Driving Tired or Obstructive Sleep ApNoea Syndrome – do you know the signs?

As we finally experience some warm weather, and the occasion warm night, it can be difficult to sleep when there is no air and every window is open, so every sound disturbs sleep.

Having been lucky enough to have a good sleep pattern through most of my life, the last couple of years have seen a blissful entire night’s sleep become a thing of the past and I now struggle to maintain a decent couple of hours sleep without waking. I now see how it can affect your entire life and it can be hard to get through the day sometimes with the heavy drag of exhaustion that follows you every minute.

I can’t imagine how that must feel sitting behind the wheel all day, with the amount of concentration that requires, feeling the effects of lack of sleep, or coping with irregular shift patterns, accidents are clearly far more likely.

If you are asleep at the wheel, an accident will be 20% more severe as you are unable to take evasive action, for those involved the results can be devastating. When you are driving for a living, admitting that tiredness and lack of sleep are affecting your work is a difficult issue to raise, as you don’t want the problem to mean that your job is at risk. But there is much more at risk if you are out on the roads knowing that you are not really safe to be there!

The best course of action is to look at the cause and try to identify if it is a lifestyle issue, which is easier to solve, or if there is a more serious problem. Self discipline can be a start, reduce caffeine before sleep, less alcohol, more exercise, better diet and making sleep an important part of your 24hours, rather than an inconvenience! We have heard it all before, but it works and a few small changes can make a big difference ( and reduce the chance of a family of 5 being crushed to death by your HGV! – decaf tea doesn’t sound so bad now does it?)

But what if it is something that you can’t control? If drowsiness and a constant desire to nod off is a daily occurrence you could be suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome.

This syndrome affects sleep, as you experience pauses in breathing which causes your body to breifly wake up many times, to restore normal breathing and this then prevents you from having a good night’s rest.

Around 3% of the population are sufferers of OSAS and the risk increases with age. It may not come as a surprise to hear that those at most risk are – Male – Middle aged – Overweight and , due to the sedentary nature of their job, truck drivers are at higher risk.

Symptoms can include:

  • Waking after a nights sleep feeling un-refreshed
  • Having a dry mouth or sore throat when you wake
  • Breathing difficulties when sleeping
  • Morning headaches
  • Frequent loud snoring
  • Irritability
  • Many trips to the bathroom through the night
  • High blood pressure
  • Difficulty concentrating

 

The pauses in breathing can happen hundreds of times a night, most of which you won’t even be aware of, but it means you get less of the important sleep that restores you, to be able to function the next day. This then affects energy levels, concentration and productivity need to drive safely, a huge risk in itself, but long term it can cause high blood pressure, stroke and heart attacks, possibly reducing life expectancy by 20%. But a quick trip to the doctors is the first step as it is easily treated – don’t put it off!

Whatever the diagnosis for tiredness or lack of sleep, help from your doctor will see life improve all round. Could you live with the guilt of knowing that you put others in harm’s way for a problem that could easily be fixed?

Sleep Well!

 

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