Last year, over 10,700 lorry drivers were banned from the road. The reason? Many were suffering with alcohol and health problems – and a total of 235 were found to have sleep apnoea, a serious sleep disorder.
Sleep apnoea is a dangerous condition where drivers can fall asleep at the wheel because of disturbed sleep the night before. Truckers and long-distance drivers are often at risk of developing this sleep disorder; a day’s work regularly involves little exercise and unhealthy roadside food options.
Research shows that age and weight play a big part in the condition appearing: extra weight around your neck puts pressure on your airway, stopping you from being able to breathe easily when you sleep. If your airway narrows too much, fast-travelling air is pulled through it, causing the soft tissue in the back of your throat to become dehydrated and vibrate. This sound is what most people know as snoring.
In some cases, the airway becomes so narrow that the walls of the airway stick together and close up. This usually happens for 10-30 seconds, but can occur for longer. When the airway finally opens up again, the sleeper will emit a loud, violent snore. This is known as an apnoea.
Throughout the night, the sufferer’s body will constantly wake itself up in order to breathe. This is what makes the condition so dangerous for drivers – they’ll be left feeling sleepy the next day, and unable to concentrate on the road properly. Over the last 5 years, 1,336 people have died in lorry accidents, and 352 have died following a bus/coach crash.
In 2014, a total of 89 people were banned from driving because they had sleep apnoea. Last year, that number jumped to 235. With cases of sleep apnoea on the rise, it’s important to recognise if you or your partner suffer from the condition; many people are unaware that they have it.
Symptoms in the night-time can include:
- Dry mouth
- Frequent awakening
Symptoms in the day-time can include:
- Weight gain
- Short temper
- Poor concentration
- Low mood
If you suspect that you or your partner are suffering from sleep apnoea, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. This is especially important for drivers – you could be saving more than one life.
For more information on sleep apnoea, click here.