Sleep Apnea Affects More Than Just Sleep if Left Untreated

(Reuters) A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine of Australia suggests that people with untreated sleep apnea may be at a much higher risk for being involved in a traffic accident due to the effects of being drowsy behind the wheel. The research consisted of 38 sleep apnea sufferers and 20 healthy individuals who took part in several driving tests under various conditions. It’s estimated that 1 out of every 15 Americans suffers from sleep apnea, which is a disorder that causes you to have trouble sleeping, and so these new findings are rather alarming and should be taken seriously.

The most common symptoms of Sleep Apnea include: Sleepiness, trouble sleeping, snoring, difficulty concentrating and fatigue. Sleep apnea is basically a disorder that causes the tissue at the back of your throat to repeatedly collapse while you’re sleeping, resulting in irregular breathing patterns and sleep cycles throughout the night. Essentially, it keeps you from getting a good nights sleep.

The study suggests that people suffering from sleep apnea should be particularly cautious when driving for more than 60 minutes at one time. The research showed that people suffering from sleep apnea were 4 times more likely to be involved in a car crash after a sleep deprived night than a healthy person would be. The reason is simple – sleep is one of the most important aspects of good health, and it effects your brain function and overall concentration.

Additionally, researchers added alcohol consumption to the mix, and the results were even worse. People with sleep apnea were given a small amount of alcohol, enough to reach a blood alcohol level of 0.05 (below the legal limit), and 21% of the sleep apnea participants were involved in a car accident while none of the participants in the healthy group crashed under the same conditions.

Keep in mind that this study focused on untreated sleep apnea sufferers, and the results may be different for those who follow suggested sleep apnea treatments. Studies are currently planned to target this very issue and should be released soon.

So what can be done to help make it safer for sleep apnea sufferers when getting behind the wheel on longer trips? Well first and foremost, you need to seek treatment for the disorder if you show signs of the aforementioned symptoms. Secondly, do not drive after consuming any amount of alcohol, as this study has shown that when even under the legal limit, those with untreated sleep apnea are involved in far more car wrecks than those who do not have the disorder. Lastly, do not drive when taking longer road trips that would put you behind the wheel for more than 60 minutes. If you must take an extended trip, have someone else drive for you.
Photo: Flickr – Mr Wabu

2 Responses to Sleep Apnea Affects More Than Just Sleep if Left Untreated
  1. Columbus Lodwick

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    • admin

      Thanks, glad you enjoy the info here at Promote Health 🙂

      Sure, you can quote some of the info in your own writing, but you must link back to the blog post you’re quoting.

      Thanks again!

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