MedPage Today, a daily medical news service for physicians, reports that a new study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found patterns of sleep apnea in truck drivers. People who suffer from sleep apnea get lower quality sleep because they are awakened several times during the night. This means that while the afflicted person may be in bed for eight hours, he or she may only be getting five hours of real sleep.
In the study, more than 28% of commercial truck drivers suffered from some degree of sleep apnea and 5% of drivers suffered from severe sleep apnea. The study showed that those who had sleep apnea were significantly more sleepy during the day and made more driving errors than those who are not afflicted.
When the participants took driving tests, those who suffered from sleep apnea had motor skills impairments consistent with drunk driving. Of the truckers with sleep apnea, one-third of them also experienced attention lapses comparable to intoxication.
While investigators caution readers not to jump to conclusions because of the small sample size and the self-selecting nature of the study (meaning that those who experienced sleep problems would be more likely to sign up), it deserves more investigation.