Driving With Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea syndrome (commonly shorted to SAS) is characterized by recurrent respiratory pauses during sleep, lasting more than 10 seconds and with a minimum of 5–10 episodes per hour.
During these respiratory pauses, there is a decrease in arterial oxygen saturation of more than 4% of baseline. Repeated episodes of obstructive sleep apnea cause people to wake up in order to breathe normally again. It also activates the sympathetic nervous system, which is related to a higher frequency of cardiovascular disease in these patients. Some of the symptoms of sleep apnea are changes in mood and personality, it can lead to a rise in certain health issues due to lack of sleep and lack of attention and concentration.
Studies have been carried out in the past to unveil important information pertaining to obstructive sleep apnea and its impact on driving. Researchers have stated those who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea are known to have higher rates of accidents than the general population; the drivers are drowsy, which ups the risk, and there has been a clear link observed between car accidents and sleep apnea, which also increases with alcohol consumption.
A study was conducted wherein two groups were tested to see the effect of sleep apnea on driving. One group suffered from sleep apnea while the other did not. Those who did not suffer from sleep apnea used a driving simulator one time whereas those who suffered from sleep apnea used the simulator twice. The main purpose was to test the driver’s ability to stay in the same lane. Of those who suffered from sleep apnea, 20% of them failed the test. From the study’s results, researchers stated that individuals suffering from sleep apnea had double the risk of accidents than those who did not. There are certain tips for people suffering from obstructive sleep apnea and who are not under any kind of treatment:
- Those suffering from sleep apnea who have not been treated should avoid driving.
- Patients whose sleep apnea is well controlled and who are of a favorable report should be able to obtain as well as renew their driver’s license.
- Doctors can take care by investigating the possibility of driving for patients who come in for consultation.
It is advisable to go in for micro-naps as a possible defense mechanism for those who are unable to sleep well, especially if it is a recurrent problem in those suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. The treatment involved in obstructive sleep apnea requires the administration of positive air pressure on a continuous basis while the individual is sleeping, and it can be either with or without the oxygen therapy based on each individual case. Individuals who are overweight should look to lose weight since they are more prone to sleep apnea. If there is any associated metabolic disease that is the root cause, it should be treated first.