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Why a restful night's sleep is elusive for so many commercial truck drivers

It's a biological fact, getting enough sleep is essential to normal and healthy cognitive and physical functioning. Anyone who has ever suffered the occasional sleepless night can likely recall the feelings of grogginess and irritability that followed the next day. Despite the importance of sleep, many U.S. adults report that they don't get enough sleep. For some, a lack of sleep may be by choice. For others, however, failing to get enough or restful sleep may be caused by the sleep disorder known as sleep apnea.

According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep apnea is a medical condition where a sleeping individual repeatedly stops and starts breathing. Individuals who have sleep apnea may experience or develop one or more worrisome symptoms and side effects including extreme daytime fatigue, high blood pressure, heart problems, Type 2 diabetes, depression, liver problems and metabolic syndrome.

Given the negative effects of sleep apnea, the results of a recent study that suggest that more than one in four commercial truck drivers suffer from the disorder are especially troubling. For the study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota Morris, researchers reviewed the health and driving records of 1,600 truck drivers who had been diagnosed with sleep apnea and compared those records against drivers who either didn't have or were actively treating the disorder.

The results of the study are startling, showing that crash rates among drivers who have and are not being treated for sleep apnea are five times higher than drivers who either don't have or are being treated for the disorder. The results of the study provide even more evidence and justification for why truck drivers should be tested and required to seek treatment for the sleep disorder.

Source: StarTribune, "Study: Risk soars for truckers with sleep apnea but skip treatment," March 25, 2016

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