Is it snoring or sleep apnea? Well, if you’re snoring you are disturbing your significant other’s sleep and if its sleep apnea, you have a disorder that disrupts your sleep. In any case, there are people not getting a good night’s sleep and that can lead to drowsy driving. Moreover if you have sleep apnea, one study found that you have more than a three to five times chance to be involved in a serious auto accident involving personal injury.
Sleep apnea is caused by an obstruction of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. In central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. Mixed apnea, as the name implies, is a combination of the two. With each apnea event, the brain briefly arouses people with sleep apnea in order for them to resume breathing, but consequently sleep is erratic and not consistent.
Most importantly, sleep apnea causes excessive daytime sleepiness and this can lead to dangerous driving behavior. According to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, 60% of adult drivers-about 168 million people- say they have driven a car while feeling drowsy. Over one third of those polled admitted to have fallen asleep in the past year while driving. Among the general population, men have more car crashes than women. However, men and women with sleep apnea in this study had similar crash rates
Over 100,000 auto accidents occur each year are directly related to fatigue. 71,000 are injured during these events and an estimated 1,500 deaths occur. These accidents are preventable and can be avoided with some general precautions taken. Of course not all drowsy driving is related to sleep apnea. Some other factors might include long work hours, stress, antihistamine use and inadequate sleep.
As you might imagine, the effects of sleepiness while driving can lead to slow reaction time, lack of coordination, and diminished decision making time. In fact, research has shown that a person awake for 17 hours straight and then tested on their cognitive skills while driving performed at about the same level as a rested person with blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent. Basically, over the legal limit in the state of California.
Sleep apnea is as common as diabetes, but since there is no test, it isn’t usually treated. Some risk factors for the disease include being male, overweight and over age 40, but it can occur with anyone. If left untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure, memory problems, weight gain, headaches and impotency.
Living in Orange County, California, we operate on a 24/7 mentality. However, for the sake of our loved ones and the other drivers that share the road with us, try to get enough sleep each night to be safe. If you suspect that a loved one may have sleep apnea, don’t hesitate to suggest they go to the doctor and get checked. There are treatments for this disease. IF you are the victim of an unexplained accident, call us and we can investigate it for you, 1 (888) 752-7474.
The American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) has just publishes a new information booklet entitled, “Tired of the sleepiness? Tired of the snoring? It’s no joke”. It is available at no cost by linking to their website at www.sleepapnea.org/ .