Sleep Disorders

10 May 2007

Sleep apnoea and road accidents

Sleep apnoea treatment could cut down on traffic crashes and save hundreds of lives and billions of dollars each year, according to a study.

Sleep apnoea treatment could cut down on traffic crashes and save hundreds of lives and billions of dollars each year, according to a University of California, San Diego School of Medicine study in the May issue of Sleep.

The study concluded that using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to treat drivers who have obstructive sleep apnoea could save about 980 lives and $11,1 billion (R77,7 billion) in accident costs per year.

Obstructive sleep apnoea, a breathing disorder caused by intermittent blockage of the airway, affects millions of people. People with this condition stop breathing for 10 to 30 seconds at a time, as many as 400 times a night. The resulting poor quality sleep leads to excessive daytime sleepiness.

Many fatalities due to sleep deprivation
The researchers noted that about 1 400 traffic fatalities each year are caused by sleep-deprived drivers with obstructive sleep apnoea. It's estimated that the prevalence of obstructed sleep apnoea among drivers in the United States is three percent, or 4,7 million drivers.

Of those 1 400 fatalities, about 980 could be prevented if the drivers were treated for their sleep apnoea, the study said. That figure is based on a 70 percent success rate using CPAP, the most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea.

With CPAP, patients wear a mask over the nose while they sleep. An air blower connected to the mask forces air through the nasal passage and prevents the throat from collapsing during sleep.

It's estimated that as many as 8 million South Africans have undiagnosed sleep apnoea. - (HealthDayNews)


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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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