Recently a couple of our M.V.S. truck drivers went to take their D.O.T. physicals. During the examination, the doctor asked them a series of questions such as: Does your wife say you snore loud? Does she wake you up because you stop breathing? Do you fall asleep in a chair? Do you have daytime sleepiness, lack of energy, etc.?
If you answer "Yes" to some or all of these questions, the doctor wants you to have a sleep study. Also, the doctor would evaluate your physical appearance. If your neck size is 17" or larger, and/or your body mass index is greater than 33, the doctor wants you to have a sleep study.
A sleep study typically involves going to a hospital around 9:00PM. You are hooked up to a monitor, and they evaluate you while you sleep. You leave the hospital at around 5:00 or 6:00AM, and based on their finding, you either have sleep apnea or you don’t. This sleep study can cost $2,000.00 or more. Depending on your medical insurance, you could be responsible for some or all of the cost of the test.
One of the truck drivers answered "No" to all the questions, but based on his physical appearance, the doctor only gave him a three (3) month D.O.T. medical card, and wants him to get a sleep study.
I have asked the Postal Service to schedule and pay for the test, as it was their contract doctor who ordered the test. They should pay for it or at least pay the employee’s co-payment.
The U. S. Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) - Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) states their core mission is SAFETY. We are dedicated to eliminating crashes and fatalities on our roadways.
One of the FMCSA’s major concerns is sleep apnea and its effects on truck drivers.
This information was found on the following websites, APNEA.com, and sleepsafedrivers.com.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a chronic condition in which the air passage in the throat becomes blocked during sleep. Often caused by a relaxed soft palate (which is also associated with snoring), an apnea blockage prevents oxygen from entering the lungs for at least ten seconds or longer. When this happens, the oxygen level in the bloodstream falls. The body reacts by waking up and taking control of the throat muscles to re-open the airway. Bed partners often report hearing the person gasping or choking for air, then falling back to sleep again.
The cycle repeats itself throughout the night. In fact, blockages occurring hundreds of times per night have been reported in some patients with OSA.
The FMCSA says, from our estimates, almost three out of ten truck drivers currently suffer from mild to severe sleep apnea. And we know from our research that drivers with severe sleep apnea are known to be at a much, much greater risk of being involved in a severe crash. Fatigue is estimated to be an associated factor in 13% of all truck crashes annually, and 28% of single vehicle truck crashes, based on the large truck crash causation study.
Another study says sleep apnea affects about 6 - 12% of the overall adult male population (less for women) – but a remarkable 28 - 30% of truck drivers. This high prevalence rate is a clear result of the fact that as a job category, trucking has the highest rate of obesity, and obesity leads to Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
If you believe you may have sleep apnea, you should talk to your doctor about it. If you have sleep apnea and get it under control, your health and well being will be greatly enhanced.