Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects a huge portion of your daily life. It affects your ability to concentrate and focus at work, and robs you of energy for activities you normally enjoy. Sleep apnea can make you feel moody and irritable around friends and family.
The risks of OSA are not just limited to how you function at home or in the office but also carry over to the road.
OSA sufferers are more likely to be involved in a car crash. And when the OSA is severe and untreated, the percentage of risk is even greater.
People with mild to moderate sleep apnea have more risk of an accident on the road by 13%. Severe sleep apnea sufferers have a whopping 123% increased risk of a crash. In the same study, it was found that people who get less than 6 hours of rest per night have a 33% increase of being involved in a car accident.
The numbers confirm what many doctors and researchers already know- driving with OSA is dangerous. The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute conducted a study and published it in the journal BMC Medicine. It examined more than 3,200 men and women between the ages of 40-89 who may or may not have already been diagnosed with OSA.
Many similar studies have suggested that driving while drowsy is very similar to driving while intoxicated. And this most recent study is no different.
In fact, going 21 hours without quality sleep is similar to having a blood alcohol level of .08. This is considered in many states as the legal limit. So, driving without rest is just as dangerous as driving after a few drinks.
What you should do:
The good news is that there are steps that can help you get sleep apnea under control and to make the road a safer place for everyone. If you have concerns about your ability to sleep and drive, then keep the following in mind to ensure safe travels.
Look for warning signs.
You may feel fine behind the wheel, but obstructive sleep apnea has a host of warning signs to indicate there’s a problem with your sleep. Loud snoring, morning headaches, more frequent naps, a lack of energy, and increased irritability are all symptoms that you’re not getting a good night’s sleep.
See a doctor.
The best thing you can do when it comes to OSA is to get tested and treated as soon as possible. Thankfully, many insurance companies cover OSA treatments. So getting the condition under control is an affordable process that doesn’t have to hurt your budget.
Know the risks, and stay aware.
One of the biggest problems when it comes to OSA is that so many Americans are unaware that they have it.
But knowing that you have this condition, and being aware that it can affect your ability to drive, can go a long way in ensuring safety for everyone on the road. Stay vigilant, and use extra caution if you think you might have OSA. Understanding the risks helps you be a more attentive driver on a daily basis.