The fatigue caused by sleep apnea can make doing a lot of things difficult. Focusing on work, concentrating on tasks and tackling to-do lists can be hard to do - if not downright impossible. But, it can also make doing some things dangerous. One of those things is driving.

A study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania found that nearly 30 percent of commercial truck drivers are living with some level of sleep apnea.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by breathing interruptions during sleep. These pauses can last 10 seconds or more and, depending on the severity of the condition, can happen dozens to upwards of 400 times a night. With that many interruptions in breathing, it's challenging to get a good night's sleep and often means feelings of fatigue.

Sleep Apnea and Driving

Since sleep apnea affects your sleep, it can also make you tired during the day and can negatively impact your performance and daytime alertness. Sleep apnea can make it hard for you to stay awake, react quickly and focus your eyes. All these things together make your risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash higher.

But, while you may be thinking, 'I never fall asleep while driving,' individuals with sleep apnea don't need to fall asleep to have an accident. In most cases, being less alert and having delayed reaction times can translate to accidents, too.

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea affects men, women and children, but some factors can increase the risk of developing the condition. These risk factors include:

Genetics. If someone in your family has sleep apnea, you are at risk of developing the condition.
Undersized airway. Having a small upper airway can increase the chance of having sleep apnea.
Weight. Being overweight or obese increases the chance of developing sleep apnea because of excess weight around the neck. A large neck size (17 inches for men and 16 inches for women) is a potential indicator of sleep apnea.
The physical structure of the jaw. Having a small jaw, large overbite or a recessed chin can lead to sleep apnea.
Smoking and alcohol use.
Being age 40 or older.
Ethnicity. 

The Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Do you think you have sleep apnea? Here are some of the condition's most common symptoms:

  • Loud snoring, gasping and choking during sleep
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Excessive daytime fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Problems with memory
  • Irritability
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Frequent nighttime urination

Are you noticing these symptoms? If so, it's time to talk. Give Legends Dental a call today to find out how we can help treat sleep apnea and get you back to good sleep. Call 254-294-4040 to schedule an appointment.