Whenever you’re on the highway and sharing the road with a big rig, you can’t help but feel how large and potentially dangerous those trucks are.

Fortunately, truckers are some of the best drivers on the road, and they are also much less likely to drink or use drugs and get behind the wheel. Unfortunately, truckers are at an elevated risk for sleep apnea, and if they don’t get treatment, they may be five times more likely to be involved in a preventable accident, according to a new study.

truck driver falling asleep in traffic

A Mandatory Treatment Program

This research was performed focused on a trucking company that had instituted a mandatory sleep apnea treatment policy. Drivers who received a sleep apnea diagnosis had to get treatment or be fired. To enforce this policy, the company performed strict monitoring of its drivers’ use of their prescribed CPAP.

This allowed researchers to look at the drivers who were complying with their treatment plan and compare them with drivers who weren’t complying.

To determine the impact of sleep apnea treatment, 1600 drivers who had been diagnosed with sleep apnea were compared to 1600 drivers who hadn’t been diagnosed and had a low sleep apnea risk. The results showed that sleep apnea treatment meant drivers had about the same crash risk as those without sleep apnea, about 14 per 1000 drivers per year. But drivers that didn’t use their CPAP had a much higher accident risk, about 70 preventable crashes per 1000 drivers per year.

Better Treatment for Truckers–And You!

The press releases don’t say just what was the compliance rate for drivers prescribed CPAP, but if we consider other studies, it was probably 50% or less. And all drivers who didn’t comply with CPAP were fired, although 60% of them quit first. A sleep apnea diagnosis shouldn’t mean a trucker has a 50/50 chance of getting fired. We need to make sure trucking companies and others know that there is an alternative to CPAP.

Oral appliances are simple devices like a sports mouthguard that you put in bed at night. It holds your jaw in a healthy position, ensuring your airway stays open. For most people, oral appliances are as effective as CPAP, but many people find them more comfortable and convenient, and they have a much higher compliance rate. Truckers who can’t comply with CPAP should be offered oral appliances.

It’s important to remember that sleep apnea increases everyone’s risk of preventable accidents. And people of all backgrounds find CPAP hard to use, and might benefit from an alternative like an oral appliance.

If you are unhappy with your CPAP and want to learn how you can replace it, please call (201) 343-4044 today for an appointment with a sleep dentist at River Edge Dental, New Jersey’s center for TMJ, sleep apnea, & reconstructive dentistry.