
Last week the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released findings that two recent train crashes were caused by sleep apnea. Both engineers failed to stop their trains at the end of the tracks. Both had not completed screening for sleep apnea as a part of their regular health assessments. Both have subsequently been diagnosed with sleep apnea.
The railroad companies involved in these two accidents have now started screening for sleep apnea, according to an article in the New York Times.
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person stops breathing during their sleep. People with sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly while sleeping which causes disrupted sleep. Often the person doesn’t realize they have stopped breathing or is experiencing fragmented sleep. When sleep is repeatedly disrupted, the brain and the rest of the body does not get enough oxygen.
Who is at risk for sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, but there are certain risk factors that you should be aware of:
- being male
- being overweight
- being over 40
- having a neck circumference over 17 inches (16 in women)
- having large tonsils or tongue
- family history of sleep apnea
- acid reflux
- nasal obstruction (deviated septum, allergies, sinus problems)
How does sleep apnea affect the body?
- high blood pressure
- heart failure, irregular heart beats, and heart attacks
- worsening of ADHD
- daytime tiredness
- memory loss
- poor performance
It’s also happening on our roads and highways. Sleep apnea affects approximately 25 million Americans.
Has the driver next to you on the freeway gotten enough sleep? Have you had enough sleep?
Many people do not know they have sleep apnea. It’s not just overweight men who snore. It’s also the mom who is always tired no matter how much sleep she gets. The 40 year old businessman who is having trouble concentrating and staying awake in meetings. The woman in menopause with hypertension and depression who blames it on her age. Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, but most people who have sleep apnea snore.
Drowsy driving is dangerous. A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that drowsy drivers are responsible for one in six fatal car accidents. Drowsy driving can be as dangerous as driving impaired.
Symptoms of sleep apnea
Take this one minute test to assess your risk. If you have symptoms of sleep apnea talk to you doctor or dentist and get tested.
- dry throat in the morning
- loud snoring
- waking up gasping for air or choking
- daytime tiredness
- sleepiness while driving
- headaches in the morning
- restless sleep
- mood changes
Sleep apnea is treatable. Talk to your dentist or health care professional if you are concerned about sleep apnea. Your health and safety are worth it.