More than 25 million people in the United States experience sleep apnea, a condition that many don’t take seriously. While some people don’t consider it a serious illness, a new study is showing it can have deadly consequences on the roadways.

A person with sleep apnea has episodes when they stop breathing while sleeping. Episodes can last seconds, or even minutes, and it can occur sometimes more than 20 times an hour.  It not only can cause a person to wake up feeling unrested, but it can cause health issues such as blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.

A person who drives for a living needs to take sleep apnea seriously. Researchers at The University of Minnesota tracked over 1600 commercial truck drivers of equal experience. Results show that the rate of serious, preventable crashes was 5 times higher among truck drivers with sleep apnea who failed to use their prescribed treatment. In most cases, these drivers were unable to keep their jobs, or get a new one because of the accident.

Sleep apnea is a medical condition, and to get a diagnosis, patients must usually undergo a fairly easy sleep study. You may want to consider getting a study done if you experience the following: daytime sleepiness, inability to concentrate, mood swings, anxiety, or memory loss. Many people know they have the issue because they wake up frequently during the night gasping for air, or have a bed partner who witnesses the episodes.

Unfortunately, many people don’t follow-through with the most common treatment prescribed which is the use of a CPAP machine (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) because it is bulky and uncomfortable. Since, according to this study, the consequences of letting sleep apnea go untreated are severe, patients should consider another alternative.

A dentist experienced in sleep apnea therapy can fit patients with an oral appliance worn during sleep which is designed to keep airways open and decrease the amount of episodes. It is effective for those with mild and moderate apnea, and has a higher probability of patients using the device because it is less obtrusive.

If you are a professional driver, sleep apnea causes drowsiness which can result in severe traffic accidents. If you feel you are at risk for this condition, it is important to get treatment immediately.

 

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