Why does OSA Matter?

Driver Health

According to a recent survey of hundreds of trucking companies, over 75% of companies polled have had a driver or multiple drivers disqualified for the presence of a heart condition, diabetes, excessively high BMI or weight problems or fatigue. Recent studies in the field of sleep medicine have pointed to a direct correlation with a person’s sleep quality and the severity of these underlying conditions. Put simply, if you are not able to sleep well the overall ability of your body to maintain your health or deal with these conditions is greatly reduced.

Treating a person found to have Obstructive Sleep Apnea has been shown, in many cases, to directly correlate to improvement in the following conditions:

  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • GERD/Acid Reflux
  • Memory problems
  • Weight gain
  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
  • Sleep Debt
  • Microsleep Episodes

Driver Safety

Recently there have been several studies released on the impact of OSA and your driver’s overall safety while on the road. One study conducted by the FMCSA notes that a driver with untreated OSA is 460% more likely to be involved in an accident while other studies have shown that a driver’s reaction time is more impaired by untreated OSA than if they exceeded the legal limits of alcohol intoxication. The most recent attention for data analysis for OSA is being aimed at finding out what percentage of all CMV accidents involves a driver who has untreated OSA. Previous and current study estimates are showing a range of over 50% of all accidents involving a CDL driver having some underlying form of OSA that is either undiagnosed or non-compliant with treatment.

Of all of the health implications listed above tied to OSA, the last three items (sleep debt, daytime sleepiness & microsleeps) are potentially the greatest threat to the overall safety of the driver while on the road. As a driver's sleep debt increases they will show more and more signs of daytime sleepiness and overall fatigue. With excessive daytime sleepiness a driver’s ability to process information slows and reaction times are diminished. If left untreated, over time the sleep debt may become so great that it even leads to the driver having microsleep episodes. These microsleep episodes are the worst potential outcome of undiagnosed and untreated OSA for the trucking industry as they put at risk the life of both the driver and others on the road around them.


Microsleep episodes can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, and often the person is not aware that a microsleep has occurred. In fact, microsleeps often occur when a person's eyes are open and would otherwise think they have been functioning normally. While in a microsleep, a person fails to respond to outside information. A person will not see a red signal light or notice that the road has taken a curve, which is why this phenomenon is of particular interest to people who study drowsy driving.

Microsleeps are most likely to occur at certain times of the day, such as pre-dawn hours and mid-afternoon hours when the body is "programmed" to sleep. Microsleeps increase with cumulative sleep debt. In other words, the more sleep deprived a person is, the greater the chance a microsleep episode will occur.

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