TD89: Guest Post: Truckers With Sleep Apnea: How To Know If You Have It And What To Do About It. By Doug Thomas

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Hey there, sleepy-head! Silly you to think you could just jump right into today’s guest post without me blabbing for a bit. You’ll never learn, will you? So you may be asking, “What’s up with another guest post, slacker?” Well, hopefully this will be my last one for a while. The new Web site is pretty dang close to being ready; bugs, quirks, and all. But for now we’ve got yet another guest post that fits my critera perfectly.

In the last guest post, You Can’t See America from the Trucker’s Lounge, by our friend Kevin McKague, we discussed something I know very little about; exploring as a trucker. (And by the way, since Kevin guest posted for me, he’s since started a blog of his own called, Kevin’s Untitled Travel Blog. Check it out when you get a second.) In that same line, I don’t know much about today’s topic: sleep apnea. Had this post not been brought to my attention, you’d have probably never seen this subject covered on my blog; and that’s too bad considering how important this topic could be in the near future. How so?

Because every trucker’s favorite organization-to-hate, the FMCSA, is considering making all overweight truckers have mandatory sleep apnea tests, that’s why. And considering a recent article I read said that 73% of truckers are overweight, it stands to reason that a lot of truckers are going to need to wake up to this issue (pun intended). And as you’ll soon read, this sleep apnea thing is a problem that likely haunts more of us than we’d like to admit. So without further ado, I give you… HEY YOU! WAKE UP! I said, without further ado, I give you:

Truckers with Sleep Apnea: How to Know If You Have It And What to Do About It

By Doug Thomas

Hey, everybody. On reading through this blog, I was once again reminded how much of an issue sleep and tiredness is for truckers. I’m not a trucker, but I’m a driver, and I know how tired I get after long trips. Most truckers can get back to “normal” after a good night’s sleep or two. Others can’t. And that could point to a serious problem called sleep apnea.

People with sleep apnea often go undiagnosed, because the early symptoms could point to all kinds of things. We’re talking mainly tiredness during waking hours, a feeling of mental fogginess that makes it hard to concentrate and focus, and snoring. A device called a CPAP machine is the therapy of choice – assuming the person with this condition gets diagnosed.

A very under-diagnosed condition

Of the estimated 100 million people around the world who are thought to have sleep apnea, about 80 percent are undiagnosed, because, like I said a minute ago, there are many possible reasons for being tired and not being able to focus well. And there are plenty of people who snore and don’t have sleep apnea. Most of these people just self-treat and hope for the best. CPAP machines can do a great job in treating diagnosed sleep apnea, as we’ll see a little later. But first, what is sleep apnea?

It is a genetic condition that causes the throat to close while a person is sleeping. The result is the breathing stops – for as long as a minute in some cases – and the brain is immediately deprived of oxygen. You may be saying, “Well, Doug, I can hold my breath for a minute and not go stumbling around the next day unable to remember my address.”  That’s true, if you deprived your brain of oxygen for only one minute.

What if this happens 50 times a night? Or 100? Not all “apneic events,” as these breathing stoppages are called, last a whole minute, but the seconds add up. What CPAP machines do is deliver pressurized air to the nose through a tube and mask to prevent the throat from closing. But who thinks of going out and buying a CPAP machine just because they’re tired?

Not most of us, including most truckers. Sleep apnea isn’t a total mystery in society, but I’m amazed at how many people have never even heard of a CPAP machine. Likely there are many people who suspect they may have this condition but put off seeing a doctor about it. This can be dangerous, particularly for truckers, whose lives depend on clear thinking, alertness and quick judgments.

Sleep apnea can lead to many dangerous health issues

Sleep apnea doesn’t just “go away.” There is no cure for it. It may or may not worsen as you age – but it’s always going to be there. Like I said, the early symptoms are tiredness, fogginess and snoring. But more severe situations can crop up if the condition isn’t treated. Sleep apnea has been linked serious health problems including:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Heart attack
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Stroke

Does everyone with sleep apnea wind up with these conditions? Certainly (and thankfully) not. But it’s not worth taking a chance. Truckers who snore loudly, are chronically tired, and have trouble concentrating should check with their doctor. After doing an initial screening, if the doctor thinks you may have sleep apnea, you’ll be scheduled for a sleep study before starting therapy with a CPAP machine.

A sleep study involves spending a night at a sleep center, where technicians will monitor your breathing and oxygen levels during sleep. The results of the study will go back to your doctor, who will make a diagnosis.

Using a CPAP machine and mask while you sleep at night will take some getting used to, but it’s well worth it – as you’ll find out as soon as you begin living with more energy and clarity. And as soon as your spouse stops waking you up and saying, “Can you keep it down with the snoring?  I’m trying to get some sleep over here!” 

****This is a guest post by Doug Thomas, freelance writer for The CPAP Shop, a retailer of equipment used in sleep apnea therapy including CPAP machines, masks and various equipment and accessories.

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4 Responses to TD89: Guest Post: Truckers With Sleep Apnea: How To Know If You Have It And What To Do About It. By Doug Thomas

  1. Kevin McKague April 13, 2013 at 11:06 PM #

    Actually, many people can cure their sleep apnea by losing weight. I did. After being told by my then-wife that she thought that I had apnea, I submitted to a sleep study. which confirmed that I did. I did some research and found that most people with apnea were overweight, and that it could be cured by losing the weight. The sleep specialist tried to sell me one of those CPAP contraptions, but I told him that I didn’t think that wearing a mask every night for the rest of my life was an acceptable solution. He then suggested that for some, jaw surgery was a solution. That seemed drastic. When I asked him about the studies that showed weight loss could be a solution, and that since I was about 30 lbs overweight, wouldn’t it be better just to try to lose the weight, he got frustrated. He said something like “sure, give that a try, and when it doesn’t work, call me.”
    I did lose most of the weight, and even though some of it came back, I no longer suffer from sleep apnea. I think for at least some patients, the simpler solution is the best, especially when you consider the other health benefits of losing extra weight.

  2. Allison Sheridan May 12, 2013 at 5:32 PM #

    I had an employee who had been falling asleep at work since way back before he ever worked for me. Finally one day he rear ended someone…when he was sitting still at a stoplight. I could only assume he’d fallen asleep and relaxed his foot on the brake. I was suddenly terrified what could happen to him and someone else if this happened while driving. This was tricky to deal with of course, but luckily my company has a service called Life Resources. this company has a consultant we can talk to who can ask the hard questions and come up with resolutions. He forced this guy to take a day off and do the sleep test. When my employee came back, he told me the doc had never seen anyone with it as bad as he had it. After he got that contraption he came back to me and told me I’d saved his life. so yeah, this is a rough thing but can be fixed so why the heck not get tested even if you THINK you have it?!?

    • Todd McCann June 1, 2013 at 8:48 PM #

      Amen, and amen. Great story! *spoken in my best Cameron voice* “Allison Sheridan; you’re my hero.” 🙂

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