Sleep Disorders

21 August 2006

Sleep apnoea raises crash risk

Truckers with severe sleep apnoea or who sleep less than five hours a night when they're at home are more likely to experience sleepiness and impaired ability while driving.

Truckers with severe sleep apnoea or who sleep less than five hours a night when they're at home are more likely than other truckers to experience sleepiness and impaired ability while driving, a US study finds.

"In the United States, approximately 5 600 people are killed annually in crashes involving commercial trucks," study author Allan Pack, of the University of Pennsylvania, noted in a prepared statement.

"Falling asleep while driving is an important factor in serious crashes involving commercial vehicles, prompting the question, why?" he said.

This study concluded that obstructive sleep apnea and chronically insufficient sleep are two main reasons.

Hundreds of truck drivers tested
Pack and his colleagues tested hundreds of truck drivers for sleep apnea, sleepiness, and performance impairment.

"In this study, we showed that both subjective and objective sleepiness, as well as performance impairments, are common in our sample of commercial driver's license holders," Pack said.

"Chronic short sleep duration is a risk factor for subjective sleepiness, objectively measured sleepiness and performance impairments," he said. "The results for sleep apnoea are less clear."

Among drivers with less than five hours of sleep, 49,5 percent had two or three performance impairments, Pack's team reported in the August issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Authorities need to do more to reduce sleepiness in commercial truck drivers, the study authors said. This should include programmes that identify "sleep-impaired" drivers through objective testing; pinpoint and treat drivers with severe sleep apnoea and monitor their adherence to therapy; and promote increased sleep duration among truck drivers. - (HealthDayNews, August 2006)

Read more:
Apnoea treatment fails test
Blacks at higher apnoea risk


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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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